California fractional gold is generally broken down into three date ranges of issues, or periods, based upon design and contemporary usage. Period One, which consists of those pieces struck and issued from approximately 1852 to 1856, is the only period with strong evidence that the fractional gold issued actually circulated in commerce. These pieces typically conform closely in weight and fineness to US Federal coinage and their designs are often similar, too. Period Two issues were produced later, perhaps from 1859 through 1882, and differ in that they tend to be underweight or below standard fineness and that they employ a variety of design motifs that did not appear on US coinage. Still later are the Period Three issues. The Period Three issues seem to have been made after an effort by the US Secret Service to stop the production of new, privately minted fractional gold pieces. During this time the fractional gold tokens were given earlier dates to make it appear that the pieces were produced before US Secret Service involvement, and the designer or producer’s initials were in most cases absent. Both Period Two and Period Three fractional gold were commonly used in jewelry and generally viewed as a token.
Herman Kroll of New York City produced California fractional gold pieces during Period Three and, while it is not definitively known when production ceased, it appears that Period Three tokens were issued into the early years of the twentieth century. Kroll eventually sold his dies to A. C. Nygren and after Nygren’s estate was liquidated in 1924 these dies and sometime later were again pressed into service to produce, somewhat ironically, restrikes of pre-dated tokens that had not actually been issued during the date stated on them. These restrikes were typically produced with higher purity gold content. The three pieces offered here are restrikes categorized as BG-1301A, BG-1304A and BG-1307A as an octagonal “1857” 25-cent gold, round “1854” 50-cent gold and octagonal “1863” $1 gold, respectively. The octagonal pieces have their edges swallowed up a bit by the ICG insert so that they may appear at first glance to be round. Each has been certified by ICG as MS65 and each has bright, blazing luster and little of the extreme mushiness often associated with the earliest issues in this odd series of coins/tokens.