The Denver Mint commenced coining operations under federal auspices in 1906, but the coinage that rolled off the presses in February of that year was not the first produced in the Mile High City. More than four decades earlier, private firms provided assaying and banking services, some of which struck coins from the gold being mined in the area, addressing the shortage of coinage and allaying the difficulties of using gold dust for transactions. Among these firms was Clark, Gruber & Company, which in 1860 struck “Mountain Tens” and “Mountain Twenties,” distinctive gold pieces bearing a motif identified as Pike’s Peak. Stack’s Bowers Galleries is thrilled to offer a “Mountain Twenty” graded AU Details by PCGS in Rarities Night of our August 2023 Global Showcase Auction.
A rush to Colorado commenced in the late 1850s after gold was discovered along the South Platte River near Pike’s Peak. Brothers Austin and Milton Clark and Emmanuel Gruber, Leavenworth, Kansas-based merchants who in the late 1850s were outfitting prospectors making their way to the goldfields, relocated to Denver and formed a partnership, Clark, Gruber & Co. in early 1860. Their firm provided assaying and banking services and commenced coining operations in July 1860, turning gold dust into usable coins of a slightly higher fineness than their federal counterparts.
In 1860 and 1861, Clark & Gruber minted gold coins of denominations corresponding to most of the federal gold issues of the time, omitting only the gold dollar. The obverses of the 1860 $10 and $20 depict Pike’s Peak – with some artistic liberties taken. An eagle strongly reminiscent of the reverses of federal gold coinage appears on the reverse. “PIKE’S PEAK GOLD” and the denomination appear on the $20 coins’ obverse surrounding the mountain; “DENVER” appears immediately beneath it. This design was changed to a more familiar Liberty Head motif in 1861. Mountain Twenties are the rarest Clark, Gruber & Co. type today.
The example on offer in our August 2023 Global Showcase Auction, is cataloged as Kagin-4, and has the following description: “Bright golden-yellow surfaces with uniformly sharp definition to the major design elements. Peripheral lettering is sharp, as is the word DENVER on the obverse and the date 1860 on the reverse. The iconic mountain motif – ostensibly depicting Pike’s Peak but actually not representative of that distinct feature at all – is sharp and includes the trees at the base. The eagle is equally well defined with much of the plumage crisp and the eye distinct. The surfaces are a bit glossy in texture with an area of tooling in the lower right obverse field further explaining the PCGS qualifier.
Although not a perfect piece, the coin offered here retains impressively sharp detail that allows ready appreciation of this classic design.”
PCGS reports just nine examples in its Population Report, four between Very Fine and Extremely Fine, three in the About Uncirculated range, and two in Mint State. These totals do not include coins with Details grades
View our August 2023 Global Showcase Auction at StacksBowers.com. To consign your numismatic items to this or another of our upcoming auctions, call 800-458-4646 or email Info@StacksBowers.com.