Welcome to Kirk's Coins

This website features my California Fractional Gold collection, documenting my attempt to assemble as many varieties as I can in as high of grade I can. Of course, budget is one constraint. But even with an unlimited budget, it is a formidable task to assemble a complete
set, due to the large number of existing varieties as well as the rarity of the these coins.
Many of the varieties have less than a dozen known.

About California Fractional Gold

After the discovery of large deposits of gold in California in 1848 there was a large influx of people in California. This created a fast growing area with a lot of people with gold but no actual coins or money to transact commerce. Several private firms started producing gold coins in $5, $10, $20, and $50 denominations to fill the monetary need of the area. Production of these larger denomination gold coins reached its peak from 1849 to 1853. The need for these private issues diminished once the San Francisco mint opened in 1854.

There, however continued to be a shortage of change for smaller transactions. Beginning in 1852 small denomination gold coins were minted by jewelers, bankers, and others in California. Denominations consisted of 25 cents, 50 cents, and one dollar, made in octagonal and round shapes. These coins are referred to as California Fractional Gold. There are 3 recognized periods of production for California Fractional Gold.

Period I (1852-1857), which were produced with intent of filling monetary needs of the locals. Period I pieces have a tendency to be of better workmanship and heavier gold content of the later periods. 

Period II (1858-1882), were produced in large part by the same producers, or their successor, from Period I. These pieces were produced to be sold as souvenirs with no intent that they would be used in commerce. Period II pieces are generally of lower weight and gold content and cruder in nature then Period I pieces.

Period III (1883 and later), were backdated issues that were produced to fool collectors and avoid prosecution under the Coinage Act of 1864 that the government starting enforcing in earnest 1883. Kroll was the primary manufacturer of Period III pieces, but there are other known and unknown manufacturers of Period III pieces.

Several books have been published on the series. The most recent and widely regarded reference is the Walter Breen and Ron Gillio “California Pioneer Fractional Gold.” They developed a Rarity Scale (R1 though R8) for each known issue based upon the frequency of which these coins appeared for sale in order to estimate the number existing specimens for each known variety. There is about 600 total different varieties of California Fractional Gold known for all 3 periods.

Rating Scale:
Unique: 1 known
R-8: 2-3 known
R7: 4-12 known
R6: 13-30 known
R5: 31-75 known
R4: 76-200 known
R3: 201-500 known
R2: 501-1,250 known
R1: over 1,250 known