Fractional Pioneer Gold - Investing & Collecting
During the 1800ís there was a tremendous shortage of small denomination coins in California despite the abundance of freshly mined raw gold. Pioneering local jewelers presented their own solution by privately minting small denominational gold coins. The coins were made from un-alloyed ore which came directly from the Sierras and made into round and octagonal shapes. Denominations were in 25 cents, 50 cents and $1.00. Even if it was impractical to use these coins because of their size, they were still circulated as currency until the coin shortage of that state was resolved. Later, they became popular as keepsake souvenirs for that event in history which is why minting continued for decades afterwards.
For a long time there was a lack of information about these small denomination California fractional pioneer gold coins keeping them unknown except to those who study and collect coins. The only book written about it that made them accessible was CALIFORNIA PIONEER FRACTIONAL GOLD by Walter Breen and Ronald Gillio where the coins were divided into three periods. Period 1 is from 1852 to 1857 where coins were first minted to meet the needs of local commerce, Period 2 is from 1858 to 1882 where the coins were manufactured particularly as souvenirs or for jewelry use and Period 3 from 1900 to 1920 were coins were deceptively back-dated to exploit collector demand.
Actually all the California fractional gold coins are rare and only a small number of pieces exist from each period and collecting a set is next to impossible. Many collectors define their own collecting goals and strategies for themselves.