September 11, 2021
132 view(s) 20 min read

An Act of Independence

Within hours of receiving the news that the Revolutionary War had been won, the United States ordered its first coin to be struck.

On Sunday, March 23, 1783, a French naval cutter made its way up the Del- aware River, dropping anchor south of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The aptly named Le Triomphe had set sail from Cadiz 36 days earlier, carrying news that Great Britain recognized the sovereignty of the United States. American independence had become a reality.

Reports that the war was over soon found their way to Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris, the nation’s chief executive and undoubt- edly the most powerful man in Confederation-era North America. That evening, the financier was dining with John Barker Church, a successful merchant and brother-in-law to Alexander Ham- ilton. Church dashed off a letter to a business associate, recording that the news was first de- livered to Morris at 6:20 p.m., writing, “Ten minutes since the Captn. Of the Hyder Ally came to Morris’s ... with the News that a General Peace was signed on the 20th of this Month.” Mor- ris and his friends proceeded to “Get Drunk as will many Christians who has [sic] this day been

Piously Devoted.” The following morning, a jubi- lant Morris recorded in his diary, “Yesterday we received the glorious News that a general Peace was concluded at Paris January 20th, 1783.”

September 10, 2021
133 view(s) 18 min read

Holy Sh*t, That’s Rare: A Horseman $10 of a Different Color

By David McCarthy for CoinWeek …..

On a hot afternoon this summer, I found myself wandering a suburban park in search of a grave.

Like most wild goose chases, it started innocently enough. I’d been part of a discussion about the so-called “Nagy Restrikes” of one of the most well-loved coins of the gold rush: the Baldwin Horseman $10. I say so-called, because A) the pieces in question are not restrikes at all, they’re made from imitation dies, and B) I’m pretty sure that Stephen Nagy – a coin dealer blamed for many sketchy fantasy pieces of the early 20th century – was around 10 years old when the aforementioned imitation dies were made (probably to make souvenir spoons for the California Midwinter Fair of 1894, but that’s a story for another day).

As luck would have it, a package of these coins arrived at my office while the discussion was going on, and alongside the “restrikes” there was something a little more interesting: an 1844 large cent overstruck with dies for a Horseman $10. This Horseman $10 wasn’t one of the imitation pieces, but it wasn’t a Baldwin $10 either. When I saw it, the first thing I thought was, Holy shit, that’s rare!

The coin’s 1850-dated obverse bore the familiar Horseman motif: probably the best-loved image on any coin of the California (or any other) gold rush. The reverse was different from the famous Baldwin $10: it was inscribed “KOHLER & Co. SAN FRANCISCO” around a small eagle and 31 stars, an apparent reference to California’s impending status as the 31st U.S. state. Known by a small handful of numismatists since the 19th century, the Kohler $10 pattern was still quite mysterious: the only published picture of the piece had been taken nearly 70 years ago, making it impossible to determine whether it was a clever fantasy or an important piece of California history.

April 23, 2019
144 view(s) 3 min read


Published by NPR on August 1st, 2017:


In 2013, David McCarthy spotted a rare coin in an auction catalog and immediately had a hunch it was the first coin minted by the fledgling United States of America in 1783. Not the first run of coins, mind you, but the very firstone.

McCarthy, an experienced numismatist (coin collector) bought the silver coin for $1.18 million.

The Associated Press writes:

"The day of the 2013 auction in Schaumburg, Illinois, McCarthy sat in his hotel room with his files and air conditioning cranked on high. He methodically convinced his boss, Donald Kagin, that the coin up for auction was the nation's first. It was a nuanced case since other dealers claimed it was a forgery. But the initial explanation was that mints tended to add inscriptions to the steel dies used to make coins after having engraved the images."

He spent the next four years digging up evidence to prove that he had indeed purchased the fabled first "500" quint.

April 11, 2018
74 view(s) 12 min read



Appeared in COINage Magizine, April 2018

Scott Travers is one of the best promoters of numismatics and has written scores of books and articles and given dozens of lectures educating thousands of collectors on all aspects of numismatics. So when he called me 12 days before deadline and said, “Dr. Kagin [even after 35 years he still calls me this] I need to fill some pages for Coinage Magazine for a special feature edition on gold coins. You’ve owned or auctioned some of the greatest pieces ever, so why don’t you write about your ten favorite?” Anyone who knows Scott would understand why I couldn’t say no. Over my 60 years of collecting, cataloging and dealing in numismatics, I have been blessed with handling so many cool pieces that it’s hard to narrow my favorites down to just ten coins, so I set a few criteria for each coin. First, they had to be gold, they had to be historically important and thereby tell a fascinating story, they either had to be aesthetically beautiful works of art or otherwise rally cool, and I had to have owned them at least once. With two slight fudges, here is my list.

February 14, 2014
156 view(s) 4 min read


The Saddle Ridge Treasure of over 1400 gold coins, with an estimated value of $10+ Million, will be marketed exclusively by Kagin’s, Inc. and available for purchase at a later date through

SAN FRANCISCO – Feb. 25, 2014—Rare coin experts, Kagin’s  Inc., today announced that a treasure of over 1400 rare U.S. gold coins has been discovered buried on private property in California’s gold region.  The treasure was found by a couple on their property while taking their dog on its daily walk. It is believed to be the greatest buried treasure ever unearthed in the United States, with an estimated value in excess of $10 Million.

“What’s really significant about this find,” noted Donald Kagin Ph.D., president of Kagin’s  Inc. of Tiburon, California, “is that unlike other hoards and treasures, this one includes a great variety of dates, many of which are in pristine condition; add to that a wonderful human interest story: this family literally found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

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