1848 Liberty Head Quarter Eagle. CAL. MS-68 * (NGC). A sparkling Ultra Gem, a beautiful coin with reflective fields supporting frosty motifs. Bright yellow-gold in color with distinctive olive highlights. Nicely struck in virtually all places, though there is some weakness within the eagles right leg plumage on the reverse, a sticking point with most quarter eagles of the era and hardly detracting given the overall superior quality of this piece.<p>In 1848 some 230 or so ounces of gold bullion from the recently discovered California gold fields was sent to Secretary of War William L. Marcy by Colonel R.B. Mason, acting military governor of California. Marcy turned the bullion over to the Mint, where it was used to strike 1,389 quarter eagles. In order to denote the origin of the gold used for this special limited mintage, the letters CAL. were punched into the upper reverse field above the eagles head on all specimens struck. This distinguishing feature marks the 1848 CAL. quarter eagle as our nations first commemorative issue, produced 44 years prior to the 1892 Columbian Exposition half dollar.<p>Given the popularity of the California Gold Rush era with numismatists and other collectors, the 1848 CAL. has long enjoyed strong demand. Indeed, the acquisition of an 1848 CAL. quarter eagle is a defining moment in the formation of any collection. Survivors are scarce, and appearances on the open market are rare, so much so that even the offering of a lower grade example represents an important opportunity. In stunning NGC MS-68 *, the offered coin is one of the finest known, a distinction it shares with only two other specimens of which we are aware: the PCGS MS-68 that last appeared at auction in our (Bowers and Merenas) July 2002 Rarities Sale, lot 716; and another example certified NGC MS-68 * as of Heritages April 2020 CSNS Signature Auction, but which no longer appears in the <em>NGC Census</em>. Representing a fleeting opportunity for advanced specialists in Liberty Head quarter eagles and the numismatics of the California Gold Rush era, the present coin is sure to see spirited bidding at auction and fetch a strong price. Ranked #70 in the fifth edition (2019) of the influential reference <em>100 Greatest U.S. Coins</em> by Jeff Garrett and Ron Guth. PCGS# 7749. NGC ID: 25HA. NGC Census: 1; 0 finer. PCGS also reports a single coin in MS-68 at the top of their <em>Population Report</em>. From our (American Numismatic Rarities) sale of the Franklinton Collection, August 2006, lot 1201.