1849 Mormon $20. K-4. Rarity-6. AU-53 (PCGS). Exceptional quality for this prized rarity among Mormon gold issues. Handsome surfaces are fully original in preservation and exhibit a blend of deep honey-olive and warmer rose-gold colors. Both sides are satiny in texture and remarkably smooth for an example of this type, most of which are heavily abraded irrespective of grade. A minor planchet flaw at the lower obverse border is as made and serves as a useful identifier. Boldly defined overall and eagerly awaiting inclusion in an advanced collection of Territorial gold coinage.<p>The Mormon Exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois to the San Francisco area in the 1840s proved to be a pivotal moment in the story of the California Gold Rush. Many of the early members of the newly founded Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fled the conflicts with their neighbors and headed westward, eventually settling in the Great Salt Lake Valley and naming their new home the State of Deseret. Once established, Salt Lake City served as a launching off point for further migrations towards California where numerous groups settled in and around the San Francisco area. Among these groups included veterans of the Mormon Battalion who served during the Mexican-American War, who were employed by James W. Marshall at John Sutters mill in Coloma, California, where one of the defining moments of Western history took place on January 24, 1848, when Marshall discovered gold in the channel below the mill. The early Mormon presence in the region allowed them to take advantage of the newly found riches. The local community sent back a large quantity of gold to Salt Lake City which was not only used to pay the Churchs tithes but also to alleviate many of the economic hardships in Deseret. The gold influx was primarily in raw form, including large quantities of gold dust, which was soon employed as a medium of exchange. As with their brethren back in San Francisco, gold dust proved problematic at best in commerce, as it could be very easily adulterated. By the end of 1848, Brigham Young and John Kay announced plans to set up a small mint in Salt Lake City to process the gold dust into coin.<p>The coins were designed by Young and the dies cut by Kay with the first coins, 25 $10 pieces, being struck on December 12, 1848, followed shortly thereafter by $2.50, $5, and $20 coins. The $5 coins were struck in 1849 and 1850 and each bear the letters G.S.L.C.P.G., an abbreviation for "Great Salt Lake City Pure Gold," a statement that would prove to be entirely inaccurate. There was no local source for the gold, so all of bullion came from the shipments from California. In addition, because of the rather primitive minting and assay equipment, the purity and weight of the coins were consistently below face value, a situation that the mintmasters and assayers did not take into account. In 1850, Jacob Eckfeldt and William DuBois performed an assay of some of the Mormon coins at the Philadelphia Mint and recorded their findings in their work, "New Varieties of Gold and Silver Coins," and found that the coins were wanting in terms of valuation: "The weights are more irregular, and the values very deficient....The 5-dollar about 111 grains, $4.30." This huge discrepancy between face value and intrinsic value irreparably damaged their reputation and would only be accepted in trade at steep discounts. By late 1850, the assay report doomed the mint and it shut down after producing approximately $70,000 in Mormon gold coins. Despite an attempt in 1860 to resume production, Mormon gold coins played no significant role in the economy in what would become Utah. Most Mormon gold coins of all kinds quickly ended up in melting pots, leaving very few for todays numismatists to examine and appreciate.<p>Coined beginning in September 1849, the Mormon $20 coins were the first of that denomination ever struck in the United States, preceding even the unique federal 1849 double eagle by three months and beating the regular issue 1850 double eagles by an even longer margin. Perhaps if they were more common they would be avidly collected as the beginning of a double eagle set, but common they are not -- only 25 or so examples survive today, mostly "in low grades, scraped, or otherwise impaired," as Walter Breen noted in his 1988 <em>Encyclopedia</em>. Most of the 1,000 or so minted were eventually destroyed through melting, as above. Further, it is believed that many of the survivors are now permanently off the market, with appearances few and far between. Indeed, the present example is only the second that we have handled in nearly 15 years. With an impressive numismatic provenance that goes back to the early 20th century, this is an extraordinary example of one of the rarest and most significant Mormon gold issues. Ex Judge Charles W. Slack; B. Max Mehls sale of the Slack Collection, May 1925, lot 51; unknown intermediaries; Dr. Russell H. Renz; B. Max Mehls Royal Sale, March 1948, lot 3923; James A. Stack; our (Stacks) James A. Stack, Sr. and Teich Family Collections sale, January 1990, lot 332.