Art: Old Gold

Numismatists were surprised last week when the world's record auction price for a coin was paid in Manhattan, not for the currency of some ancient empire, but for a U. S. $5 goldpiece issued in California in 1849. The coin was privately minted, at the time of the Gold Rush, for the Massachusetts & California Co. Its face depicts a cowboy busy with a lariat, a bear and a deer. For it a Philadelphia dealer, acting on behalf of an anonymous client, bid $7,900. The coin came from the big collection of the...

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