The struggle for Hungarian independence, of 1848 and 1849, was an event that captured the attention of the entire world. The mighty Habsburg Empire of Austria and Hungary saw its alliance with Russia and Prussia collapse in early 1848. Democratic reforms swept through Hungary as a sense of newborn nationalism wafted in the air. However, Vienna was not about to loose such a large part of its empire. War broke out with Croatia in September, followed by a counterrevolutionary attack by Austrian loyalists in December. The war raged on with Hungary and their brave Polish allies fighting the mighty Austrian army to a stalemate. On April 14th, the Hungarian House of Representatives declared to the world that Hungary was a free and independent nation.

In June 1849, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia intervened on the side of Austria. This massive alliance would spell doom for the brave Hungarian forces. Foreshadowing the crushing of another Hungarian revolution in 1956, the Russian forces swept away all opposition to the new Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef. Brutal vengeance was the order of the day for all who had supported the revolution. Over 100 politicians, officers, clergy and patriots were executed. Large portions of the defeated Hungarian army were incorporated into the Imperial Army. Thousands of brave patriots fled for their lives. Some ended up exiled in England, where they contemplated a new life in North America.

Emerging from this historic background, two Hungarian patriots found their way to the booming State of California in 1851. Count Samuel C. Wass and Agoston (Augustus) P. Molitor had studied mining in Germany at the School of Mines. They both had considerable experience as miners in their native Hungary. At the close of the unsuccessful Revolution, they were both exiled by the Austrians. Wass arrived in California in 1850, Molitor in 1851. Wass immediately went to the gold producing regions, and completed a detailed report that was published in the Alta California in January 1851.

Wass and Molitor set up an assay office in San Francisco in October 1851. An important high volume client was Adams & Co., the largest express company in the West, and a rival to Wells Fargo. Wass, Molitor & Co. initially assayed and stamped gold ingots. They established a reputation for quick, honest service that was equaled only by Moffat & Co. They were able to pay off depositors in 48 hours, which was much quicker than the 8 days that it took the U.S. Assay Office to do the same task.

Seizing on an opportunity to produce smaller denomination coins than the U.S. Assay's cumbersome $50 Slug, Wass, Molitor & Co. produced their first coins in 1852. Gold coins in $5 and $10 denominations were struck with the date 1852, but were probably intended to circulate in late 1851. These coins feature, on the obverse, a head of Liberty (similar to that of Gobrecht on the U.S. $5 and $10), surrounded by 13 stars and the date. The reverse of the $5 coin shows a Gobrecht like eagle surrounded with the legend: "FIVE DOLLARS IN CALIFORNIA GOLD." The $10 reverse has the same eagle surrounded by the legend: "S.M.V. CALIFORNIA GOLD TEN D." S.M.V. stands for Standard Mint Value.

The coins made by Wass, Molitor & Co. were of a proper weight and fineness. They were considered to be as good as any private mint coins of their era. Later in 1855, the firm issued coins in $20 and $50 denominations. The $20 coin has an obverse similar to the $5 and $10 coins. The reverse has the same eagle surrounded by: "900 THOUS. SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA TWENTY DOL." The $50 coin is unique in that it is the only round $50 coin to be made in California during this period. The $50 U.S. Assay/Humbert coins were octagonal shaped. The obverse of the Wass, Molitor & Co. $50 coin has a similar obverse to the other coins made by the firm. The reverse features a wreath surrounded by: "SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA WASS MOLITOR & Co."

Inside the wreath is; "900 THOUS 50 DOLLARS." Wass, Molitor & Co. closed their operations in late 1855. Increased gold coin production from the U.S. mint in San Francisco brought about their demise. Their coins are highly sought after and seldom offered to the public.