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All Posts Tagged With: "SS Central America"

Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagle Gold Coins from the Shipwreck of the S. S. Central America

by Greg Reynolds

In 1987, there was the greatest discovery of a shipwreck relating to the history of the United States. Yes, other shipwrecks may be especially important to the history of Spain and Latin America. The loss of the S.S. Central America in Sept. 1857, however, had an impact on the history of the United States. Although a recession had already started in 1856, and a major insurance company failed in August 1857, the loss of this ship caused upheaval in financial markets and exacerbated the “Panic of 1857.”

The Library of Congress website reveals that the S. S. Central America “had aboard 581 persons, many carrying great personal wealth, and more than $1 million in commercial gold. [This ship] also bore a secret shipment of 15 tons of federal gold, valued at $20 per ounce, intended for the Eastern banks”. In this context, the Library of Congress website cites several pertinent, recognized 19th century books and other contemporary sources. “As banking institutions of the day dealt in specie (gold and silver coins instead of paper money) the loss of some thirty thousand pounds of gold reverberated through the financial community.” In October, many banks suffered terribly or failed altogether. There were ‘runs’ on many banks by depositors.

The crisis reached its worse point on Oct. 14, about a month after the sinking of the S. S. Central America, which was “Suspension Day, when banking was suspended in New York and throughout New England [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug24.html.” The U.S. economy did not fully recover for years.

In the wreckage of the S. S. Central America, there were thousands of 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins), which were very scarce before the salvaging of the S.S. Central America. Of all the Double Eagles found in the wreckage, however, only fifty were designated as being Prooflike, and only seven as Deep Mirror Prooflike, by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). In late 1999 and/or early 2000, the PCGS certified and graded most of the coins found in this shipwreck. As far as I know, these fifty-seven PCGS certified 1857-S Double Eagles and one NGC certified 1858-S Double Eagle coins are the only reliably certified, Prooflike gold coins from the early years of the San Francisco Mint, which formally began striking coins in 1854.

I. The Rarity of Type One Prooflike Double Eagles

The 1857-S Double Eagles that the PCGS has designated as Prooflike are unusual in that it is generally the policy of the Professional Coin Grading Service to not designate gold coins as being ‘Prooflike.’ In a Dec. 2000 Christie’s auction, it is stated that a PCGS certified ‘MS-65 PL’ 1857-S is “Tied with two others for finest of 50 PL examples from the S.S. Central America treasure certified by PCGS.” According to the Christie’s cataloguer, who is an expert regarding the histories of coins found on shipwrecks, nineteen 1857-S Double Eagles are (or then were) PCGS certified as ‘MS-64 PL.’

Sources indicate just seven of the S. S. Central America 1857-S Double Eagles were designated as Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by the PCGS. The NGC has not designated any 1857-S Double Eagles as PL or DMPL. Before the finding of the wreck of the S. S. Central America, it is likely that no Prooflike 1957-S Double Eagles were known to exist. Furthermore, probably all (or almost all) of these certified Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles are in PCGS holders with their respective original gold foil inserts (labels) that were specially designed for coins found in the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Therefore, it seems that there exist fifty-seven Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) 1857-S Double Eagles. Only a handful of these have been publicly sold since the initial offerings in 2000 when coins from the S.S. Central America appeared in coin markets. (more…)

Adam Crum and the Ship of Gold Exhibit from the Long Beach Coin Expo – Video News

A decade after its first appearance, the precedent-setting “Ship of Gold” display showcasing California Gold Rush-era sunken treasure recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the SS Central America was again docked in Long Beach, California.

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The $10 million exhibit was publicly displayed during the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo in February, marking its 10th anniversary.

“The ‘Ship of Gold’ exhibit is out of dry dock” said Ronald J. Gillio, Expo General Chairman. “The eye-opening display on the convention center floor is housed in a specially-constructed 40-foot long representation of the famous ship’s hull. This will be the first public appearance of the ‘Ship of Gold’ exhibit anywhere in the country in six years.”

The exhibit is courtesy of Monaco Rare Coins of Newport Beach and involved months of work to coordinate the display with collectors who privately own and now have generously loaned many of the items for the exhibit, according to Adam Crum, Monaco Vice President.
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Gold Ingots from the S.S. Central America Pace Heritage Auction Results in Long Beach

All four gold ingots from the S.S.Central America made the Top 10 list in the auction results from Heritages Long Beach Signature Sale.

The top performer was the 55.05-Ounce Harris Marchand Gold Ingot. Recovered from the S.S. Central America. CAGB-135, serial number 6526. 55.05 ounces, 875 fineness, stamped value $995.73. Sold For $172,500

From Q. David Bowers, A California Gold Rush History: “Large size ingot. All inscriptions on face with bar horizontally oriented. $ leans sharply left. Reverse finessed or dressed by tapping.”

Though the firm Harris, Marchand & Co. did not last into June 1857, the gold bars stamped that way did, and three dozen bars from the Sacramento office received an unexpected gift of numismatic immortality: they were loaded onto the S.S. Central America, and instead of going to New York to be melted down, they landed at the bottom of the ocean, and over the course of more than a century, they transformed into historic treasures.

Like the majority of known Harris, Marchand & Co. ingots, this example shows irregular punching on the serial number, weight, fineness, and value. The arcing HARRIS MARCHAND & CO imprint and circular MARCHAND / ESSAYEUR stamp, however, are precise and elegant as ever.

The runner-up was the 48.65 Ounce Kellogg & Humbert Gold Ingot. Kellogg & Humbert Assayers, serial number 947, 48.65 oz, 780 fineness, $784.43 face value. Medium to large size, per the classification system by Q. David Bowers in his A California Gold Rush History. Sold for $103,500

Bowers devotes a solid paragraph to the unusual characteristics of this ingot (italics his):

“Inscriptions on face. 48 in weight double punched. Fineness first punched as 87, then corrected to 78 ($784.42), with erroneous under digits still visible. $ sign high, leans right, and touches upper left of 7. Vertically oriented. Reverse stamped with repetition of serial number, but in different font. One of the most amateurishly punched of the many Kellogg & Humbert ingots.”

The top face also shows numerous air bubbles and weakness on the “Kellogg & Humbert Assayers” stamp. Bowers does allow, however, that the S.S. Central America ingots’ individuality is core to their appeal, noting that “[s]uch idiosyncrasies make them fascinating to study.” (more…)

Giant Gold Rush Ingots at Long Beach Expo

Two huge California Gold Rush era assayers’ ingots, recovered from the fabled SS Central America and with a combined weight of over 100 pounds of gold, will be exhibited at the next Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo, September 10 – 12, 2009, in the Long Beach, California Convention Center, 100 S. Pine Ave.

Adam Crum of Monaco Rare Coins holds the 598-ounce Justh & Hunter ingot, one of two huge California Gold Rush-era assayers' bars recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the SS Central America

Adam Crum of Monaco Rare Coins holds the 598-ounce Justh & Hunter ingot, one of two huge California Gold Rush-era assayers’ bars recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the SS Central America

“The display will feature a Kellogg & Humbert gold bar that weighs 662.28 ounces and a Justh & Hunter ingot that is 598.08 Troy ounces. Both were recovered in the late 1980’s from the Central America, the legendary ‘Ship of Gold’ that was carrying tons of California Gold Rush coins and ingots to New York City when it sank during a hurricane in 1857,” said Ronald J. Gillio, Expo General Chairman.

The Kellogg & Humbert gold bar is stamped as number 804 and with a value in 1857 of $12,225.62. It is the fourth largest gold bar among the 532 ingots recovered from the Central America. The Justh & Hunter ingot is #4255 and marked at the time as $11,089.95

The historic ingots will be displayed by Monaco Rare Coins of Newport Beach, California.

“The exhibit also will include some of the finest known Augustus Humbert $50 denomination octagonal ‘slugs’ produced in San Francisco during the height of the Gold Rush,” said Adam Crum, Monaco Vice President. “These colossal gold bars and big $50 coins, literally, are treasures of Wild West history.”

During the three-day Long Beach Expo more than 1,000 dealers will be buying and selling rare coins, paper money, stamps, postcards, historic documents, antiques, estate jewelry and other collectibles. Some will provide free, informal appraisals for visitors.
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