1846 Shipwreck Yields Southern Gold and Capped Bust Halves
Filed Under: History and Numismatics, Items of Interest, Shipwrecks & Treasure, Stacks, US Coins
(New Iberia, Louisiana) – A recent close examination of coins recovered a year ago from the 1846 Gulf of Mexico shipwreck of the SS New York has revealed some of the finest known Southern branch mint gold coins and a nearly complete set of Bust half dollars.
The New York was a side-wheel steamer that foundered during a hurricane about 60 miles off the coast of Cameron, Louisiana in 1846. Four New Iberia, Louisiana area residents found the 365-ton wooden hull ship in about 60 feet of water two years ago. The four, who call their recovery operation, “Gentlemen of Fortune,” are Gary and Reneè Hebert, Avery Munson and Craig DeRouen.
“We brought up the ship’s bell in the summer of 2006, staked a claim and obtained a federal court judgment granting us title to the site, then brought up several hundred coins from the underwater mud last year. We recently sent them to Numismatic Conservation Services and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation for certification,” said DeRouen.
“This is the most important group of Southern gold coins ever found on a treasure ship. There are some of the finest known Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles struck in Charlotte and Dahlonega, as well as examples of gold coins struck at the New Orleans Mint,” stated prominent numismatic researcher and author Q. David Bowers, co-chairman of Stack’s Rare Coins in New York City and Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
“The recovered coins are worth more than $1 million,” said dealer John Albanese of Far Hills, New Jersey who recently appraised them.
“They include an 1845-D $2.50 graded NGC MS-64; 1844-D $5 graded NGC MS-63* prooflike; and an 1844-O $5 graded NGC MS-64. There’s also a nearly complete set of Capped Bust halves with over two dozen different dates including an 1815, and quite a few foreign gold coins as well,” said Albanese.
Capped Bust lettered-edge half dollars were produced from 1807 to 1836. Only 47,150 were struck in 1815.
“There really is a spectacular variety of coins from the SS New York, ranging from exceptional quality Southern mint gold to a run of Mexican Cap and Rays 8 reales. While it’s compelling to consider that such a great diversity of coins were used alongside each other in commerce, for me it’s even more exciting that NCS and NGC played a critical role in making these coins available to collectors. I’m very proud of the comprehensive services that we provide for shipwreck recovery coinage,” said Mark Salzberg, NGC Chairman.
Described as elegant for the time with polished mahogany walls and white satin damask curtains, the 160-foot long New York began shuttling passengers and cargo from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina in 1837. She was put into service between Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana in 1842.
There were 53 passengers and crew members on board for the trip from Galveston to New Orleans when the New York went down during a storm in September 1846. Everyone evacuated the ship; however, 17 died later while clinging to pieces of floating wreckage for two days before the SS Galveston picked up 36 survivors.
For generations the sunken wreckage was noted on shrimp fishermen’s maps as a “hang,” an underwater obstruction where nets might get caught and entangled.
A complete inventory of the recovered coins will be released later, according to Albanese. Information about the planned sale of some of the coins in a public auction by Stack’s also will be announced later.
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About the Author
Stack's, a team of rare coin professionals, highly skilled in the presentation of numismatic auction sales. Since 1935, Stack's has held first position in the American numismatic auction scene in terms of longevity, number of sales conducted, lots sold and great rarities handled. www.stacks.com