This collection of six gold coins recovered from the famed S.S. Central America, or “Ship of Gold," stands alone, with each piece representing the top examples of their type. Taken together, these coins offer a fascinating look into the historic and tragic wreck of the Central America, as well as a formative time for the U.S. economy.
Mid-19th century America was experiencing gold fever. The California Gold Rush had attracted throngs of miners hoping to strike it rich. During this boom, the United States economy became dependent on a rapid flow of gold. It was constantly being mined and then transferred to other parts of the country, either in coin or ingot form. One ship, the side-wheel steamer S.S. Central America launched in 1853, was in continuous service transporting gold on the Atlantic leg of the Panama Route between New York and San Francisco, making 43 round trips between New York and Panama. On September 9, 1857, the ship found herself caught in a hurricane off the Carolinas’ coast. She would eventually sink, unable to withstand the storm’s raging winds and the churning waves. Its cargo was lost, and many of those aboard, including Captain William Herndon, perished.
At the time of her wreck, Central America was carrying 10 short tons of gold prospected during the California Gold Rush, mainly in the form of ingots and coins freshly minted in San Francisco. Because such a large quantity of gold was lost with the ship, the incident was considered the greatest economic catastrophe in U.S. maritime history, and it contributed to the Panic of 1857.
When the shipwreck was discovered in 1988, over 7,000 gold coins were recovered, including the present six. Each is in Mint State and each boasts a high grade. In fact, the grades of five out of the six place them as the finest known example of their type; the remaining coin is tied for second finest known. Furthermore, the collection has never before been in private hands outside of the S.S. Central America exhibitions. Overall, this curated six coin set lives on to tell the story of the Ship of Gold and represents an incredibly rare and important occurrence on the market.
The set consists of:
1856 S $1 gold piece MS 65+ (single finest known example)
1857 S $2.50 gold piece MS 64+ (tied for second finest known example)
1857 S $3 gold Princess MS 67 (single finest known example)
1857 S $5 gold Liberty MS 66 (single finest known example)
1857 S $10 gold Liberty MS64+ (tied for finest known example)
1857 S $20 gold Liberty MS 67+ (single finest known example)