Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed reading about lost and hidden treasure.
When I was in second grade, in 1946, I enjoyed a copy of The
Tower Treasure, the first volume in the popular Hardy Boys
series. And, Edgar Allan Poe in 1843 could not have dreamed that the
title of his “The Gold Bug” tale would be used generations later to
describe people who loved the metal.
Poe’s fictional account was set on Sullivan’s Island off South
Carolina — coincidentally the state from which the current
treasure-hunting expedition by Odyssey Marine Exploration was
launched. What the fortune seekers will find to add to the SS
Central America coins and ingots remains to be disclosed.
The Central America will never be topped, as no ship with more
numismatically desirable gold has ever been lost. My A California
Gold Rush History Featuring Treasure from the S.S. Central
America was published in 2001. By that time, two other “treasure
books” of mine had been published, American Coin Treasures and
Hoards (1997) and The Treasure Ship S.S. Brother Jonathan: Her
Life and Loss 1850-1865 (1999). I mustn’t forget to add a later
book, The Treasure Ship S.S. New York: Her Story 1837-1846 (2008).
It must have been The Tower Treasure that started me off as
an armchair treasure hunter. Whatever the catalyst, I am still adding
stories, mostly factual, to my files. Actually, over a long period of
years, most newspaper, magazine, and other accounts of real treasures
have been at least in part fictional, as most publicity is
exaggerated. When I started following the Central America and
the work of the Columbus-America Discovery Group, many red herring
tales were in the news. Fortunate for me when I wrote my book, Bob
Evans, one of the original treasure finders, is a combination of a
superb numismatist, skilled researcher, and a fine friend — so the
information I gave in the book was all factual.
In contrast is the scenario surrounding the SS Lexington,
which caught fire and was lost in Long Island Sound in 1840 with at
least some gold coins aboard. It was the subject of the first popular
Nathaniel Currier print. Some of its coins seem to have been found a
decade or so ago, including early-date Coronet gold $10 eagles, but
lawsuits and claims being what they are, I was never able to track
down any specific information.
In my collecting accounts of lost cargo-laden ships there are quite
a few lost “treasures” for which my search stopped with the first
reading — such as a schooner of out Boston, headed south, which
disappeared at sea with a cargo hold packed with ice!