Shipwrecks are fascinating for numismatists, no doubt about it.
And when the ship that sunk carried a fortune in gold, it takes that
interest level up a notch.
On Oct. 26, 1859, the steam clipper Royal Charter was on the
last leg of its voyage back to England from Melbourne, filled up with
Australian gold, when it was wiped out by an unexpected hurricane off
the English coast near Moelfre — killing 459 passengers and crew
members on board, according to the BBC.
Now, by way of a Halls auction on March 22, coins recovered from its
wreckage by a diver in the 1970s are finally hitting the market, according to ShropshireLive.com. Valued around
£4,000, the collection includes six sovereigns, a single half
sovereign, eternity and signet rings, and a nugget pin.
The diver's widow is the seller.
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“We are very fortunate and privileged to be able to sell these rare
items, which were found by someone who actually dived on the wreck of
the Royal Charter,” Derek Ainsworth, a consultant at Halls, was
quoted as saying to ShropshireLive.com. “It’s such a tragic story as
many of the passengers were so close to home having made their fortune
in the gold fields of Australia.”
The ship was full of miners who had spent a significant amount of
time in Australia gathering the gold.
So how much gold was on board?
The ship’s hold was filled with boxes containing £322,440 worth of
gold items, which would equate to several million dollars’ or pounds’
The gold certainly didn’t help the victims of the wreck, as many of
them were wearing gold belts, carrying gold-stuffed luggage, and
wearing garments with gold sewn inside. The metal weighed down many
who plunged into the sea.
The Royal Charter was only four years old at the time of the
wreck, and was considered one of the fastest ships in the world.