Editor's note: The following post is part of CoinWorld.com's
'Collecting Basics' series, which provides novice readers with an
introduction into the numismatic hobby.
The SS Central America is a steamship that
capsized in a hurricane off the South Carolina coast during an 1857
trip between Panama and New York City.
Why is it important in numismatics? The 3 tons of gold it was
carrying at the time it wrecked might have something to do with that.
The “Ship of Gold,” as it is nicknamed, was carrying gold bars (or
ingots) and coins, including more than 5,000 Mint State 1857-S Coronet
$20 double eagles, for commercial firms. The human death toll from the
shipwreck was 477.
The recovery of gold from SS Central America shipwreck site
began in 1989 after the wreck was discovered off the coast of South
Carolina in 1987. Years of legal battle between the salvors who found
the coins and the insurance companies that had paid off claims after
the 1857 shipwreck delayed the gold’s entry into the market for a decade.
Another lengthy legal battle took place after the
chairman of Columbus Exploration LLC, the company that had been
handling the recovery effort, sold gold from the wreck to a consortium
of coin dealers in 2000 while allegedly shutting out original Columbus investors.
The second dispute led to a long hiatus in recovery dives during the
first 14 years of the 2000s. But in 2014, the recovery effort was renewed.
Odyssey Marine Explorations has been pulling gold from the wreckage
after it was announced in March 2014 that the company
had been awarded a contract by Recovery Limited Partnership, which has
exclusive salvage rights to the site.
Odyssey's recovery dives began in April 2014.
In the first five months, the Odyssey Explorer recovery ship brought
to surface 15,500 gold and silver coins, 45 gold bars, hundreds of
gold nuggets, gold dust, jewelry and other artifacts, according to a Coin World story by Paul
Gilkes published online Sept. 17.
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