Precious metal with a historic link: gold bars from shipwreck in FUN auction

Platinum Night sale by Heritage offers gold from SS Central America
By , Coin World
Published : 12/14/16
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Six gold bars ranging in weight from 34.94 ounces to 327.97 ounces that were salvaged from the 1857 shipwreck SS Central America will cross the auction block during Heritage Auctions' Jan. 5 Platinum Night session in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The auction is being held in conjunction with the Florida United Numismatists convention at the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Broward County Convention Center.

The six gold bars were issued by three California assaying firms — Kellogg & Humbert, Justh & Hunter, and Henry Hentsch. Each of the bars bears stamps identifying its serial number, fineness, weight and value, and the name of its issuer.

A buyer’s fee of 17.5 percent will be added to the closing hammer price of each lot won.

Justh & Hunter

The Platinum Night session offers three gold bars stamped JUSTH & HUNTER — one weighing 85.49 ounces, one weighing 179.50 ounces and one weighing 327.97 ounces.

The Hungarian-born Emil Justh, a lithographer by trade, arrived in San Francisco in 1851 and opened a lithographic printing office. The business closed, after which Justh eventually became an assistant assayer in 1854 at the newly opened San Francisco Mint. In 1855, after leaving the Mint, Justh formed an assaying partnership with former Baltimore merchant Solomon Hunter.

The 85.49-ounce bar has the inscription details oriented horizontally. At the tip is NO. 4200, following by the Justh & Hunter hallmark, reflected as JUSTH&HUNTER in an arc. In the same line below is 85.49 OZS and 886 FINE, with the bottom line reflecting the 1857 value at $1565.76.

A 179.50-ounce ingot, measuring 124 millimeters by 51 millimeters by 47 millimeters is, according to the auction lot description, “the only ingot cast from this mold size.”

The face is stamped No 4250 / JUSTH&HUNTER / 179.50 ozs 886 FINE / $3287.50. The numeral 50, the last two digits in the serial number, also appear on the back.

The 327.97-ounce bar, the equivalent of 20.49 pounds, is the largest in the sale in weight and dimensions. It is the second largest bar identified as from Justh & Hunter's Marysville, Calif., office.

The bar measures 62 millimeters by 180 millimeters by 49 millimeters. The face side is laid out with the incuse stamps scattered horizontally on the long side. NO. 9496 is positioned on a top line at center. In a next line, at left, is the JUSTH&HUNTER arc with 327.97 OZS. below. To the far right is JUSTH&HUNTER with 909 FINE. below. Centered at the bottom is the value, $6162.78.

Kellogg & Humbert

Two Kellogg & Humbert bars are offered in the Jan. 5 auction session — one weighing 152.96 ounces and the second, 34.94 ounces.

Salvors recovered 532 gold bars from the SS Central America wreck site off the coast of the Carolinas. Of the total, roughly 65 percent were stamped with the Kellogg & Humbert hallmark.

John Grover Kellogg and Augustus Humbert were recognized as two of the most reputable assayers in San Francisco in the 1850s. Humbert became United States Assayer in 1851. Kellogg previously worked with Moffat & Co. and eventually formed a partnership with G.F. Richter in 1854.

Kellogg and Humbert joined forces in 1854 to privately strike large numbers of gold $20 coins because the recently opened San Francisco Mint could not keep up with public demand.

The larger of the two Kellogg and Humbert ingots measures 64 millimeters by 150 millimeters by 28 millimeters.

The face of the larger bar is stamped in five lines, No 482 / K&H hallmark / 152.96 Oz. / 886 FINE / $2801.49.

The hallmark within a box reads KELLOGG / & / HUMBERT / ASSAYERS. The numerals 482 are also stamped on the back of the bar.

The smaller bar measures 43 millimeters by 53 millimeters by 28 millimeters. The face is stamped No 715 / 34.94 OZ/ 855 FINE / $617.54. The hallmark is stamped on the right edge.

Henry Hentsch

While more than 500 gold bars were retrieved from the SS Central America wreckage, just 33 bear the hallmark of assayer Henry Hentsch. That is the fewest among the bars recovered and assigned to an identified assayer.

The Hentsch bar offered, at 45 ounces, is classified by experts as a “medium to large size” ingot.

The bar measures 48 millimeters wide by 74 millimeters long by 21 millimeters thick.

The face of the bar is stamped in five lines No 3212 / 914 FINE / HY HENTSCH / OZ 45.00 / $850.23

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