Pieces that glitter bring out the auction bidders in Kagin’s sale

Gold nuggets, silver ingot from World War II shipwreck bring out the treasure seekers
By , Coin World
Published : 09/20/17
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Gold nuggets from multiple sources and a more than 1,000-ounce silver ingot retrieved from a World War II shipwreck helped highlight Kagin’s Auctions’ Sept. 15 sale held in conjunction with the CoinExpo Santa Clara in Santa Clara, California.


Did you buy a winner or a loser from the U.S. Mint? Also in this week’s print issue of Coin World, we not only learn more about rare coins, but collectible rare cars as well.


The nuggets included examples with the precious metal interspersed with quartz and other gold examples fabricated from raw gold after impurities were extracted.

California gold

The sale's top nugget offering was a California find weighing 18.13 ounces, measuring 2.125 inches at its highest and 1.125 inches at its narrowest.

The nugget’s appearance, according to the auction lot description, is “deep olive-gold throughout with some noticeable quartz inclusions, fairly noticeable in spots, but comprising less than 1 percent of the total weight.”

The nugget realized $25,850, which includes the 17.5 buyer’s fee added to the final closing hammer price.

Cupellations times three

Totaling 2.38 ounces combined, three gold cupellations offered as a single lot were cataloged with a pedigree to the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s, inherited by a descendant of a Yukon gold prospector. The cupellations separately weigh 1.15, 1.0 and 0.23 ounces, respectively.

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According to the auction lot description, cupellation is a process that involves the separation of impurities from a precious metal sample, using a cupel. The process results in a piece of metal shaped like the little cup, and also called a cupellation.

“The cupel is a small cup made of porous, heat-resistant material in which metal is subjected to high temperature, causing base metals such as lead to oxidize and vaporize, leaving a button-shaped piece of (somewhat) refined silver, gold, or a mixture of the two,” according to the auction lot description.

The cupellations realized $3,995.

Sunken silver

When the SS Gairsoppa was sunk Feb. 12, 1941, by a German U-boat submarine, among the cargo the steamship was shuttling between Bombay (present-day Mumbai in India) and Britain was a 1,058.7-ounce silver bar stamped with the seal of His Majesty's Mint (Royal Mint) in Bombay. The bar is also stamped as being .9993 fine silver.

The ingot was among 7 million ounces of silver being carried aboard the steamship, a precious metals cargo valued at $118.65 million at today's silver prices.

The sunken silver remained untouched until Odyssey Marine Exploration in Tampa, Florida, began recovery efforts from the vessel in 2012.

The officers of the SS Gairsoppa made a fatal mistake when they decided to redirect the vessel away from the protection of a military convoy because the vessel was running low on coal. The decision exposed the vessel to a German U-101 sub and ts 14 torpedoes. The first torpedo sunk the steamship, killing all but one crew member, and sending the vessel’s cargo of tea, pig iron and silver 4,700 feet to the ocean's bottom.

The silver ingot offered in the Kagin’s sale contains roughly $18,000 worth of silver at todays prices. The ingot realized $25,262.50, considerably more than its precious metals value.

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