US Coins

SS Central America ingots in Kagin's March sale

A 10.07-ounce gold ingot issued by Harris, Marchand & Co. recovered from the SS Central America is the second smallest of only 37 known Harris ingots.

Images courtesy of Kagin’s Auctions.

The American Numismatic Association National Money Show is set for the Irving Convention Center in metropolitan Dallas March 8 to 10. Kagin’s Auctions will host the show’s official auctions on March 8 and 9, with an online session on March 10, and is offering free ANA online memberships to all registered bidders.

See related articles here and here.

A pre-auction press release noted, “No Kagin Auction sale would be complete without some Pioneer Gold and selections from shipwreck treasure. This series is highlighted by two gold ingots from Kellogg & Co. and Harris, Marchand & Co. from the S.S. Central America shipwreck.”

The recent announcement that more treasures recovered from the SS Central America would be in the “Ship of Gold” exhibit at the Feb. 22 to 24 Long Beach Expo has brought attention to this famous ship that sank in a hurricane in September 1857. More than 420 passengers and crew died and an estimated 30,000 pounds of gold sank to the bottom of the ocean.

The many gold ingots discovered in the wreckage included a 10.07-ounce ingot issued by the assay office of Harris, Marchand & Co. The firm had offices in Sacramento and Marysville, California, and was formed by Harvey Harris, originally from Denmark, and Desire Marchand, who studied assaying at the Paris Mint. The Sacramento office was established in September 1855 and the Marysville office began soon after.

According to the catalog of Christie’s and Spink America’s Dec. 14, 2000, auction titled “Gold Rush Treasures from the S.S. Central America” where this lot entered the marketplace, no gold ingots of this firm were known to have survived until the recovery of the SS Central America treasure.

The ingot is fully described in that sale as follows: “Face: No 6472 HARRIS MARCHAND & CO (arcs above the all-seeing eye hallmark) $176.31, the second 1 in the denomination being upside down. The beautiful Harris Marchand & Co. hallmark is circular from a coin-style die and displays an ‘all-seeing eye’ with radiant rays around, MARCHAND arcing above, ESSAYEUR curving below, all in a circular depression. Back is blank. Front edge: 847 FINE. Back edge: 10.07. OZ, the punch for that notation upside down when viewed with the face up. Left edge is blank. Right edge is blank. Small portion of upper right corner of face missing due to assayer’s cut.” At that auction it sold for $29,900 against an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.

Kagin’s describes the ingot as “Essentially as Poured,” further observing, “Deep yellow-gold with the colorful encrustations sometimes seen in S.S. Central America ingots, garnered from some 130 years undisturbed on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. This is one of the prettiest we have seen.”

The Kagin’s catalog entry cites a 17.02-ounce Harris ingot that realized $164,500 in its September 2017 auction as a potential comparable, while recognizing that the subject example in the upcoming ANA auction is more attractive and lacks the pouring cracks seen on the larger one.

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