US Coins

Barber silver half dollar from Titanic passenger in auction

A 1906-O silver Barber half dollar recovered from RMS Titanic victim John W. Gill is offered in RR Auctions’ sale closing April 24.

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When Englishman John W. Gill was lost with the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, his death was a heartbreaking twist in a love story that continued even after he died.

The second-class passenger was traveling to America to create a new life and home for himself and his newlywed bride, Sarah, who had remained in England. When he died, the 24-year-old carried $43 in U.S. paper money and $4.60 in U.S. coins, as well as smaller amounts of British currency and his £13 ticket for fare.

A 1906-O Barber silver half dollar recovered from Gill's body will be featured in a Titanic-themed auction by RR Auction, closing April 24.

Gill’s body was recovered by the cable ship CS Mackay-Bennett in the aftermath of the sinking, and he was buried at sea. Numerous objects were recovered from his body and cataloged before being returned to his widow, including this silver coin, all of which were included in the inventory list prepared by the provincial coroner of Nova Scotia.

John Gill was supposed to have been accompanied by his wife and her father.They instead decided to stay behind and complete business before joining him in America later in 1912, according to the auction house.

His wife, whom he had married two months before he died, fell into such a state of shock that she was unable or unwilling to speak for more than 20 years, according to the auction firm, citing multiple pieces of Titanic research.

Gill was never able to bring herself to spend the recovered money and retained it with his other effects including his pocket watch, keys and ring. Everything remained with the family for 90 years. All possessions recovered from Gill were sold in a single lot at auction in April 2002 by Henry Aldridge and Son.

This coin and others from Gill subsequently were sold individually in a 2012 auction, also by Aldridge.

The coin is “a heart-wrenching relic of a young couple’s promising future shattered by the Titanic tragedy,” says Bobby Livingston, vice president at RR Auction in New Hampshire.

No grade is identified for the coin, which has a starting bid of $500 but is expected to realize much more than that, based on previous sales of coins recovered from Titanic victims.

Other highlights in the sale include the original .925 fine silver “Loving Cup” presented to Capt. Arthur Rostron of the RMS Carpathia by Titanic survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown. Bidding is expected to exceed $200,000.

The full catalog of 225 lots is posted online at the firm’s website,

Bidding opened April 17 and continues through April 24. Bids are being accepted via telephone, email and online.

A 22.5 percent buyer’s fee will be added to the hammer price on all individual lots, with a 2.5 percent discount for those paying by cash, check or wire.

For more information, telephone the firm at 800-937-3880 or visit the website.

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