US Coins

Shipwreck gold ingot offered in pre-Long Beach session

With a top estimate of $300,000, this large Kellogg & Humbert gold ingot recovered in the original 1988 salvage of the S.S. “Central America” shipwreck is a standout lot at the Goldbergs’ June 2 to 5 Pre-Long Beach sessions.

Images courtesy of Ira & Larry Goldberg.

Ira & Larry Goldberg’s Pre-Long Beach auction, set for June 2 to 5, has some fascinating gold lots. Carrying the top estimate of $300,000 is a Kellogg & Humbert Assayers gold ingot marked at 104.47 ounces of .853 fine gold, with a value of $1,842.12 in 1857.

It was among the bars recovered from the S.S. Central America in the initial 1988 recovery and measures 113 millimeters in length, with a width and thickness of 56 and 34 millimeters. It was among 343 Kellogg & Humbert ingots recovered from the 1857 shipwreck, of which 69 of the bars were melted for producing the $50 Kellogg commemorative restrike issues.

The catalog notes, “This hefty bar is well preserved in bright yellow gold with the usual frosty patina seen on the other SSCA bars, and lacks the deep rust colors seen on many of the bars.”

In contrast to modern bullion products which are .900 to .9999 in fineness, the fineness of “Gold Rush Era” bars varies, due to variations in the purity of the gold recovered. “Hence these bars had to be carefully assayed after the dust and grains of gold were melted to form the bars, this assaying process was accomplished by the cut corner off each bar, used to sample the exact purity of the bar and ascertain its value,” the Goldbergs explain. Its cut corner is evidence of assay activity to confirm the purity, and it is plated on page 444 of Q. David Bowers’ book A California Gold Rush History Featuring the Treasure from the S.S. Central America.

Gold prize medal

A gold prize medal awarded to Pennsylvania painter Robert Spencer is another rare find, with a top estimate of $15,000, reduced from the $20,000 and up estimate when last offered at the Goldberg’s in January, where it went unsold. Graded About Uncirculated 58 by Professional Coin Grading Service, the prize medal was made by Tiffany & Co. and measures 60 millimeters in diameter, with a weight of 120.68 grams.

The George Inness Award honored excellence in landscape painting at the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibition from 1901 to 1918. The obverse depicts American landscape painter Inness, modeled by sculptor Jonathan Scott Hartley, the son-in-law of the painter. Another example of this medal, awarded in 1905 to Edward Gay, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Instant collection

Those seeking a ready-made collection will find it in a complete set of 15 Indian Head $2.50 gold quarter eagles housed in a white Capital Plastics holder. The coins are uncertified, graded Extremely Fine to Brilliant Uncirculated by the auctioneer, with the key 1911-D coin graded About Uncirculated. The set carries a top estimate of $7,000 and is an impressive display that recalls how coins were collected prior to third-party grading and slabbing. Bela Lyon Pratt’s innovative design was used on quarter eagles and $5 half eagles from 1908 to 1929.

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