|BREA, Calif. —When the S.S. Central America sank in 1857 carrying the modern equivalent of approximately $292 million in gold, it started an economic panic. Today, treasures recovered from the wreck are once more making waves.
Nicknamed the ship of gold, the ship sank during a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas. Of the 578 passengers and crew on board, only 153 survived. The ship was sailing from Panama to New York City with California gold when it was caught in a hurricane. During the storm the ship’s bilge pumps stopped working. The side-wheel steamer lost her boiler and was unable to maintain course. During the eye of the hurricane attempts were made to repair the boiler but they were unsuccessful. A distress flag was flown and the day after the storm two ships were seen. Unfortunately, high seas and wind kept pushing the S.S. Central America away from rescue attempts.
The wreck was located in 1988 and about five percent of the ship was recovered. After several legal battles, a contract was awarded in 2014 to Odyssey Marine Exploration to conduct archeological recovery and conservation of the remaining shipwreck.
Recently, a group of dimes that was recovered in 2014 was found to contain a true treasure in the form of an extremely rare, mint condition Liberty Seated design silver dime struck in 1856 at the San Francisco Mint and now valued at $75,000.
The dime was found with thousands of other dimes in the ship purser’s iron lockbox but only recently examined and cataloged by experts, the coin now has been authenticated and certified by Professional Coin Grading Service as Mint State 65 (on a 1 to 70 scale). It is one of only two known at that high grade.
“The 1856-S dime has an incredibly rare mintage of only 70,000; a mere $7,000 in face value. This example stayed pristine with full luster after a century and a half in the ocean environment,” said Dwight Manley, Managing Partner of the California Gold Marketing Group (CGMG) in Brea, Calif.
“We will publicly display this top rarity for the first time at the American Numismatic Association’s 2019 Chicago World’s Fair of Money, Aug. 13-17.”
CGMG acquired all the coins retrieved in 2014 from the fabled S.S. Central America as well as most of the coins found in 1980s recovery expeditions. The group took possession in January 2018 of the sunken treasure recovered in 2014, and a meticulous coin-by-coin examination has continued since then.
“It quickly became obvious that this was the ’cash box’ of the ship, a truly marvelous historical find,” said Bob Evans, the chief scientist on the 1980s mission that first located and recovered a portion of the fabulous sunken treasure and who served in that same role with the 2014 recovery.
“I saw the 1856-S after I already had examined around 4,000 other dimes from the purser’s bag. That big bag sat in the dark, cold, swampy, anaerobic (lack of oxygen) interior of an iron safe for 157 years. But when I first saw it, I could see this dime was mint state,” explained Evans.