It’s known as the “Ship of Gold”, and is the largest sunken treasure in United States history. The paddlewheel steamer SS Central America was headed to the U.S. from Panama in 1857, with over 500 passengers and 30,000 pounds of California gold. Caught in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas, the ship was torn apart for four days before finally going under. 425 people lost their lives, and the loss of the 10 short tons of gold that went to the bottom of the Atlantic helped bring about the Panic of 1857.
The doomed ship and its tales of millions of dollars of freshly minted San Francisco gold held the imagination of treasure hunters for over 100 years, before it was rediscovered in 1988 by a salvage operation led by Tommy Thompson. However, Thompson’s endeavor was as doomed as its watery goal.
As soon as the first bit of gold was recovered from the seabed at 7,200 feet, the lawyers converged. Thirty nine different insurance companies demanded the gold, claiming they had paid off the insurance policies for its loss in 1857. After years of legal battles, Thompson’s team regained rights to the wreck in 1996. Then the lawsuits from investors (who had never seen any money from their investment from the over $100 million in sales of the treasure) ran Thompson into hiding. He hasn’t been seen since August 2012. Approximately two tons of gold was salvaged in total.
A new page in the history of the SS Central America began this week, when famous salvage company Odyssey Marine returned to the site of the famous wreck. Odyssey was awarded the contract to resume recovery of the historical golden treasure by a court-appointed trustee overseeing the claims of the investors of the original salvage operation. Odyssey is accompanied by Bob Evans, who first began searching for the Central America 31 years ago with Thompson. Evans is acting as advisor and on-site representative for the original investors.
Odyssey estimates that as much as $85 million worth of gold could remain amid the wreckage, counting the numismatic value of the coins. An ordinary mint state $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle gold coin sells from $1300 to $4200, if certified by a major grading agency. A SS Central America Liberty Head Double Eagle can go for $11,000.
While we may not have any SS Central America Liberty head double eagles in stock right now, you can get certified Mint State random date Liberty Head double eagles right now at Gainesville Coins, for only a small premium over ungraded versions.