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Revisiting the S.S. Central America

By Q. David Bowers, Founder

Author: Q. David Bowers / Wednesday, August 02, 2017 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers

One of the greatest happenings in American numismatics is the discovery of the long-lost treasure of the sidewheel steamer, S.S. Central America, and the recovery of the gold treasure it carried. Back in 2002, in connection with the marketing of the treasure, I wrote A California Gold Rush history: Featuring the Treasure from the S.S. Central America, comprising 1,055 pages and weighing 12 pounds! The book sold for $199. About 4,600 copies were printed, and all were soon gone. In looking around on the Internet I see they have held their value quite well.

If your budget permits, you might track down a copy. Alternatively, you can borrow one free of charge, plus postage, from the American Numismatic Association library in Colorado Springs, if you are an ANA member.

Since the original discovery of the treasure a return visit was made under the supervision of Odyssey Marine Exploration, and a number of additional coins and ingots were found – nothing compared with the original find, but many interesting pieces nevertheless. These will probably come to market within the next year. This poses a challenge — should a new edition of my book be released? If so, in today's world of free information on the internet, is there a market to sell thousands of copies at a price similar to before, or, with regard to inflation, even higher? All of this remains to be seen.

In the meantime, treasures from the original distribution continue to be enjoyed by their owners. The California Gold Marketing Group, headed by Dwight Manley, was in charge of the sale, and here in New Hampshire Christine Karstedt and I had a small part in this. We all wondered whether the market was deep enough to absorb the amazing quantity of over 5,000 Mint State 1857-S double eagles.

Not to worry! They all sold out and fairly quickly. And today in 2017 each one in its original PCGS holder with a special gold label is worth quite a bit more than it was when first sold. The distribution of the treasure opened a wide curtain for people who were not otherwise interested in coins. More than just a few buyers ordered an 1857-S double eagle, although they owned no other gold coins at all!

I'll see you again in two weeks.