The Allure of Sunken Treasure
There are thousands upon thousands of Ships that have sunk in the Ocean. Sometimes their sinking is due to conflict, sometimes a purposeful scuttling, sometimes a rogue wave, and sometimes, maybe most times, a stormy sea captures her prize. I have three coins in my collection that were wrested from the briny deep and they are among my favorites because of the circumstance of their recovery and the associated history.
The S.S. Republic was a paddlewheel steamship lost in a storm off the coast of Georgia in 1865 while sailing from New York to New Orleans. Her cargo had Gold and Silver coins destined for banks in New Orleans, still recovering from the aftermath of the civil war. The wreck was found in 2003 and well over 50,000 coins were recovered from a depth of about 1,700 feet. One of those coins is my 1861-O half dollar. I was lucky in that my half showed the die marriage associated with mintage under Confederate authorities. One of my favorite coins and a spectacularly historical shipwreck.
The El Cazador was a Spanish Galleon sailing from Veracruz, Mexico, to New Orleans, Louisiana, with a load of silver coins. She went down in 1784 just south of New Orleans in only 300 feet of water. She was found in 1993 when a fishing trawler named The Mistake, belying her name, dragged up some debris, containing coins, in her nets. One of these coins is my 1786 Charles III 8 Reales from an unknown, but probably, Mexico City mint. This 8 Reales has two gouges on its right side that are smooth enough to have been done to the coin after she left the mint. Maybe an expert on colonial Spanish coins might have an answer to that mystery.
The Reijgersdahl was a Dutch East India Trading Ship which sank off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa in 1747. She was on her way from a Dutch port to the East Indies at the time of her loss. Perhaps her cargo of Pillar Dollars (8 Reales) would have eventually been used in the China trade, one can only speculate. Her treasure of several thousand Pillar Dollars were recovered in 1979. One of these recovered coins is my 1737 Pillar Dollar from the Mexico City Mint.
I hope you enjoyed this journey through history, Numismatics never fails when you want to travel back in time..
You are correct that only a small fraction of what the sea has taken has ever been recovered. The ocean is to far wide and far deep to readily make its treasure available. Significant history of coins in each person's collection is what we all strive for.
I have an 1860-O half-dollar recovered from the SS Republic and it's one of the favorite coins in my collection. I have always wondered how my half-dollar and especially yours found their way to New York during the civil war. Perhaps the fall of New Orleans early in the war had something to do with it. Certainly one of the goals of the north was to economically ruin the south by removing as much hard money from the south as possible. This also affected the south's ability to finance the war.
New Orleans returned to Union control fairly early in the war so I am thinking any coins in the Mint or in the Banks of Nola were transported to the North right away. Those coins must have been tucked away in NY banks until the war ended and the effort to re-monetize the South began. They were after all Federal money so the South had no legal claim to it.
Big Nub Numismatics
I loved the way you started this blog, it truly captured my attention. If worn coins have history, then boy do shipwrecked coins have a story to tell, some of your shipwrecked coins do not have any detracting marks. Great blog.
I love that collection. NGC doesn't grade the coins they just say genuine. Is anacs the only one that grades? I have two Reales they only way shipwreck. And there from the Republic. Great history. I thought you have one graded confederate. That's great. That also took some work. Always great history. I'm glad you out that in your blog. Always enjoy. Your blogs. I saw a show on shipwrecks . I'm thinking of moving to the Carolina's. There are still ships that haven't been found. There is the occasional metal detectors. finding a coin.
That's the fascinating thing, they have only recovered a small fraction of all the gold and silver coins, jewelry, and ingots from all the wrecks over the centuries and they still find coins all the time on the beaches after a storm has churned the oceans and scarred the beaches. Metal Detecting on a Carolina Beach after a hurricane has passed would be awesome.
Thanks for the blog, I made one about El Cazador recently and it was refreshing to read about other treasure ships. It is truly an interesting field of numismatics.
Great blog. Who doesn't love lost "treasure" coins. Real pieces of eight. I especially like you CSA coin. I too have a SS Republic coin. Mine is a 1853 so no CSA designation. It is 100 years older than me though, so that is cool. Great collection you have..Thanks.
I for one have no sunken treasure coins in my collection. Last year, however, at the PAN show in Pittsburgh I bought a Spanish Reale from the Attocha for my niece who picked it out. Don't recall the date off hand, but I do know that it cost far less to buy then when the wreck was discovered. Is that common? Will the S.S. Republics coins (gold and key dates) fall to half their current prices in the future? The mentioned Attocha's has.
Long Beard: I have found that once the hype associated with a particular ship, like the Nuestra Senora de Atocha passes, then the coins do tend to drop in value. Then another shipwreck is found and the hype train for that particular ship, like the S.S. Republic , starts a new cycle of high initial prices and lower prices down the line. It kind of reminds me of the hype cycle for Mint products, they almost always lose their initial value after a few months or a few years. I believe all treasure coins will drop in value, especially considering most of the treasures are yet to be found and they will slowly reveal themselves as time and technology permit. Pan Show in May should be fun. I will be working at the KidZone on Saturday, stop by and say Hi if you're there.
Very interesting coins. They have an interesting story to tell.
Well worn Copper
There's something about a coin that was brought up from a shipwreck that reeks of romance and history. You accept that the sea has had it's way with the piece and appreciate the saltwater patina. A shipwrecked coin is also more desirable than a coin that was simply buried in the ground.
Great blog! Those are some cool items.
Awesome ship wreck coins. Enjoyed my journey back in time. I don't own any shipwreck coins yet. A collection of shipwreck coins would be very interesting. Maybe one coin from as many shipwreck finds as possible? Thanks for the information and sharing you great coins.