Monaco Financial, LLC of Newport Beach, Calif. has agreed to purchase a spectacular group of Coronet double eagles recovered from the wreckage of the treasure-laden SS Republic. The retail value of the coins is in excess of $2.5 million.
The coins are being billed as the “Marquee Coins” by Monaco, one of the nation’s largest dealers in rare coins and precious metals. The group of coins includes many of the rarest and most desirable $20 gold pieces salvaged from the 1865 shipwreck, which was located in July 2003 beneath the Atlantic Ocean, 100 miles off the coast of Georgia.
“The recovery of these coins is one of the most exciting events in the history of the coin market,” said Adam Crum, vice president of Monaco, who is a leading expert on Type I Coronet double eagles.
Virtually all of the Marquee Coins are finest-known or condition-census examples. The centerpiece of the group is a stunning specimen of the rare 1854-O double eagle, which has been graded AU-58 by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC). Only three other examples have been awarded that grade, with none higher. Crum, who has handled all three coins, says this is unquestionably the best.
“This 1854-O $20 is now one of the greatest coins in our marketplace,” Crum declared. “Its pedigree from the Republic, combined with its status as the finest-known example, will give it enormous appeal to all numismatists. I would rank it right up there with other important rarities that have broken or approached the $1-million mark.”
Mark Salzberg, NGC’s president, concurred with Crum’s assessment of the double eagle’s rarity.
“It’s extremely rare,” he exclaimed. “We’ve only graded a handful in our 18 years. I’ve probably graded 10 million coins myself, and I’ve only handled two or three of these so this was an incredible discovery. And on top of everything else, it’s the finest known.”
NGC is certifying coins from the SS Republic under an exclusive agreement with Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., the Tampa, Fla. firm that located the long-lost ship and is conserving its treasure. As they are recovered, the coins are first conserved by specialists at Numismatic Conservation Services who carefully remove any encrustations and stabilize the surfaces. They are then authenticated and graded by NGC and encapsulated in special inert holders identifying them as coins from the SS Republic.
“None of the coins we’ve examined so far have suffered from salt-water damage,” Salzberg said. “That’s because they were down so far [about a third of a mile] and they were covered up by the hull of the ship, so there was very little movement.”
The 1854-O double eagle is far rarer than many collectors realize, according to John Albanese, a renowned professional numismatist who is serving as an adviser to the Odyssey Group.
“Although its mintage is listed as 3,250, most were apparently melted and probably no more than a few dozen survived,” Albanese said. “I would pay $100,000 even for a relatively low-grade example say, in very fine condition and in higher grades, it’s worth much more.
“The 1854-O was rare even back in the 1850s and 60s. So far, Odyssey has recovered several thousand double eagles from the SS Republic and only one of them was an 1854-O. More than 5,000 double eagles were found on the SS Central America, another famous shipwreck, and none of them was an 1854-O. So this is a fabulous rarity.”
Monaco Financial’s Marquee Coins are all Type I Coronet double eagles and they constitute a glittering array of dazzling rarities. Among the other exceptional gold $20s in the group:
- An 1857-O graded MS-62 Prooflike.
- An 1858-O graded MS-63.
- A superb gem uncirculated 1860 graded MS-65.
- An 1861-S with the Paquet reverse graded AU-58.
Monaco has already sold all of the Marquee Coins to eager collector-investor clients, Crum said. The purchasers, he added, have agreed to make them available for display at Odyssey museums and attractions.
Odyssey co-founder Greg Stemm expressed great satisfaction with the agreement.
“Adam Crum has a real understanding of the cultural significance of the coins from the SS Republic,” Stemm said, “and we’re really happy that he’s put together a deal on some of our finest coins that allows them to remain on display in our exhibits for the public to enjoy.”
Before entering the museum display, the Marquee Coins will be placed on view at a number of major shows around the country, including the 2005 convention of the American Numismatic Association next July 27-31 in San Jose, Calif. These appearances will be part of the “World’s Most Valuable Coins Tour,” a five-year program during which Monaco is sponsoring traveling exhibits of exceptionally rare coins and related materials at major numismatic and investment events throughout the nation.
The company launched the program this August at the 2004 ANA convention in Pittsburgh, where it presented a Civil War-themed display featuring the ultra-rare Farouk/Norweb specimen of the 1861 Philadelphia Paquet double eagle, by far the finer of just two surviving specimens. This was the central exhibit of the ANA show, also known as the World’s Fair of Money. The Civil War display remains on tour, giving still more people a chance to see the Paquet $20, which Monaco considers a potential $10-million coin and which it has insured for that amount.
It was in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War that the SS Republic met its doom. The paddlewheel steamship was bound from New York to New Orleans when it ran into a hurricane on Oct. 23, 1865. Two days later, adrift and taking on water, it sank off the Georgia coast. At least 16 lives were lost in the disaster, along with a cargo that was reported to include some $400,000 in specie meant by Northern investors to help revive the war-ravaged economy of the South’s largest city.
Odyssey’s partners, Stemm and John Morris, spent 12 years searching for the wreck before finding it through the use of a submersible robot equipped with an underwater camera. The dramatic archaeological excavation is the subject of a National Geographic Special called “Civil War Gold,” now being aired on public-television stations around the country.
According to Crum, Monaco views its purchase of the Marquee Coins as the start of a long-term relationship with the Odyssey Group, which is pursuing the recovery of precious coins at several locations, including not only the SS Republic but also the H.M.S. Sussex, a treasure-rich 17th-century British warship that sank in 1694 in the western Mediterranean.
“We strive to obtain The Best of the Best for our clients,” Crum remarked, “and this will be yet another avenue for us to acquire important and valuable coins.”
“Over the years,” Stemm said, “Adam and the Monaco team have demonstrated a keen understanding of the significant difference between coins from historically significant shipwrecks and coins with no specific provenance.”
Stemm disclosed the impending sale of the Marquee Coins on November 16th, during an appearance on “The Early Show” on CBS-TV. He also showed viewers the 1854-O double eagle while being interviewed by co-host Harry Smith.
The Marquee Coins hold particular appeal for Crum because of his affinity for early $20 gold pieces. He is the author of An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Type I Double Eagles, an authoritative book on the subject.
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