California Gold Rush Rare Gold Ingots Recovered from the SS Central America Treasure
Each one worthy of a place in a museum
The California gold rush phenomenon warranted an efficient means for miners to convert their hard-earned raw nuggets and dust into a gold bar form that was readily accepted. This necessity caused the advent of private monetary ingots. Assayer ingots soon became the standard method to deal with the massive flow of new California gold.
First, a gold miner would stockpile a cache of raw gold dust and nuggets. Then, based on word-of-mouth reputation, location and fees, the miner would select one of the competing assaying offices. The miner would deposit his bag of gold and get a written receipt with the assayers inventory identification number and a gross weight. It was customary for the miners to return within 24 hours to pick up their refined gold bars.
The assayer would melt the raw gold and refine-out impurities and base metals such as iron. What remained was gold and silver. Gold bars of this form are called “unparted” gold ingots. The molten gold was poured into a mold of a size that corresponded to that miner’s lot size. After the bar cooled, the assayer would clip off two opposite corners of the bar to retain as his fee and also to use for the assaying process. Once assayed to determine the purity of gold, the precise weight and fineness (represented in thousandths) were stamped on the bar along with its unique I.D. serial number, which matched the miners receipt. Also, the assayer would stamp the exact U.S. Dollar value. This transformed the bullion into a medium of exchange, which was easily accepted for large transaction domestically and internationally, making it real money and numismatically important.
In a democracy like the United States’, there is no king, pharaoh, or czar, and hence no crowns, royal jewels, or pharaohs’ tombs. Accumulated treasures that do exist in America are either public or private, including great collections of art or other important cultural relics. On rare occasions, a significant treasure may be accumulated accidentally, the result of a profound act of nature.
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The sinking of the SS Central America created just such an accidental accumulation of treasure. Bound for New York with tons of gold bars, gold ingots, coins, nuggets, and dust mined from the California gold fields, its loss created a unique time capsule of information and artifacts of an era in which the very character and spirit of America blossomed.
“The Greatest Treasure Ever Found” is what Life magazine, in March 1992, named the fantastic bounty of perfectly preserved early California gold numismatic relics. For 131 years, these historic treasures lay lost and in the frigid, lightless depths of the Atlantic, encapsulated (and perfectly preserved) in the wreck of a once elegant 19th century US Mail Steamship, the SS Central America. Using advanced scientific methodologies and inventions, the Columbus-America Discovery Group recovered the gold treasure trove, so massive that its loss in 1857 triggered a series of bank failures, referred to as “The Panic of ’57.”
What makes these gold rush artifacts superior numismatically and historically is that we know exactly where and how they have been preserved since 1857. More astonishing, they are the only important numismatic items where we actually have movie footage (thanks to the revolutionary underwater robot, NEMO) of the place from which they were stored for almost 150 years.
What is astonishing is that these rare gold ingots are of a size previously not known to exist, and far exceeding anything held in private hands or even in the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian has a representative display of American monetary ingots but of significantly smaller size and missing samples of several of the period’s famous assayers. Because these items have been so perfectly preserved and now give us evidence of how the early California economy worked, these items are being used to write history. Each treasure piece is worthy of a place in a museum.
Rarely would a private individual have the opportunity and financial means to acquire an object that is actually more historically important and measurably more impressive than anything held in possibly the greatest museum in the free world. In comparison, noteworthy paintings and precious artifacts are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Consider that there was just one monetary ingot recovered for every ten 1857-S Double Eagle coins found in the SS Central America shipwreck. Not only that, each rare gold ingot is totally unique. Considering that the gold ingots are substantially rarer than the ’57-S Double Eagle coins and so intensely desirable, it is astonishing that one can quire an ingot that is 50 times larger for between 10 and 20 times the value.
Monaco Rare Coins was a primary authorized dealer of these unique gold monetary ingots when they first came to market in 2001 and have been responsible for placing the vast majority of these rarities in private investors’ hands. Please note that all of the gold assayers’ monetary ingots from the original treasure have now been sold to primary buyers. However, Monaco Rare Coins continues to maintain an active secondary market in these rarities and makes them available to collectors and investors as these items become available.
If you’ve been intrigued by the story of the SS Central America and her discovery and recovery, call 888-900-9948 for more details and how to acquire a piece of this fantastic treasure.
More than just a collection of precious metals, these monetary ingots represent the heart and soul of a nation created in a turbulent time when our country came of age. Accumulated treasures that do exist in America are either public or private, such as great collections of art or other important cultural relics. However, these tend to lack either the intrinsic monetary value or the national symbolism of traditional historic national treasures.
On rare occasions, a significant historic treasure may be accumulated accidentally, the result of an act of nature, an act of God, or a twist of fate. The sinking and recovery of the SS Central America is just such a rare occasion. It offers you the opportunity to hold a piece of historic treasure in your private collection from the “Greatest Treasure Ever Found.”