Phil Arnold/Professional Coin Grading Service
Phil Arnold/Professional Coin Grading Service

Gold Worth Millions, Salvaged From a 19th-Century Shipwreck, Is Going on Display in California

Phil Arnold/Professional Coin Grading Service
Phil Arnold/Professional Coin Grading Service

In 1857, on the heels of the Gold Rush, the S.S. Central America left Panama and sailed for New York with 30,000 pounds of California gold. A hurricane sent that treasure (and hundreds of the ship's passengers) to the bottom of the ocean off the coast of South Carolina, lost until the wreck's discovery in 1988. After 30 years, we finally have the chance to see the riches in southern California, according to the AP.

After years of controversial legal battles to determine who could claim the treasure, in 2000, Tommy Thompson—who made the discovery—sold his share of the gold to the California Gold Marketing Group for $50 million. The haul included 532 gold bars and thousands of gold coins. Thompson was arrested in 2015 after stiffing dozens of investors who backed his treasure hunting, none of whom saw a dime.

A model of the S.S. Central America sits in front of an illustration of a giant wave
A model of the S.S. South America on display at the National Museum of American History in 2009.
Mr.TinDC, Flickr//CC BY-ND 2.0

Those investors finally got some of their money back when the California Gold Marketing Group paid $30 million for more of the loot brought up from the wreckage in 2014. Now, that gold up for sale, and even those who can't afford to buy 19th-century gold can take a peek at it. The 3100 gold coins, 45 gold bars, and 80 pounds of gold dust on display at the Long Beach Convention Center in February will give the public a rare glimpse of treasure that spent more than 130 years sitting 7000 feet beneath the ocean's surface.

Gloved hands hold a 19th-century coin
Christina Good/Professional Coin Grading Service

Before that can happen, geologist Bob Evans, who took part in the original 1988 mission that located the shipwreck, has to clean off the rust and other sediment that encrusted the gold while it sat underwater. The gold on display was recovered during a 2014 dive to the wreck. According to the California Gold Marketing Group, a single coin could sell for as much as $1 million, thanks to its rare and historic nature.

You can see the gold in Long Beach between February 22 and 24, and if you dare, bid on some of it.

[h/t CNBC]

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Blue Water Ventures International
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Gold Artifacts Discovered in 19th-Century Shipwreck That Was the ‘Titanic of Its Time’
Blue Water Ventures International
Blue Water Ventures International

On June 14, 1838, the steamship Pulaski was sailing off the coast of North Carolina, headed for Baltimore, when one of its boilers exploded, killing numerous passengers and causing colossal damage to the ship. It sank in less than an hour, taking two-thirds of its passengers with it. In January 2018, divers finally found the wreckage, and their latest expedition has brought back numerous new treasures, according to The Charlotte Observer, including a gold pocket watch that stopped just a few minutes after the boiler reportedly blew up.

The Pulaski disaster, which the Observer refers to as “the Titanic of its time,” was notable not just for its high death toll, but for whom it was carrying when it went down. The luxury steamship’s wealthy passengers included former New York Congressman William Rochester and prominent Savannah banker and businessman Gazaway Bugg Lamar, then one of the richest men in the region. At the time, the North Carolina Standard called the sinking “the most painful catastrophe that has ever occurred upon the American coast.”

An engraving showing the 'Pulaski' exploding
An 1848 illustration of the Pulaski explosion
Charles Ellms, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Divers from Blue Water Ventures International and Endurance Exploration Group (which owns the rights to the site) have located a number of artifacts that support the belief that the wreck they found is, in fact, what’s left of the Pulaski.

While they have yet to find the engraved ship’s bell (the main object used to authenticate a wreck), divers identified a few artifacts engraved with the name Pulaski, as well as numerous coins that were all produced prior to 1838. The 150 gold and silver coins discovered thus far are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars today. They’ve also discovered silverware, keys, thimbles, and the ship's anchor.

A close-up of the gold pocket watch
Blue Water Ventures International

And in their most recent expedition, the divers found a unique gold watch that further supports the claim that this ship is the Pulaski. The hands of the engraved solid gold pocket watch on a gold chain—a piece only the wealthiest of men could afford—are stopped at 11:05, just five minutes after the boiler reportedly exploded.

The excavation of the remains of the ship will hopefully illuminate more of its story. Already, it has changed what we know about the ship’s final night: The wreck was discovered 40 miles off the North Carolina coast, a bit farther than the 30 miles estimated in initial newspaper reports of the disaster.

The investigators hope to eventually find evidence that will allow them to pinpoint why the deadly explosion occurred. While such explosions weren’t rare for steamships at the time, the crew may have pushed the ship beyond its limits in an attempt to reach its destination faster, causing the boiler to burst. Expeditions to the wreckage are ongoing.

[h/t The Charlotte Observer]

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Evening Standard, Getty Images
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
$2.5 Million in World War II-Era Cash Discovered Beneath Winston Churchill's Former Tailor's Shop
Evening Standard, Getty Images
Evening Standard, Getty Images

A valuable secret has been hiding beneath the floorboards of a sporting goods store in the UK since World War II. As the BBC reports, about £30,000 in roughly 80-year-old British bank notes was unearthed by a renovation project at the Cotswold Outdoor store in Brighton. Adjusting for inflation, their value would be equal to roughly $2.5 million today.

Owner Russ Davis came across the hidden treasure while tearing out decades-worth of carpet and tiles beneath the property. What he initially assumed was a block of wood turned out to be a wad of cash caked in dirt. Each bundle held about £1000 worth of £1 and £5 notes, with about 30 bundles in total.

The bills are badly damaged, but one surviving design element holds an important clue to their history. Each note is printed in blue, the color of the emergency wartime currency first issued by the Bank of England in 1940.

At the time the money was buried, the property was home to the famous British furrier and couturier Bradley Gowns. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife, Lady Clementine Churchill, were reportedly regular customers.

The reason the fortune was stowed beneath the building in the first place remains a mystery. Davis imagines that it might have come from a bank robbery, while Howard Bradley, heir to the Bradley Gowns family business, suspects it might have been stashed there as a getaway fund in anticipation of a Nazi invasion, as he told the New York Post.

The hoard will remain in the possession of the Sussex police as more details on the story emerge.

[h/t BBC]

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