Monday, June 22, 2009

Coin Monday: Gold Rush

June 22, 2009
Posted by John Dale

Often a numismatic item requires a good deal of explanation to pin down why it is costly, rare, or just plain awesome. This was expressed well by a representative of a major New York City auction house, who shared an anecdote with Andrew Slayman for the article “Change is Good,” published in the November 2008 edition of Art + Auction. the representative, whom Mr. Slayman notes was auctioneer for the single-lot sale that made the 1933 double eagle the most expensive coin in the world, related: “I carry with me in my pocket a 1923 gold Double Eagle identical in every way to the 1933, with the exception of one digit in the date. It’s hard to distinguish between the two coins, but the difference is all the difference in the world.”

Other times, the appeal of an item is far more straightforward, as is the case for this nearly 15-pound ingot of shipwreck gold to be offered in our August 2008 Los Angeles U.S. Coin Auction.

Step one: gold and lots of it! The 179.50 troy ounce ingot—nearly 15 pounds!—was assayed at .886 fine, and though more than a century at the bottom of the ocean may have changed the numbers a little, this hefty ingot easily packs more than 150 troy ounces of pure gold.

Step two: incredible history! I did mention the “shipwreck” part, didn’t I? This ingot is California gold, created by the assay firm of Justh & Hunter in the mid-1850s, and it was packed away in the cargo of a ship named the S.S. Central America, which sailed from Panama on a course for New York City, where it would have gone into the financial markets. A hurricane sank the Central America and its gold, however, leaving ingots like this one and thousands of freshly minted double eagles from San Francisco at the bottom of the Atlantic. The golden treasure was lost for more than a century, until its rediscovery in 1987.

This ingot shows the effects of more than a century underwater; while parts of it still gleam like new, other areas show deep red or dull green color, the result of reactions between chemicals dissolved in seawater and the non-gold metal, particularly copper, contained in the ingot. This patina only adds to the ingot’s aura of history, while still leaving plenty of fresh gold surface area to satisfy anyone’s “ooooooh, shiiiiiny!” cravings.

If you want a little less golden treasure than the mammoth 15-pound ingot but a little more than a single coin, there are a few other possibilities in our August Los Angeles U.S. Coin Auction. When bidding, think of it as your own personal gold rush – without the backbreaking work, frustration, and overpriced mining equipment.

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-John Dale

1 comment:

  1. I think more information should be provided in the blog!!