Unprecedented Grouping of Rare Territorial Gold Coins Aboard SS Central America Treasure

by CDN Publishing | Published on July 10, 2018

Some of the finest known Kellogg & Co. and Wass Molitor & Co. San Francisco gold coins are among the 105 historic California Gold Rush Territorial coins recovered during the last expedition to the fabled “Ship of Gold,” the SS Central America, that sank in 1857. The headline-making recovery also includes a rare variety U.S. Assay Office $20 coin and an unusual counterstamped Wass Molitor $5 gold piece.

These are some of the latest major discoveries revealed in the continuing chronicle of the United States’ greatest sunken treasure, according to the California Gold Marketing Group (CGMG). “We have finished carefully examining and cataloging the $5, $10 and $20 gold Territorials we took possession of earlier this year that were retrieved from the SS Central America in 2014. It was exhilarating to see these gold coins created by major assayers from the height of the Gold Rush: Humbert; Kellogg; Moffat; Wass Molitor; and the U.S. Assay Office,” said CGMG Managing Partner Dwight Manley.

“There are an unprecedented fifty Kellogg & Co. $20 coins, including two monumentally rare, uncirculated coins! Ten of those 50 were found together in a pile with other coins on the Atlantic Ocean seabed off the coast of the Carolinas. Each of the 105 recovered Territorials is a remarkable part of American history and a tribute to the memory of the fabled ship, the passengers, crew and the era,” stated Manley.

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) now has certified these retrieved treasure coins. Among the highlights of the SS Central America Territorial coins are:

  • The second-finest known 1854 Kellogg $20, graded PCGS MS62+
  • The second-finest known 1855 Kellogg $20, PCGS MS61
  • Two rare 1855 Wass Molitor Small Head variety $20 gold coins that are among the finest known with one graded PCGS AU58 and the other PCGS AU55
  • A rare 1853 U.S. Assay Office $20 “884 THOUS” variety, PCGS AU55+

“The very rare 884 THOUS variety, representing a gold content fineness of .884 purity, was struck for only eight days in February and March of 1853 before they switched to the more acceptable ‘900 THOUS’ standard,” explained Bob Evans, the chief scientist on the 1980’s missions that first located and recovered a portion of the fabulous SS Central America treasure and then assisted with the 2014 recovery. He is the curator of the treasure. “We also found five 1853 Moffat & Co. $20s,” Evans revealed. “It was really exciting to locate these because we didn’t recovery any Moffat $20s during any of the earlier expeditions.”

One 1852 Wass Molitor $5 Small Head variety gold coin was counterstamped, “W.W.LIGHT/DENTIST,” by a Sacramento, California dentist. “It’s pretty cool!,” exclaimed Evans. “It’s graded PCGS VF30. It apparently had years of use in the goldfields and must have stories to tell!”

Here is a listing from CGMG of the 105 Territorials from the latest “Ship of Gold” recovery.

  • $20 denomination (total of 77 coins):
    • 1854 Kellogg & Co. (26 coins)
    • 1855 Kellogg & Co. (24)
    • 1853 Moffat & Co. (5)
    • 1853 US Assay Office 884 THOUS (1)
    • 1853 US Assay Office 900 THOUS (19)
    • 1855 Wass Molitor & Co. Small Head (2)
  • $10 denomination (13 coins):
    • 1849 Moffat & Co. TEN DOL. (1)
    • 1849 Moffat & Co. TEN D. (2)
    • 1852/1 Humbert (1)
    • 1852 Humbert (1)
    • 1852 US Assay Office ( 3)
    • 1853 US Assay Office 900 THOUS (1)
    • 1852 Wass Molitor & Co. Small Head (1)
    • 1852 Wass Molitor & Co. Large Head (2)
    • 1855 Wass Molitor & Co. (1)
  • $5 denomination (15 coins):
    • 1849 Moffat & Co. (11)
    • 1850 Moffat & Co. (2)
    • 1852 Wass Molitor & Co. Small Head (2)

A complete inventory of U.S. and world coins and assayers’ ingots recovered in 2014 will be listed in an upcoming book, America’s Greatest Treasure Ship: The SS Central America, The Second Journey, by Q. David Bowers and Manley. It will be published by the California Gold Marketing Group later this year.

The SS Central America was a 280-foot long, three-masted side-wheel steamship carrying tons of California gold that had been shipped from San Francisco to Panama when she sank in a September 1857 hurricane during a voyage from Aspinwall (now Colón), Panama to New York City. The loss of the gold cargo was a major factor in the economically devastating financial panic of 1857 in the United States.

The California Gold Marketing Group LLC of Brea, California acquired the 2014 treasure from Ira Owen Kane, Receiver for Recovery Limited Partnership and Columbus Exploration, LLC in a court-approved transaction in November 2017. In 1999, the group acquired all of the available treasure that was recovered in the 1980s.

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Source: CDN Publishing

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