A unique gold ingot weighing 174.04 ounces recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the S.S. Central America is expected to bring $500,000 USD at Heritage Auctions’ Long Beach Signature Auction, held in conjunction with the Long Beach Coin and Collectibles Expo this week.
“A number of our recent auctions have featured examples of California gold ingots recovered from the S.S. Central America, and this one follows suit with five such bars offered to collectors,” reads a statement issued by Heritage last week.
“Easily the most fascinating,” the large California Gold Rush-era ingot from Harris, Marchand and Co. – the sole ingot from the company’s Marysville branch – measures 65 millimetres by 177 millimetres by 25 millimetres.
‘NO ONE COULD SLEEP’
According to auctioneers, the famed S.S. Central America was the previously named S.S. George Law.
“In a curious incident the year prior to the sinking of the Central America, the George Law underwent a near-catastrophe within sight of the Florida coast, and with the same captain, William Herndon,” reads the auction catalogue. “A riveting, first-hand account of this near-wreck was recounted by Peter H. Burnett, first governor of California, in Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer.”
“No one could sleep in our situation,” Peter H. Burnett, first governor of California, in Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer. “I never saw a more solemn assemblage of people. Everyone seemed to have a clear perception of our extremely critical situation. There were no jests, no smiles, no witticisms. Those who were professors of religion seemed resigned, those who were confirmed infidels seemed indifferent, while dread sat upon the countenances of those who were halting between two opinions. We were a little world to ourselves, and our little world seemed near its end.”
While the ship was saved the following morning by the rising of the tide, the incident “was curiously not written about to any great extent,” auctioneers said.
“The following September, the same ship under the same captain would sink beneath the waves in a hurricane far off the coast of Cape Hatteras with the loss of hundreds of lives and an enormous wealth in gold.”
Among the hundreds of gold ingots lost in the wreck of the S.S. Central America, those produced by Harris, Marchand and Co. “were little known before the ship’s salvage in the late-1980s,” reads the auction catalogue, which adds there are “distinct stylistic differences between this Marysville ingot and the Sacramento Harris, Marchand ingots.”
Centred at the bottom of the ingot’s top side is its 1857 value—$3,389.06.
Today, 174 ounces of gold is worth about $230,000 USD.