25.18 OZ Harris, Marchand & Co. Gold Ingot Coming to the August 2019 ANA
There are so many exciting items in our upcoming August ANA World’s Fair of Money Auction that it is difficult to choose just one of them to highlight this week. That said, this Harris, Marchand & Company rectangular gold ingot discovered during the second (2014) exploration of the S.S. Central America shipwreck certainly stands out among them.
Predominantly deep gold, all sides reveal reddish-russet and/or charcoal patina, the result of the more than 150 years that this ingot spent on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. It is stamped: No. 6542 / HARRIS MARCHAND & Co / pictorial hallmark / 25.18 OZ / 893 fine / $470.02. All stamps are boldly and neatly impressed on the face, the Harris, Marchand & Company stamp particularly noteworthy for its crispness and evenness. There are no post-production flaws apart from the aforementioned toning, although several prominent fissures in the surfaces are present from the casting process. A delightful example, and a highly significant relic from the California Gold Rush.
Of the gold ingots found in the S.S. Central America treasure, those of Harris, Marchand & Co. are considered among the most desirable. They are the only ingots with a pictorial hallmark.
Private sales of items from the S.S. Central America began early in the year 2000. All of the coins and ingots recovered by the Columbus-America Discovery Group were marketed, with 92% of the treasure being handled by the California Gold Marketing Group (CGMG). The group was headed by Dwight Manley and involved a group of investors including Larry and Ira Goldberg and others, with Q. David Bowers a minor stockholder.
The distribution was showcased by the spectacular Ship of Gold display set up across the front of the bourse at the American Numismatic Association Convention in Philadelphia. Tommy Thompson and Bob Evans, the discoverers of the long-lost shipwreck, were on hand to meet and greet visitors. In a separate room as part of the week-long Numismatic Theatre program, Bob Evans gave a presentation, assisted by Dave Bowers. The gallery was filled wall-to-wall with over 400 people — the greatest audience ever for an ANA convention program. Over 20,000 people attended the show — an all-time record. Later, the Ship of Gold was put on display at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, an event that in earlier years had featured Faberge eggs and the Hope diamond. For the first time in the history of that show, crowd control had to be put in place as long lines of people zigzagged in rows awaiting their turn!
In the following December at the Christie’s auction room in New York City a selection S.S. Central America coins and ingots crossed the block. This was in satisfaction of an arrangement that CGMG had made with the well-known art auction house, which had loaned money to the original treasure finders. When the CGMG partners bought the treasure, the loan from Christie’s was repaid. The firm wanted to be part of the distribution, and thus this arrangement was made – representing part of the 92% share retained by CGMG (the remaining 8% went to satisfy court claims brought by interests tied to the original insurers). The sale held in Rockefeller Center was a great success.
Beth Deisher, editor of Coin World at the time, called the treasure "the story of the year." In retrospect today in 2019 it ranks in the opinion of Dave Bowers as one of the two greatest numismatic stories of all time — the other being the Treasury release of long-stored silver dollars that began in November 1962.
In connection with the offering Dave Bowers wrote the 1051-page, 12-pound, color-illustrated book, A California Gold Rush History Featuring Treasure from the S.S. Central America. The book took Dave about two years to write and involved research ranging from archives in California to the Library of Congress in Washington. No expense was spared to create the finest work possible. Among those assisting with research was Eric P. Newman, who was a proofreader and also suggested the title. Christine Karstedt worked on much, if not most of the publicity. The talents of Donn Pearlman were tapped in this regard. In time, all were sold. Today, each copy is a highly-prized collectors’ item.
When the treasure was marketed there were over 400 gold ingots, mainly of Kellogg & Humbert, and nearly 7,000 coins, including over 5,000 Mint State 1857-S double eagles. Bob Evans was the conservator of the coins and ingots, carefully removing grime without disturbing the original surfaces. He also engaged in research, working with Dwight Manley, and defined the different molds used by the several firms to make ingots and also classified several die varieties of 1857-S double eagles.
At the time all involved in the publicity and sale of the treasure hoped that the market would respond with enthusiasm, but the future was unknown. Not to worry! The coins and ingots sold quickly. Soon, all were gone! Equally important, there was a dynamic aftermarket, and today anyone who purchased a coin or ingot at the time has seen a nice appreciation in value. The 1857-S double eagles enjoyed a market of their own. Quite a few people who had no other gold coins bought them for their historical value. PCGS packaged each in a special "slab" with a gold-foil imprint.
A complete inventory of all coins and ingots is in Dave Bowers’ book. Assayers who made ingots included Kellogg & Humbert, Blake & Company, Henry Hentsch, Justh & Hunter, and Harris & Marchand, far dominated by Kellogg & Humbert ingots. There were only 38 ingots by Harris, Marchand & Company.
Years after the first recovery a second exploration of the site of the S.S. Central America was made, this time by Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa, Florida. In the summer of 2014, with Bob Evans supervising dives by the Zeus robot, additional coins and ingots were found. These included three small Harris & Marchand bars, including the ingot we now offer. An inventory of the 2014 items was furnished to Dave Bowers by Odyssey and is included in his book, Lost and Found Coin Hoards and Treasures; Illustrated Stories of the Greatest American Troves and Their Discoveries, published by Whitman in 2015.
The 2014 exploration was quite extensive and likely recovered any remaining ingots, although the future is unknown. Considering the time and expense and likelihood of not much return, no further explorations have been mentioned to us.
The presently offered ingot is one of the rarest from the S.S. Central America treasure, and it would serve as a highlight of even the finest cabinet. Holding it evokes the allure of the California Gold Rush, the mystique of shipwrecks and the excitement of hunting for buried (or sunken) treasure. That it exists at all for us to appreciate today is a wonder.
If you would like to consign your items to be sold alongside this and other rarities at the World’s Fair of Money auction this August there is still time! Contact us now to speak with a numismatic representative to feature your coins in this exciting event! Call 800-566-2580 or 800-458-4646 or email [email protected]. Also, download our mobile app to view and participate in our auctions via your Android or Apple device.