Kellogg & Humbert Assayers Gold Ingot. Serial No. 957. 136.30 Ounces, .892 fine. $2,513.27 Contemporary Value. From the S.S. Central America Treasure.


Plated in A California Gold Rush History By Q. David Bowers

Kellogg & Humbert Assayers Gold Ingot. Serial No. 957. 136.30 Ounces, .892 fine. $2,513.27 Contemporary Value. From the S.S. Central America Treasure.

56 mm x 112 mm x 37 mm. Pristine condition, virtually as issued. Valued at $2,513.27 in 1857 when gold was $20.67 per ounce.

A tremendously exciting offering recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Central America. The San Francisco firm of Kellogg & Humbert was established in 1855 as the product of several mergers between prominent regional gold firms. Before long, their assayed bars gained acclaim and were popular in the metropolises of New York City and London, even being utilized by the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Monthly shipments delivered this gold to eastern destinations via steamers to Panama, where the newly constructed Panama Railroad would then transport cargo and passengers during the four-hour, 48-mile journey across the isthmus to the Atlantic coast for transit elsewhere.

The present offering was accompanied by at least 342 other bars from this firm on one such journey in late August of 1857. While the first leg of the voyage from San Francisco to Panama aboard the S.S. Sonora was unremarkable, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said about the remainder of the trip. After departing the Panamanian port of Colon, then known as Aspinwall, and making a brief stop in Havana, Cuba, the S.S. Central America steamed towards New York City with an estimated 597 passengers and crew and a cargo of over $1.2 million in registered treasure, Kellogg & Humbert ingot No. 957 included. On Friday, September 11, 1857, an unrelenting hurricane induced flooding that became too much for the pair of coal-powered steam engines, rendering the vessel unable to pump out incoming water and left to be tossed at the mercy of the tumultuous Atlantic. After floundering and listing for more than a day off the coast of the Carolinas, the ship disappeared beneath the waves shortly after 8 pm on Friday the 12th, claiming the lives of over 400 individuals and plunging its glistening cargo nearly one and a half miles to the ocean floor.

Lurking in the depths for more than 130 years, the wreckage of the S.S. Central America would remain elusive and undisturbed until its discovery on September 11, 1988, causing considerable excitement among the numismatic, maritime, and treasure-hunting communities around the world. Preserved by the frigid and tranquil environment of the sea floor, the sunken treasure remained largely untroubled and required little conservation to be brought back to the pristine and shimmering condition that is observed here.

Fully bright and golden-yellow in finish, the surface is free of any noteworthy imperfections that might suggest its involvement in such a chaotic tragedy. Close inspection reveals insignificant abrasions and a minor texturing (more so in some areas than others) that is more the result of the casting process than time spent at sea. The top of the ingot is stamped NO 957 with the name of the firm, KELLOGG / & / HUMBERT / ASSAYERS, within a rectangular box below. Midway down the bar is the weight, 136.30 OZ, followed by the fineness, 892 FINE, and the value in gold at the time of manufacture, $2513.27. Considering that the current market price dictates a bullion value in excess of $200,000, much can be inferred about our economic change and growth over the past 150 years! The remaining faces are blank. Housed in a clear acrylic case, the ingot is easily viewable from all sides and thoroughly protected from harm.

This historic ingot is plated on page 445 of Q. David Bowers’ monumental reference A California Gold Rush History (2002). It serves as a fascinating link to that particularly popular era of the Old West, and is also an important relic for collectors of shipwreck treasure. Sure to serve as a focal point in the next advanced cabinet in which it is included.

The Ship of GoldThe story of the Ship of Gold, the S.S. Central America, is unique in American history. The sidewheel steamer set sail from Panama in early September 1857, headed north to New York City. Aboard was $1.6 million in registered gold coins and ingots at a time when gold was valued at $20.67 per ounce. The treasure had left San Francisco aboard the S.S. Sonora and in Panama was transferred aboard the narrow-gauge Panama Railroad card across the isthmus, to Aspinwall on the Atlantic side.

The weather was ideal and the ship set forth, stopping briefly in Havana. The route was familiar, and in the years of the Gold Rush the transit had been made many times.

Clouds rose on the horizon on Saturday afternoon, September 12, but surely the thunderstorm would pass. It was the usual season for such weather.

This time was different.

The storm intensified into hurricane-force winds, whipping the sea into mountainous height. The Central America sprang a leak, and water gushed into the hold, extinguishing the fire that powered the engine. The ship became helpless in the waves. Bad turned to worse. Some women and children passengers were rescued by a passing sailing vessel, but male passengers and crew remained aboard. At eight in the evening the Central America slipped beneath the waves, coming to rest on the sea bottom 7,200 feet below, about 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina. In time, the ship was mostly forgotten.

Fast forward to the next century. In Columbus, Ohio in the 1980s scientist Bob Evans led a group of researchers who studied charts, read early newspaper accounts, calculated what might have been the wind and current in 1857, and platted a section of sea that could possibly include the wreck. After much effort the sunken ship was located. Nemo, a mechanical recovery device, was constructed and lowered to the site. Much of the treasure was recovered, including over 400 gold ingots and over 10,000 silver and gold coins, including over 6,000 mint-fresh 1857-S double eagles.

The rest is history. Excitement prevailed. Investors formed the California Gold Marketing Group and acquired the rights to the treasure. A replica of the side of the ship, with a SHIP OF GOLD sign above it, was displayed at coin conventions, including at the 2000 American Numismatic Association show in Philadelphia. The coins and ingots were made available to the public via both auction and private sale, and it was not long before all had found happy buyers.

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 too were marketed by the California Gold Marketing Group and were soon absorbed into the market.

The story of the tragedy of the S.S. Central America and the remarkable recovery of her treasure remains as fascinating as ever, and today, coins and ingots from the ship continued to attract interest and excitement whenever they come onto the market.

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SKU: A0001003585