A rare treasure salvaged from the Gold Rush-era wreck of the SS Central America, dubbed the “Ship of Gold”, was sold at auction, including a 32-ounce bar that fetched $138,000.
On the wreckage of a ship that sank off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 due to a hurricane, a memorable portrait of a young lady was found.
A photograph of a 19th-century daguerreotype metal plate, taken using the first publicly available photographic process, sold for $73,200. It has excellent resolution.
The science mission’s rescue team dubbed the woman the “Mona Lisa of the Deep” after retrieving a photograph from the seafloor amid a scattered pile of ship coal in 2014. There are no records of her identity.
The two-day auction on March 4 and 5 was held in Reno, Nevada and online by Holabird Western Americana Collections and included 422 lots.
A memorable portrait of a young lady was sold at the auction. This is a 19th-century daguerreotype photograph of a metal plate, the first publicly available photographic process. The item was sold for $73,200.
Also sold was a 32.15-ounce Kellogg & Humbert California Gold Rush caliber bar (pictured left), which sold for $138,000. Large Engraved 18k Gold Rush California Gold Rush Quartz Brooch (pictured right) sold for $49,200.
Other items sold included a large 18K gold engraved quartz brooch that went for $49,200. San Francisco businessman Sam Brannan sent it to his son in Geneva, Switzerland in 1857 as a gift to his son’s teacher.
A 32.15 ounce California Gold Rush bar from Kellogg & Humbert sold for $138,000, and a saloon sign from the ship attracted a winning bid of $13,200.
Fred Holabird, President of Holabird Western Americana Collections, said: “We had about 7,000 registered bidders, including from Canada, Europe and South America.
Many collectors have been waiting for these unusual items to hit the market since the legendary wreck was discovered in 1988 and Life magazine named it America’s greatest treasure ever found.
“It was an incredible time capsule from the California Gold Rush era.”
The ship “Central America” sank off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 due to a hurricane.
Pictured is a picture of the legendary Golden Ship.
A saloon sign from the ship attracted a winning bid of $13,200.
The 280-foot side-wheel steamer was carrying 21 tons of gold bars, freshly minted gold coins and raw gold from California mines when she sank, as well as the personal wealth and belongings of her passengers, 425 of whom died.
The shipwreck was first discovered in 1988, and missions have been undertaken in subsequent years to recover its sunken wealth.
The Central America steamboat traveled between Panama and New York carrying prospectors and their fortunes made during the California Gold Rush.
Forensic experts estimate that on her last voyage she carried tons of commercial gold worth about $93,000 in 1857 and passenger gold worth up to $1.2 million.
Historians say the shipwreck triggered a New York banking panic that was part of a larger US financial crisis known as the Panic of 1857.
Holabird said: “Insurance claims for damages were paid out in the 1850s, and the company that discovered and recovered the treasure starting in 1988 paid off the insurers and their successors in 1998.
“With court approval, California Gold Marketing Group subsequently acquired ownership of all of these remaining treasures, as well as all items discovered in 2014.”
This was the second and last auction of never before exhibited artifacts from Central America by the SS.
The first auction of 270 other items in December attracted nearly $1 million in winning bids, including $114,000 for the oldest known mining work trousers or jeans that may have been made by or for Levi Strauss.
The 165 year old California God Rush jeans were made in the 1850s.
These jeans are the oldest known heavy miners’ jeans found to date and were the highlight of the first auction in which a bidder paid $114,000.
Pictured is the wax seal still embedded in the lid, which sold for $99,600 in the first auction.
The lid of the oldest known Wells Fargo treasure box was offered at the first auction and appears to have withstood a watery grave under the Atlantic Ocean.
The miner’s work pants are adorned with a five-button fly and covered in black and brown stains from the chest they were found in when the rouge captain discovered the wreck of the SS Central America at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Over 7,500 bidders from around the world gathered at the Nevada auction house to compete for jewelry, early Brooks Brothers T-shirts and the lid of Wells Fargo’s oldest known treasure box, among other items salvaged from the wreckage.
Dwight Manley, managing partner of California Gold Marketing Group, which shipped the retrieved artifacts, said in a statement: “These mining jeans are like the first flag on the moon, a historic moment in history.”
“We can date them accurately because we know that Central America sank in a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean on September 12, 1857. There are no earlier five-button jeans.”
There is controversy over whether the expensive pants are related to the father of modern blue jeans, Levi Strauss, as they predate the first pair officially produced by Levi Strauss & Co of San Francisco by 16 years. in 1873.
Some experts point to historical evidence that suggests a connection to Strauss, a wealthy haberdashery wholesaler at the time, and the trousers may have been a very early version of what would become iconic jeans.
But company historian and archive director Tracey Panek says any claims about their origins are “speculation.”
“These pants don’t belong to Levi’s and I don’t believe these are miners’ work plans,” she wrote in an email to The Associated Press.