Millions in Gold Sank in 1857; Now, It's for Sale

The 2nd haul from the SS Central America, discovered by jailed treasure hunter, goes on block
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 29, 2018 11:30 AM CST
Millions in Gold Sank in 1857; Now, It's for Sale
The wanted billboard for ex-fugitive treasure hunter Tommy Thompson, left, and his longtime companion, Alison Antekeier.   (WSYX-TV via AP, File)

More than $50 million worth of gold that's described as the greatest lost treasure in US history is about to make its debut in California after sitting at the bottom of the sea for more than 160 years. The 3,100 gold coins, 45 gold bars, and 80 pounds of gold dust pulled from the wreck of the SS Central America steamship are now sitting in a Santa Ana lab. Bob Evans, chief scientist on the 1988 voyage that discovered the wreck, is painstakingly cleaning each piece by hand. "This is a whole new season of discovery," Evans tells the AP. "We are now peering beneath the grime and the rust that is on the coins ... and getting to look at the treasure as it was in 1857." The Central America was laden with thousands of pounds of California Gold Rush booty when it sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857, creating an economic panic; 425 people drowned.

The gold is all for sale. Just one tiny coin could go for $1 million because of its rarity and history, said Dwight Manley of the California Gold Marketing Group, which is selling the gold. "This is something that in hundreds of years people will still be talking about," he says. Meanwhile, treasure hunter Tommy Thompson continues to sit in an Ohio jail over his handling of the original treasure recovered from the Central America. Thompson found the ship in 1988 after convincing 161 local investors to fund the voyage for nearly $13 million. Thompson's company sold 532 gold bars and thousands of coins to the California Gold Marketing Group in 2002 for about $50 million; investors never saw that money. Recovered in 2014, the current gold is only the second round brought up from the Central America. Manley bought it from investors this month, the first return they've seen.

(More SS Central America stories.)

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