NGC presents the last treasure from the wreckage of the SS Central America


On September 3, 1857, the SS Central America began a voyage from Panama to New York carrying a very large cargo: thousands of freshly minted gold coins from California, desperately needed by New York banks facing an economic crisis. Six days later, the ship found itself battling a Category 2 hurricane off the Carolinas. After three days of battling high winds and waves, the ship’s crew lost their battle with the storm and Central America sank, resulting in the loss of over 400 lives and over 9 tons of gold.

One of the $20 gold coins preserved from the wreck of the SS Central America

For more than 130 years, treasure hunters have dreamed of discovering the wreck of the SS Central America, quickly dubbed the “Ship of Gold”. When the wreck was finally discovered in the late 1980s, the process of recovering its treasure began.

Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) is delighted to reveal to the public the latest mystery of the cargo recovered from the ship – a box containing $20 gold coins from the height of the California Gold Rush, now certified , preserved and ready to be studied and enjoyed by collectors around the world. This video shows the treasure’s journey to the NGC filing room:

The California Gold Marketing Group acquired the treasure of the SS Central America from those who recovered it from the wreck. She entrusted NGC with the certification of the first parts recovered from the SS Central America, and now the last.

“It’s the greatest treasure ever found in American history,” says Dwight Manley, managing partner of California Gold Marketing Group. “It’s the greatest treasure ever lost in American history. And it comes from a magical time in American history, the gold rush, the real gold rush of the United States, greatest in history.”

Coins graded by NGC consist of 123 $20 US Liberty Head gold coins, known as Double Eagles. The San Francisco Mint Box that held the coins had been turned into a “concretion” by the conditions it endured while on the seabed. The contents of the box have been identified as coins, but their condition was unknown prior to its recent opening. After professional conservation, many pieces have proven to be of exceptional quality.

The $20 gold coins had been turned into a ‘concretion’ by the conditions they endured during its time at the bottom of the sea

NGC President Mark Salzberg praised the condition of the parts, describing some of them as “fresh out of the mold”. Among the most impressive coins discovered in the box was one that graduated NGC MS 67 PL, making it the finest known Prooflike example of an 1857-S $20 gold coin.

1857-S $20 Gold NGC MS 67 PL Coin
1857-S $20 NGC MS 67 PL Graduated Gold Coin

Another example with exceptional visual appeal graded NGC MS 67★, which is the highest graded 1857-S $20 gold coin with the designation NGC Star.

1857-S $20 NGC MS 67★ Graduated Gold Coin
1857-S $20 NGC MS 67★ Graduated Gold Coin

Incredibly, four of the 1857-S $20 gold coins achieved NGC grade MS 67+indicating that they approach the quality requirements of an NGC MS 68.

1857-S $20 NGC MS 67+ Graduated Gold Coin
1857-S $20 NGC MS 67+ Graduated Gold Coin

To view a gallery of all 123 coins, which primarily includes 1857-S examples but also 1850, 1851, 1852, 1855-S, and 1856-S coins, visit

NGC-certified coins were minted with gold mined during the height of the California Gold Rush. It was hoped that their arrival in New York would bolster confidence in the American financial industry, which had been shaken by news of the collapse of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company in August 1857. When the gold didn’t arrive not, it triggered what is known as the Panic of 1857, considered the world’s first economic crisis.

The discovery of the wreck after more than a century of searching led to numerous expeditions to recover the lost cargo. Bob Evans, chief scientist of the SS Central America recovery efforts, was instrumental in locating the legendary ship’s artifacts, including the coin box. Once the mineralization is removed from the coins, Evans says they look “exactly as they did in 1857” with Prooflike coins even stacked in the box.

As the pieces were extracted from the concretion, each piece’s location in the box was cataloged according to row, stack, and place of the piece in the stack. These “coordinates” (appropriate to pieces of wreckage) are shown on the NGC certification tag: first, “A” or “B” for row; next is the stack number; and the third number identifies the place of the piece in the stack. Collectors will also appreciate that the NGC certification number for these coins includes the year 1857.

Spare gold coins
As the pieces were extracted from the concretion, each piece’s location in the box was cataloged according to row, stack, and place of the piece in the stack.

The certification of SS Central America coins is another example of the role NGC has been privileged to play in certifying important historical artifacts, from coins recovered from the ocean floor to medals taken from the surface of the moon such as as well as many others who have captured the hearts of numismatists and carved out a place for themselves in the history of numismatics.

“You’re talking about the end of a big, big story,” Salzberg concludes. “It’s a world-renowned collection and having it here is just fantastic.”

SS Central America NGC-certified parts are now available at select retailers.

About Numismatic Guaranty Company™ (NGC®)

NGC is the world’s largest and most trusted third-party grading service for coins, tokens and medals, with over 53 million certified collectibles. Founded in 1987, NGC provides accurate, consistent and unbiased assessment of authenticity and grade. Every NGC-certified coin is backed by NGC’s full guarantee of authenticity and quality, giving buyers greater confidence. This results in higher realized prices and greater liquidity for NGC-certified coins. To learn more, visit


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