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The $75,000 “miracle” dime recovered from a legendary shipwreck

By
2019-06-20

A highly rare silver dime has been discovered by divers searching the wreck of the legendary treasure ship the S.S. Central America.

Described as a “miracle” coin, the 1856 San Francisco Mint Liberty Seated silver dime remains in mint condition, despite having spent more than 150 years at the bottom of the ocean.

The coin was part of a horde of gold bullion and coins which sank aboard the S.S Central America in September 1857, a tragedy which saw 425 passengers lost at sea.

The sinking of the S.S. Central America in September 1857

The ship was transporting $8 million in gold bullion from the mines of San Francisco to the banks of New York, and when the cargo was lost it caused a financial panic which spread across the globe.

The ship was later nicknamed ‘The Ship of Gold’, as generations of treasure hunters tried to locate its fabled cargo, now worth around $300 million in today’s money.

The wreck was finally discovered off the coast of the Carolinas in 1988, and has so far yielded more than $50 million in sales of coins and bullion.

However, much as the ship remains unexplored and it continues to reveal its secrets to this day.

The lock box of the S.S. Central America, discovered in 2014 (Image: PCGS)

In 2014 divers recovered a large black canvas bag from the bottom of a lock box, and were amazed when they realized what they’d found.

“It quickly became obvious that this was the ‘cash box’ of the ship, a truly marvellous historical find,” said Bob Evans, a numismatist and part of the team which explored the wreck in both 1988 and 2014.

The bag contained thousands of silver dimes, and buried amongst them was this single, incredible numismatic rarity worth an estimated $75,000.

The 1856 San Francisco Mint Liberty Seated silver dime, graded PCGS MS65 CAC (Image: PCGS)

“I saw the 1856-S after I already had examined around 4,000 other dimes from the purser’s bag,” said Evans. “That big bag sat in the dark, cold, swampy, anaerobic (lack of oxygen) interior of an iron safe for 157 years. But when I first saw it, I could see this dime was mint state.”

The 1856-S dime is one of only 7,000 examples produced at the San Francisco mint, and sank before it had ever been used.

Today it remains as one of just 11 uncirculated examples known to exist, and has now been graded PCGS MS65 CAC, with none higher.

The coin remains in mint, uncirculated condition, after spending over 150 years underwater (Image: PCGS)

“The recovered treasure from the S.S. Central America continues to put the PCGS grading team in awe,” said company President Brett Chaville. “Seeing a silver coin that spent well over 100 years at the bottom of the ocean emerge in such incredible condition is a numismatic dream.”

The 1856-S dime will now be exhibited by the California Gold Marketing Group (CGMG), which acquired all the coins found at the site in 2014.

The company plans to present the remarkable coin to the public during the American Numismatic Association’s 2019 Chicago World’s Fair of Money, which takes place on August 13-17.

“It is among the crème de la crème, the best-of-the-best of coinage from this amazing sunken treasure,” said Dwight Manley, Managing Partner of the CGMG.


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