The SS Central America was known as the “Ship of Gold,” and this isn’t just some whimsical hyperbole. It’s about as accurate a description as one can give to the unfortunate 280-foot-long steamer that traveled between Central America and the United States Eastern Seaboard and went down in an 1857 hurricane with more than 400 souls and 30,000 pounds of gold.
One of the thousands of gold coins recovered from the ship is an extremely scarce 1853/2 Liberty Head eagle overdate graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as an MS61. The rarity, which was sold by Legend Auctions in its Regency 43 sale in February 2021, realized an impressive $32,900.
The “2” of the earlier date can be faintly seen below the “3.” But what makes this coin so valuable isn’t just that it’s a rare overdate variety but also the story that goes behind this coin. If it could talk… It was struck four years prior to the shipwreck that would bring this coin to the deep, dark bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for more than a century before being recovered in the SS Central America recovery expeditions.
Some theorize that, given that where this coin was recovered in the wreckage as well as the eagle’s age — a few years old when it went down — it most likely wasn’t part of the main freight of coins, which were all more recent strikes. Chances are, it was in the pocket of someone aboard the ship when it sank.
*Images are courtesy of Legend Rare Coin Auctions.