Coins & Money

Massive 866 Ounce S.S. Central America Gold Ingot Auction Up for Grabs!

Is there ever such a thing as too much gold or too big of a piece of gold? It just depends on whether or not you have to be the one that carries it. Heritage Auctions is about to sell the massive Justh & Hunter Gold Ingot from the S.S. Central America shipwreck that clocks in at 866.19 ounces. That is about 54 pounds (or more than 24.5 kilos) to put it in more clear weight terms.

The Justh & Hunter Gold Ingot is the largest S.S. Central America Ingot dates back to the California Gold Rush time. It was originally headed from California to New York and then ultimately (or likely) to Philadelphia back in 1857 on the S.S. Central America but the ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean in the fall of 1857. This shipwreck went down a mile and half before it reached its final resting place.

A hurricane sank the sidewheel steamer about 200 miles off the South Carolina coast on Sept. 12, 1857. When this ship went down, it was the country’s worst peacetime disaster at sea — 425 people of the ship’s 578 passengers died in this shipwreck along with approximately some 30,000 pounds that all went to the ocean floor. In today’s terms that weight would be more than $870 million lost at sea for the gold value alone.

The ingot’s markings, including the serial number (4221) and value ($15971.93) and makeup (892 fine) and the firm’s name, are shown in the image (by Heritage Auctions) and are said to remain as crisp as the day the brick was stamped.

Since the discovery in 1988, a lot has happened. Scandals, books, lawsuits all played a role in the background story here. This ingot has been owned by the California Gold Marketing Group for more than 20 years, along with many other artifacts from the wreckage. According to Heritage’s writeup —

Numerous gold ingots from the Central America have been sold before, among them a 174.04-ounce Harris, Marchand bar that brought $528,000 in January 2019.

But the one heading for auction now is among the most sizable and significant ingots from the Ship of Gold ever made available to the public and the largest ever offered at auction. To put in perspective the contemporary value of this ingot, consider that in 1857, in New York City, the average pay for a carpenter was $1.79 per day. The 19th-century work week was six days, so the average carpenter made $10.74 per week. At the stated value on this ingot of $15,971.93, this single ingot could pay the weekly wages of 1,487 carpenters. It is little wonder that the loss of the S.S. Central America shook the financial markets in New York and was a contributing factor to the Panic of 1857.

Additional details in Heritage’s full writeup will have most goldbugs echoing the term “Staggering” that was used (Image used by Heritage Auctions).

Collectors Dashboard wants put this into terms on a live basis mid-day January 4, 2021. The spot value of 866.19 ounces of gold (at $1,814.00 or so) would be $1,571,268.66 without any rounding errors.

SS Central America Gold Ingot

Numerous gold ingots from the S.S. Central America have been sold before. One of the ingots was 174.04-ounce Harris, Marchand bar that fetched $528,000 in January 2019.

Inventor and treasure hunter Tommy Thompson and his neighbor Bob Evans spearheaded the recovery operation back in 1988 and into 1989. Heritage noted that most of the treasures discovered aboard the “Ship of Gold” were eventually sold. Among those items, and 80-pound ingot called Eureka was bought by a private collector in 2001 for the sum of $8 million. It was dubbed as the most valuable piece of currency at that time.

Then the story gets really whacky… Thompson was sued by investors and members of the crew. Heritage Auctions then notes that he stashed his cash in an offshore account and he also went into hiding. After being found by federal agents in a Florida hotel room he was extradited in 2015 to Ohio to reveal the whereabouts of the remaining gold coins. Thompson remains in federal prison in Michigan for refusing to cooperate. Whacky indeed!

With 10 days remaining, the current bid of $1.275 million equates to $1,530,000.00 after the 20% buyer’s premium — very close to the spot price of this much gold. Some 47 bids have been seen so far. There is no doubt whatsoever that this will sell for anywhere close to the spot price of gold considering the history of this massive block of gold.

This auction can be tracked live.

Another image below (also from Heritage Auctions) will better show just how large this massive ingot is. It shows a comparison against a single $20 Liberty Head Double Eagle coin from 1900.

S.S. Central America Gold Ingots, Justh & Hunter Gold Ingot. 866.19 Ounces....