The S.S. CentralAmerica
Commemorative "coins"

Original California Gold Rush gold used to make commemorative "coins"

Authentic California Gold Rush era gold from the S.S. Central America's sunken treasure, vintage coin-making tools and an eight ton coin press have been used in San Francisco to produce special commemorative gold pieces that now are available to the public. The gold is from the recovered cargo of the Central America, the fabled "Ship of Gold," that sank in 1857 while carrying tons of Gold Rush treasure on a voyage to New York.

Some of the sunken treasure gold bars (ingots) have been used to produce commemorative gold pieces for the California Historical Society of San Francisco and the California Gold Marketing Group of Newport Beach. The design of the commemoratives is based on a rare $50 denomination gold "slug" originally made in 1855 on Montgomery Street in San Francisco by well-known assayers and coiners of the day, Kellogg & Company.

Each commemorative gold piece contains 2.5 ounces of pure Gold Rush era gold from large ingots created in 1857 by Kellogg & Humbert, the successor firm to Kellogg & Company. The big gold bars were among the tons of treasure recovered in the 1980s from the Central America that sank in a hurricane in September 1857 about 160 miles off the North Carolina coast.

A certificate of authenticity from the California Historical Society accompanies each gold piece. The project is expected to raise up to a quarter-million dollars for the nonprofit organization.

During a "first strike" ceremony on August 20, 2001, Stephen Becker, Executive Director of the California Historical Society, pressed the buttons on the coin press to strike the first specimen.

Other VIPs participating in the striking included American Numismatic Association (ANA) Executive Director Edward C. Rochette; Former ANA and Professional Numismatists Guild President Q. David Bowers; former ANA President David L. Ganz; Bob Chandler of the Wells Fargo Bank History Museum; and Pat Keats of the California Pioneers Society.

"To preserve the ingots' historical assayers' marks for posterity, the faces of the bars were carefully cut and milled. We permanently retained a layer of gold that contains the fundamental information, such as the ingot's weight and fineness, as well as the Kellogg & Humbert imprint," explained Dwight Manley, Managing Partner of the California Gold Marketing Group.

Formal striking of the commemoratives began on August 20, the 144th anniversary of the exact date the gold sailed from San Francisco harbor aboard the S.S. Sonora on its journey to Panama. After reaching Panama, it then was taken by railroad to the Central America for its uncompleted, fabled voyage to New York City.

The "first strike" ceremony was held at The Presidio overlooking San Francisco Bay. The commemoratives are being made on a 16,000-pound press previously used at the San Francisco Mint between 1973 and 1998.

Only a dozen original 1855 Kellogg $50 gold coins are known to exist, and some have traded for as much as $300,000. The new commemorative's design is slightly modified to differentiate it from the 1855 original.

The ribbon in the eagle's beak on the back of the new pieces contains the inscriptions "S.S. CENTRAL AMERICA GOLD" and "C.H.S." for California Historical Society. There is no inscription on the ribbon in the original 1855 design.

In addition, a special counterstamp is being applied to each gold piece indicating the date it was struck during the 24 days of production, August 20 to September 12, 2001, coinciding with the same days the gold was in transit in 1857.

"These magnificent coins, made using the original tools and gold from this important era of our country, will let people literally hold the Gold Rush in their hands," said Stephen Becker, Executive Director of the California Historical Society. "We're thrilled to help history come alive by bringing this project to San Francisco."

The Central America's recovered cargo contained 330 Kellogg & Humbert ingots. About 60 of them, each weighing roughly 200 to 500 ounces, have been used to produce the planchets for the gold commemoratives.

The suggested retail price of the spectacular Kellogg $50 gold commemoratives is $5,000. They can be purchased from:

Bowers and Merena Gallieries, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. (800) 458-4646

Monex Precious Metals, Newport Beach, California. (800) 489-0839

Universal Coin & Bullion, Beaumont, Texas. (800) 459-2646

Information about the California Historical Society, 678 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94105, is available at (415) 357-1848 or at

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