The S.S. Central America
A Brief History

S.S. Central America Time Line

The S.S. Central America carried the most talked about treasure in American history. A book about the ship and its fabulous cargo, Ship of Gold, In The Deep Blue Sea, by Gary Kinder (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998) was on the New York Times Best Seller List, and Warner Brothers has purchased the rights to produce a major motion picture. Tommy Thompson, who organized the expedition to locate the sunken steamship and recover the cargo, wrote a critically-acclaimed book, America’s Lost Treasure (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998).

For the first time, individuals now can own treasure from the Central America – extraordinary Gold Rush history you can hold in your hands!

Here is a brief recap of the S.S. Central America story.

SS Central America October 28, 1852: Operated by the United States Mail Steamship Company, the legendary S.S. Central America is launched. Originally named, S.S. George Law, it was a three-masted, 272-feet long sidewheel steamship that made 43 round trips between New York City and Panama. Each leg of the voyage usually took between 19 to 24 days to complete.

SS Central America 1852 to1857: The Central America transported an estimated one-third of the entire California Gold Rush output. That one-third was valued at the time at approximately $150 million.

SS Central America September 3, 1857: The Central America left Aspinwall (now Colón), Panama carrying 476 passengers, 102 crew members and over three tons of gold.

{short description of image} The precious cargo included approximately 5,200 recently-minted $20- denomination ("Double Eagle") gold pieces produced in 1857 at the San Francisco Mint. The gold for these coins was mined during the California Gold Rush. There also was a much smaller quantity of other historic gold coins that circulated in the Wild West. (These will be released later for purchase by individuals).

The cargo also contained privately-made gold coins and ingots produced by such historic, government-supervised San Francisco Gold Rush-era assayers as Blake & Co.; Kellogg & Humbert; Wass Molitor & Co.; Harris, Marchand & Co.; and Justh & Hunter.

The largest ingot recovered is an astonishing gold brick that weighs 933 ounces, nearly 80 pounds, made by assayers Kellogg & Humbert.

SS Central America Friday, September 11, 1857: In the second day of a hurricane the ship sprang a leak at 9 a.m. Passengers were ordered to assist the crew in bailing. The ship sank at about 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 12, about 160 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, drowning a total of 426 passengers and crew, including Captain William Lewis Herndon.

Unable to meet payrolls or pay creditors because of the loss of the gold cargo, New York banks began to fail and stores and factories began to close, touching off a financial crash in the United States and Europe. It was "The Panic of 1857."

SS Central America 1985: An ocean engineer with Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, Thomas G. Thompson, founded the Columbus-America Discovery Group to research and locate the Central America shipwreck. The 161 investors raised more than $10 million.

SS Central America 1986: The group, based in landlocked Columbus, began exploring 1,400 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean and located the ship’s bell in 8,500 feet of water.

SS Central America After successfully using state-of-the art technology to recover the treasure and other important artifacts, the Columbus-America Discovery Group began a decade of litigation to retain the historic find. Eventually, courts awarded approximately 92 percent of the treasure to the Columbus group with the remainder awarded to insurance companies. ·

SS Central America July 1998: A casual conversation at a country club (Big Canyon C.C., Newport Beach, California) sets the stage for the world’s largest numismatic transaction. Rare coin dealer Larry Goldberg of Beverly Hills, told coin expert-turned-sports agent, Dwight Manley, that the Columbus group wanted to sell intact its portion of the treasure.

SS Central America July 1998 - January 2000: Intrigued and determined to "do the deal," Manley, now Managing Partner of California Gold Group, Newport Beach, then undertook nearly two years of complex negotiations with Columbus-America Discovery Group, Union Bank of California and Christie’s auction house to acquire the $100+ million worth of historic gold coins and bars. He earlier obtained a $70 million contract for Utah Jazz basketball star Karl Malone, but now declares the treasure project involved the biggest and most complicated negotiations he’s ever undertaken. Manley accomplished what no else could do.

SS Central America January 2000 - present: The coins are being certified by Collectors Universe Professional Coin Grading Service (NASDAQ: CLCT), the world’s largest rare coin authentication company. Each coin is sonically sealed in a protective holder, then placed inside a custom-made leather bound book.

For future academic study, some historic gold coins from the S.S. Central America will be donated by Manley to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the New York Historical Society, New York City; the San Francisco Historical Society, San Francisco; and the American Numismatic Association Money Museum, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

SS Central America February 10 - 13, 2000: The first public exhibit of this previously unseen treasure is scheduled at the Long Beach, California Convention Center (100 S. Pine Ave.) in conjunction with the Long Beach Coin & Collectibles Expo. Future Long Beach exhibits also are planned, June 8 - 11 and October 5 -8, and in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (1201 Arch St.), August 9 - 13, in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money®. (Public exhibits elsewhere also may be planned.)

SS Central America March 1, 2000: For the first time in history, individuals will be able to purchase historic gold coins from the S.S. Central America treasure ( They will be sold by the largest, best-known numismatic dealership in the country:

See Sources for Details....

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