1851 $20 Liberty PCGS AU55 CAC Ex. SSCA (gold foil) – SOLD


1851 $20 Liberty PCGS AU55. Ex: S.S. Central America. SSCA 6610. CAC endorsed.

  • Remarkably well-preserved specimen in the original PCGS gold foil holder. Inventory number 6610.
  • This 1851 $20 gold coin has been endorsed by CAC for above-average quality and eye appeal.
  • Only 33 examples of the 1851 $20 Double Eagle were recovered in all grades.
  • Since the SSCA sank in 1857, six years earlier than when these coins were minted, nearly all were circulated, some heavily, especially since they first started out in Philadelphia, then went to San Francisco, only to find their way back on the same route, prior to the disaster.
  • According to our records, this is one of only two 1851 $20 SSCA’s to have been offered at public auction over the past ten years. Having appeared in 2012, it brought $8,050 and had not yet been seen by CAC. The other coin was a certified XF45 gold foil and it brought $6,325, also in 2012.

While the 1857-S is the most famous double eagle issue recovered from the shipwreck, a number of earlier gold coins also were present onboard, whether brought on by passengers or stored as miscellaneous cargo. This well-defined Philadelphia twenty has considerable remaining luster in a variety of yellow hues. A lightly abraded surfaces show a scrape toward star 1 and a rim nick near star 13 on the obverse.

Of the thousands of American ships lost – over 8,000 in the Great Lakes alone (Bowers, 2008: 63) – relatively few are known to have carried large amounts of specie and, of these, only a handful have been found and valuable coins recovered. The SS Central America is the perhaps the most widely recognized in this very exclusive roster. Indeed, there are just two other confirmed and documented major finds (SS Republic and SS Brother Jonathan), the decades of the 1850s and 1860s, to which can be added a fourth possibility (SS Yankee Blade), information about which is vague. Two other relatively minor coin cargoes derive from the loss of the SS New York in 1846, yielding several hundred gold coins and over 2,000 silver ones, and from a small boat dispatched from the schooner William and Mary in 1857, also known as the Fort Capron hoard.

The earliest documented major recovery comes from the wreck of the SS Central America, lost off North Carolina on 12 September 1857. The ship carried to the ocean floor a vast cargo of gold coins and ingots headed from Aspinwall, on the Atlantic side of Panama, north to New York City. The wreck was found in 2,194m of water in the late 1980s by the Columbus- America Discovery Group. About 7,500 gold coins were recovered, dominated by more than 5,400 mint-fresh 1857-S double eagles, plus more than 500 gold ingots. Originating in San Francisco, the cargo had been shipped south to Panama City by the SS Sonora, from where it was transported 77km overland on the Panama Railroad to Aspinwall. The gold coins and ingots, plus a small number of heavily corroded silver coins, were distributed mostly by the California Gold Marketing Group. The recovered treasure is reported to have yielded well over $100 million in sales.