1863-S $20 Liberty Double Eagle PCGS AU50, Ex. S.S. Brother Jonathan. Inventory recovery #317. These 1863-S Brother Jonathan gold coins do not appear for sale very often – either publicly at auction or on the internet. We note the last time an 1863-S $20 came up for sale was at the ANA in 2016. There, number #320 (note this one is #317), brought $8,225. Heritage sold this specimen as lot #6018 in their Signature Sale, and described it as “…Medium S mintmark. If not housed in a PCGS holder with the special Brother Jonathan insert identifying it as coin #320 recovered from the famed shipwreck, this still-lustrous 1863-S twenty would be difficult to identify as having spent 131 years underwater. The coin is sharply struck and modestly worn across the high points, with a handful of minor abrasions noted on each side. The surfaces display sumptuous orange-gold toning with strong remaining mint luster and virtually no sign of granularity or seawater effects. An excellent example for type and equally interesting for its shipwreck heritage.” We also note that within 30 days of this sale, a non-Brother Jonathan AU50 sold for $2,468 by the same auction company – signifying the immense demand for these shipwreck items and their provenance. Prior to this 2016 occasion, the last time anyone had an opportunity to acquire an AU50 at auction by Heritage was in 2005-! (Inventory #313).
The SS Brother Jonathan was lost in the Pacific off Crescent City, California, on 30 August 1865. The ship carried an unknown quantity of coins, but it yielded slightly more than a thousand pieces when the wreck was found in the 1990s. Most were double eagles of the 1865-S variety and a lesser number of 1864-S and 1863-S twenties, along with some other varieties which are prohibitively rare and in many cases uncollectable since they are held in strong, private hands (collections). The 1859-S through 1862-S double eagles can easily fall into this category. Most were sold at auction in 1999. The market value then was in the $5 million range. It’s probably five-times that amount today!