NCS Conserves Coins Recovered from the Steamship New York

Posted on 5/13/2008

Coins certified by NGC with pedigree SS New York.

1844-O $5 NGC MS64.
Click image to enlarge.

[Sarasota, FL] – Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) has been selected to conserve the coins recovered from the SS New York shipwreck. The coins comprise a diverse cross section of coins in circulation at the first part of the 19th Century, including an important group of exceptional quality southern mint gold coins. Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has been chosen to certify the coins following their conservation.

The SS New York operated a light cargo and passenger service between New Orleans and Galveston including military and post office contract passage until it foundered during a hurricane on September 7, 1846. Seventeen of the 53 crew and passengers were lost, along with "thirty to forty thousand dollars in gold, silver, and bank notes," according to contemporary reports. The ship was first discovered in 1990 by an amateur diver and Louisiana oilfield worker who relied on reports of snags from local shrimp fisherman to pinpoint the wreck. After completion of archeological survey conducted by the Minerals Management Service, and gaining legal title to the wreck, the original discoverers returned to recover the ship’s coins in 2006.

While primarily "treasure seekers," they were also concerned about the historic value and preservation of the artifacts they salvaged. "We chose NCS to handle the post-recovery process because of their unique capabilities and expertise in working with shipwreck coins. Their process maintains the historical pedigree that was important to us and also renders the most beautiful artifacts," comments Craig DeRouen of the recovery operation. NCS also conserved all coins recovered from the historic shipwreck SS Republic.

"Together NCS and NGC offer the only professional services to conserve shipwreck coins and then certify them, preserving the integrity and history of these coins. The coins from the SS New York demonstrate this with their wonderful quality and rich diversity, both markers of their considerable importance," relates NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg, who oversaw the certification of the coins from the SS New York.

1844-D $5 NGC MS63 PL.
Click image to enlarge.

Far Hills, NJ coin dealer John Albanese appraised these coins for the recovery group, and notes, "The coins are worth more than a million dollars, and many of them look like they were just minted yesterday." Among the valuable highlights are extraordinarily well preserved gold coins from mints in Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina, such as an 1845-D $2.5 NGC MS64, 1844-D $5 NGC MS63 PL, and 1844-O $5 NGC MS64.

The coins are indeed diverse. In addition to the trove of high grade southern mint issues, there were a number of foreign coins found, including a rare mintmark 1816PN FR Colombia 8 escudos graded NGC AU58 and an extensive run of German 10 thalers. A number of silver coins were recovered as well, including the first and only US silver dollar found on a shipwreck, a 1795 Flowing Hair Dollar, and a scarce 1815/2 Capped Bust Half Dollar. A rare C. Bechtler $5 pioneer gold coin was also recovered. The diversity of coinage speaks to the sophistication of southern merchants during the mid-1800’s, who conducted transactions using a startling range of gold and silver pieces struck around the world and spanning several decades.

1845-D $2.5 NGC MS64.
Click image to enlarge.

Following conservation, coins were submitted to NGC for certification and were encapsulated with a decorative label and the pedigree SS NEW YORK. The NGC holder has been designed for long-term preservation and is identical in composition to the holder developed by NGC and NCS for the Smithsonian Institution, which conducted extensive tests before using it to house its most valuable holdings.

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