S.S. New York Coin Sale

S.S. New York Coin Auction - I recently learned that the coins from the shipwreck S.S. New York will be sold by Stack’s in July at this firm’s pre-ANA auction. Unlike some of the other shipwrecks that have been uncovered in recent years, the coins found on the S.S. New York will have an impact on the branch mint gold market. According to information gleaned from the NGC website, the S.S. New York was a light cargo and passenger ship vessel that operated between New Orleans and Galveston. It was destroyed during a hurricane on September 7, 1846. Seventeen crew members were killed and “thirty to forty thousand dollars in gold, silver and bank notes” were lost according to contemporary reports.

What is especially interesting about these coins is that they represent one of the most eclectic, diverse cross-sections of coins in circulation during the first part of the 19th century that has ever been found. Unlike the S.S. Republic and S.S. Central America, the coins in this group tend to be smaller denomination and much of the gold was produced in Dahlonega and the local New Orleans mint.(Even more interesting is the fact that only two Charlotte issues were included. This should tell us something about the geographic distribution of Charlotte coins).

The coins have been curated by NCS and, according to the reports that I’ve read, numismatists such as John Albanese, David Bowers and Mark Salzburg have commented on how exceptional they are from the standpoint of quality. In fact, Albanese was quoted as saying “...many of them look like they were just minted yesterday.”

NGC just published the first census of these S.S. New York coins and, from the look of it, there are some extremely interesting pieces that will be available. In my opinion, some of the gold coin highlights are as follows:

1845-D Quarter Eagle, NGC MS64

1840-D Half Eagle, NGC MS62

1842-D Large Date Half Eagle, NGC MS61

Two 1843-O Small Letters Half Eagles in NGC MS62

1844-D Half Eagle, NGC MS63*PL

Seventeen Uncirculated 1844-O Half Eagles including two in MS64

Six Uncirculated 1845-O Half Eagles including an MS63

Six Uncirculated 1844-O Eagles including two in MS63

Four Uncirculated 1845-O Eagles

How will the presence of these coins affect the market for branch mint gold? I believe that this group will be a real shot in the arm. First and foremost, it will focus positive attention on branch mint gold. Secondly, it is likely to attract new buyers who will be interested in the coins because of the shipwreck provenance. These buyers probably have never bought a branch mint gold coin (other than a San Francisco double eagle) before and their new purchase could possibly spur them on to collect other branch mint gold coins. Thirdly, it will add some much needed new product into the market. If you collect branch mint gold, you know how few really nice coins have been available in recent years and coins of this quality are sure to be readily appreciated by collectors, dealers and investors alike.

The two things that interest me most about these coins is how nice are they and whether the NCS curation make them look more like modern mint products than 150+ year old southern gold coins. One of my major past complaints about shipwreck gold coins is that I just haven’t liked the unoriginal look they possess. For every lovely 1856-S or 1857-S S.S. Central America double eagle I’ve seen in MS64 or MS65, I’ve seen high grade double eagles (and eagles) from other shipwrecks that have been enthusiastically graded and just not appealing to my eyes. If the coins are as nice as John Albanese and other experts say they are, then the bidding for the coins will be an interesting head-to-head competition between purists like myself and shipwreck coin specialists.

A few collectors have asked me if the quantity of coins from this shipwreck worries me. The answer to this is most definitely “no.” If you look at a full census of the coins that NGC has graded (it can be read at www.ngccoin.com) you will note that very few coins have quantities of more than ten pieces. The most plentiful issues from the shipwreck tend to be those that are already common (like the 1843-O Small Date quarter eagle, the 1843 half eagle and the 1844-O half eagle) so another dozen or so coins will hardly affect the rarity of these issues.

I am curious to see what the impact of six Uncirculated 1845-O half eagles and six 1844-O eagles will have on the market. Given the fact that I think I could sell all twelve of these coins by myself, I’m willing to bet that they will be easily absorbed into the market and will actually serve to raise prices for these two issues rather than lower them.

I’ve mostly sat out the Shipwreck Coin Stampede that has had a major impact on the gold coin market in the last decade. I am excited to finally have a wreck o’ my own and I am really looking forward to viewing the coins in Baltimore next month.