A 95.83-ounce Kellogg & Humbert gold ingot recovered from the wreck of SS Central America auctioned by GreatCollections (GC) sold on November 21 for $239,062.50 USD.
The backstory of the ingot is steeped in the history of the California Gold Rush.
John Glover Kellogg and Augustus Humbert formed an assaying business in San Francisco in 1854, turning millions of dollars’ worth of California gold into coins and ingots. The company was successful and well-regarded in its day, with the Alta, California newspaper describing Humbert as “a man who has done more than any single person we know of for the state.”
Hundreds of their gold ingots, alongside Federal coinage struck at the newly-opened San Francisco Mint, were shipped from California to Panama in 1857, taken across the isthmus by railroad to Aspinwall, and loaded onto a 280-foot sidewheel steamer Central America (known as George Law until June of that year). She sailed for New York City on September 3, 1857, with hundreds of passengers and more than a million dollars worth of gold, stopping off briefly in Cuba.
On September 9, 1857, Central America was struck by a massive hurricane about 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina. After battling the storm for a few days, the ship foundered on September 12. Four hundred and twenty-six people died, and some historians cite the loss of the ship as a major cause of the Panic of 1857. The gold owned by the United States Federal Government was earmarked to create a specie reserve at eastern banks.
The wreck was discovered in September 1988 – almost exactly 131 years after the ship sank. The discovery was the result of years of research and searching by a group of engineers, scientists, and historians led by Bob Evans and Tommy Thompson and bankrolled by a group of investors, known as the Columbus-America Discovery Group. Artifacts recovered from the famed “Ship of Gold” have been exhibited at coin shows across the nation.
346 Kellogg & Humbert ingots were recovered from the wreck, accounting for more than two-thirds of the 500+ ingots recovered.
GC’s listing described the gold ingot, numbered 697, as “stunning and historic”. The ingot sports a number of inscriptions, including its number, “KELLOGG & HUMBERT ASSAYERS”, 95.83 oz., .888 fine, and its melt value at the time it was created, $1,759.11. In 1857, gold was priced at $20.67/ounce.
The ingot’s present-day melt value stood, at the time of writing, between $158,000 and $159,000. Surging gold values, driven by inflation, will drive its intrinsic value higher. If inflation cools, the ingot’s melt value will probably settle.
When the hammer fell, GC recorded 91 bids. 85 GC members were tracking the sale and the page had been viewed 2,658 times.
On July 11, GreatCollections sold a 75.9-oz. Kellogg & Humbert ingot recovered from the wreck of Central America for $173,500 ($195,187 with buyer’s fee). GC sold another, smaller gold ingot, a 26.64 ounce Kellogg & Humbert piece, for $82,000 on the same day. To search through GreatCollection’s archive of over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years, please visit the GreatCollections Auction Archives.