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HomeAuctionsWells Fargo Treasure Box Lid From S.S. Central America Sells for $99,600

Wells Fargo Treasure Box Lid From S.S. Central America Sells for $99,600

Wells Fargo Treasure Box Lid From S.S. Central America Sells for $99,600

Unique New Jersey $3 Banknote, Keys To Fabled Ship’s Treasure Room, and Polhemus Counter-Stamped Double Eagle Also Set Records In Holabird Western Americana Collections Auction


A unique wooden lid to a Wells Fargo & Co. treasure box was one of the many California Gold Rush sunken treasure highlights recovered from the fabled “Ship of Gold” – the S.S. Central America that sank in 1857 – in the Holabird Western Americana Collections auction held December 3, 2022, in Reno, Nevada and online. The lid with the engraved name “Wells Fargo & Co./New York” boldly visible sold for $99,600 USD.

Another never-before-offered numismatic item recovered from the legendary ship were Purser Edward W. Hull’s keys to the ship’s treasure cargo storage room. The keys attached to a personalized brass name tag sold for $102,300.

“There were five recovered banknotes in the auction. They were among 11 ‘broken bank’ notes found in the Purser’s safe that was retrieved from the seabed in 2014 after being submerged for 157 years about 7,200 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina. The other recovered notes will be offered in the February auction,” explained Holabird.

Wells Fargo Treasure Box Lid From S.S. Central America Sells for $99,600

One of the five banknotes in the December auction is a $3 denomination note issued by the State Bank of Newark, New Jersey. It is the only known example to have been in circulation, apparently used to purchase a ticket on the legendary ship at dockside the day the ship left New York on a voyage to Panama.

These are the winning bids on the five banknotes in the auction that the Purser accepted while assuming the issuing banks were alive and well at the time:

  • Bank of Syracuse, New York, $5, Haxby G12c., $5,280.
  • Exchange Bank, Bangor, Maine, $5, Haxby G8., $5,760.
  • North River Bank, New York, $20, Haxby G50c., $1,380
  • Peoples Bank $5, Charleston, South Carolina, Haxby G2a., $3,720.
  • State Bank of Newark, New Jersey, $3, Haxby proof only, $5,160.

“Seemingly ordinary items from the passengers and crew today give us extraordinary insight into the everyday lives of the people who traveled on the steamship,” said scientist Bob Evans, who was on each of the recovery missions.

The tragedy of the S.S. Central America sinking took the lives of 425 of the ship’s 578 passengers and crewmembers, and the loss of the gold cargo was a major factor in the economically devastating financial Panic of 1857 in the United States.

Insurance claims for the loss were paid in the 1850s and the company that discovered and retrieved the treasure starting in 1988 settled with the insurers and their successors in 1992. With court approval, California Gold Marketing Group subsequently acquired clear title to all of that remaining treasure as well as all the items later recovered in 2014.

For additional information about the recovered artifacts and the February 2023 auction, visit Holabird Western Americana Collections of Reno, Nevada at, call (775) 851-1859, or email [email protected].

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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