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Coins and Sunken Treasure

Throughout American history, tens of thousands of ships have been lost at sea and inland waters. Only a handful of these vessels were reported as having had significant quantities of coins aboard. In recent decades, numismatists have been front-row center as wrecks from several sidewheel steamers lost in the 1850s and 1860s have yielded rare coins.

The SS New York was lunched in 1837, carrying passengers between New York City and Charleston, South Carolina. The steamer was carrying $30,000 or more in money when she encountered an unexpected hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico on September 5, 1846. Captain John D.Philips ordered the anchor dropped, hoping to ride out the storm. The wind and waves increased, however, and for two days those aboard watched as the rigging and other parts of the ship were torn apart. On September 7 the storm prevailed and the New York was overwhelmed, sinking into water 60 feet deep. An estimated 17 people-about one third of the passengers and crew-lost their lives. Decades later, in 2006 and 2007, treasure seekers recovered more than 2000 silver coins and several hundred gold coins from the shipwreck. Most of the silver was heavily etched from exposure to the salt water, but certain of the gold coins where in high grades, including some of the finest known examples of their date and mint.

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