California Gold Rush sunken treasure from the legendary "Ship of Gold" hits $1.1 million at auction

Historic artifacts that are a time capsule of Gold Rush life and recovered from the 1857 sinking of the S.S. Central America brought strong prices in Holabird Western Americana Collections auction, held March 4th and 5th in Reno, Nevada.

RENO, Nev. - nvtip -- From lumps of coal and crewmembers' keys to tableware and exquisite jewelry, collectors bid $1.1 million to acquire 422 lots of historic, sunken treasure California Gold Rush-era artifacts recovered from the 1857 sinking of the fabled "Ship of Gold," the S.S. Central America. The two-day auction, March 4 and 5, 2023, was conducted in Reno, Nevada and online by Holabird Western Americana Collections (

"We had about 7,000 registered bidders, including some from Canada, Europe, and South America. Many collectors were waiting for these extraordinary items to come on the market since the legendary, submerged ship was located in 1988 and Life magazine proclaimed it America's greatest treasure ever found," said Fred Holabird, President of Holabird Western Americana Collections. "This was an incredible time capsule of the California Gold Rush era."

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One of the auction highlights was a massive 32.15-ounce gold bar created in San Francisco by prominent Gold Rush assayers John Glover Kellogg and Augustus Humbert. The two-pound gold ingot sold for $138,000, far above its current gold content value of about $59,000. The assayer's value at the time it was created was $586.17.

"The S.S. Central America was carrying tons of Gold Rush treasure from San Francisco and the northern California area when she sank 7,200 feet deep in the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast in a hurricane while on a voyage from Panama to New York City in September 1857. Recovery from the shipwreck site occurred in several stages between 1988-1991 and again in 2014," explained scientist Bob Evans who was on each of the recovery missions and assisted with the auction.

Among the recovered jewelry items was a large 18-karat gold quartz engraved brooch that prominent San Francisco businessman Samuel Brannan -- California's first millionaire -- was sending to his son in Geneva, Switzerland, as a gift to the son's teacher.  It sold for $49,200.

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"Brannan was the Jeff Bezos of his day; a successful entrepreneur, newspaper owner, and California's first millionaire," said Dwight Manley, managing partner of California Gold Marketing Group, consignor of the sunken treasure.

Among the 45 other recovered jewelry pieces in the auction was a REGARD ring, named for the first letter of each of the five gemstones it contains: ruby (missing from the ring), emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, and diamond. It sold for $14,400.

For additional information, visit Holabird Western Americana Collections of Reno, Nevada at, call 775-851-1859, or email

Fred Holabird

Source: Holabird Western Americana Collections
Filed Under: Business

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