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Shipwreck yields gold

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An 1846 shipwreck 60 miles off the coast of Louisiana has yielded $1 million in sunken treasure comprised of U.S. gold coins from Southern U.S. mints and a nearly complete Capped Bust set.

Recovery of the coins was announced May 13 by a group from New Iberia, La., called the Gentlemen of Fortune, which identified the SS New York in 2006 off the coast of Cameron, La., in 60 feet of water.

treasure3.jpg?This is the most important group of Southern gold coins ever found on a treasure ship. There are some of the finest known quarter eagles and half eagles struck in Charlotte and Dahlonega, as well as examples of gold coins struck at the New Orleans Mint,? said prominent numismatic researcher and author Q. David Bowers, co-chairman of Stack?s of New York City.

?They include an 1845-D $2.50 graded NGC MS-64; 1844-D $5 graded NGC MS-63* prooflike; and an 1844-O $5 graded NGC MS-64. There?s also a nearly complete set of Capped Bust halves with over two dozen different dates, including an 1815, and quite a few foreign gold coins as well,? said John Albanese, a dealer from Far Hills, N.J., who appraised them.

treasure1.jpgA complete inventory of the recovered coins will be released later, according to Albanese.  Information about the planned sale of some of the coins in a public auction by Stack?s also will be announced later.

?I?m very proud of the comprehensive services that we provide for shipwreck recovery coinage,? said Mark Salzberg, NGC chairman.

Long known by shrimpers as an underwater obstruction, the ship was identified for what it was by the New Iberia group which found the 365-ton wooden hulled ship two years ago. The four members of Gentlemen of Fortune are Gary and Renee Hebert, Avery Munson and Craig DeRouen.

treasure2.jpg?We brought up the ship?s bell in the summer of 2006, staked a claim and obtained a federal court judgment granting us title to the site, then brought up several hundred coins from the underwater mud last year. We recently sent them to Numismatic Conservation Services and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation for certification,? said DeRouen.

There were 53 passengers and crew members on board for a trip from Galveston to New Orleans when the New York went down during a storm in September 1846.  Everyone evacuated the ship; however, 17 died later while clinging to pieces of floating wreckage for two days before the SS Galveston picked up 36 survivors.

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