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Collectors attracted to sunken treasure

 Dwight Manley examines coins from the S.S. Central America. (Christina Good/Professional Coin Grading Service photo)

Dwight Manley examines coins from the S.S. Central America. (Christina Good/Professional Coin Grading Service photo)

Nothing gets the general public more worked up about coins than saying they are sunken treasure.

The fact that Dwight Manley and his marketing group have got a new $40 million batch to sell is great news for organized numismatics. (Click here for full story.)

Anything that Manley offers will gain the immediate attention of millions of noncollectors. The news might just push some of them into actually wanting to own some of the coins that were recovered from the 1857 shipwreck of the S.S. Central America.

I even saw a mention of the story online in a British newspaper.

Lest you think coin collectors are immune to the appeal of sunken treasure, just wait until the coins go on sale. They will be housed in special Professional Coin Grading Service holders. Being properly graded is important. Preserving these coins for years to come is also key. But the special label identifies the pieces as having come from the wreck. This will distinguish them from all others and make a collectible subset of each date and mintmark involved.

Coins from the wreck will be put on display at the Long Beach Expo Feb. 22-24. This public debut will help build interest in the treasure.

The last time Manley was marketing coins recovered from the ship, they commanded premium prices. That is a reason why, as this issue is prepared, our poll question is: “Are you willing to pay more for coins that were once sunken treasure?”

Whether the answer given by those who vote is yes or no, the fact is collectors are definitely inclined to pay more to own coins made of California gold struck at the San Francisco Mint and lost in a hurricane off North Carolina in 1857.

I think every collector knows that emotion is involved in making coin purchase decisions. I am attached to some coins more than others. That I am attached in this way might not be perfectly rational, but it is the case nevertheless. I think it is fair to say this is a characteristic of all collectors. Coin marketers can count on it.

Sunken treasure captures the imagination. Had you been a survivor of the 1857 wreck, can you image what you would have been thinking? You would have been lucky to be alive, yet you lost a fortune in gold to the bottom of the sea.

Modern collectors are the beneficiaries of the loss of 161 years ago. We are the lucky ones. What we make of this luck remains to be seen. It is early days. Manley is an expert marketer. We can be sure the Long Beach display is just the beginning of a sophisticated marketing campaign.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

More Collecting Resources

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700 is your guide to images, prices and information on coins from so long ago.

• Start becoming a coin collector today with this popular course, Coin Collecting 101.