The SS Central America: One Hundred and Sixty Years of Woe

12 May


Lot 239, Treasure Auction #19

Lot 239, Sedwick Treasure Auction #19

Rarely does one random event lead to so much mayhem as the wreck of the SS Central America when it sank in a hurricane in 1857. It reminds me of something that Eppie Lederer (aka Ann Landers) once said when someone asked her whether she fabricated any of the letters in her advice column: “I can’t make this stuff up.” The story of the aftermath of the wreck of the SS Central America is rife with sorrow, greed, adventure, and downright bizarreness.

There are many great articles and books about the fate of the SS Central America and its re-discovery by Tommy Thompson and his group of investors called the Columbus America Discovery Group over 100 years later, but in a nutshell, the ship was laden with gold from the California gold rush years and uncirculated gold coins from the San Francisco mint when it sailed into a hurricane off the coast of Carolinas on September 9, 1857. The ship sank, taking with it an estimated $50,000,000 in today’s money and no hope of recovery. Many people drown although some were rescued. This significant monetary loss became a factor in the so-called Panic of 1857 that shook public confidence in the economy. Fast forward to September of 1988, when an engineer from the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, named Tommy Thompson had an idea where the SS Central America could be located and subsequently found the wreck thanks to technology not previously available. He and his crew were able to bring up an estimated $100-150 million of recovered gold. After that, the story takes a twist for the crazy when Thompson failed to pay investors and fled to an abandoned mansion in Vero Beach, Florida with his girlfriend, Alison Antekeier. They were finally caught holed up in a Hilton hotel in Boca Raton, Florida in January of 2015 and are now in prison. What was in the hotel room? Lots of strange, that’s what:

  • 43 cellphones and 12 computers
  • A trash bag full of prescription medication
  • Registration papers for a trust in Belize
  • Money wrappers in $10,000 amounts
  • An expired US Treasury check for $216,939
  • And an award-winning idea for hiding money, lunch boxes containing cash


So, if you want to own an extremely interesting piece of history, now is your opportunity! We have 3 coins from the wreck in our upcoming Treasure Auction #19, and one of them can be yours. We can’t often offer you both a beautiful coin and a really interesting story to go with it.

Lot 240, Treasure Auction #19

Lot 240, Sedwick Treasure Auction #19

Lot 243, Treasure Auction #19

Lot 243, Sedwick Treasure Auction #19


2 Responses to “The SS Central America: One Hundred and Sixty Years of Woe”

  1. John Paliafito May 12, 2016 at 8:28 PM #


    Is there an estimated value on where these coins may sell? Thank you.


    • coridowning May 13, 2016 at 10:09 AM #

      All the coins pictured in the blog are in our upcoming Sedwick Treasure, World and US Coin Auction #19 which will go live next week. You can view lots either by going to and clicking on the small catalog in the bottom left-hand corner or and clicking on our auction link there. Cori


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