NGC Certifies Newly-Retrieved Gold

Posted on 11/18/2003

Thirty-eight gold double eagles of the San Francisco Mint have been certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation as having come from the final dive on Brother Jonathan, a steamship lost to the sea in 1865.

Ranging in dates from 1859 to 1865, these are the last coins to be retrieved from this fabled shipwreck.

Under ownership of the California Steam Navigation Company, Brother Jonathan left San Francisco on July 28, 1865 bound for Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Overloaded with gold and other cargo, the ship carried 232 passengers and crew when she struck submerged rocks at St. George's Point near the Northern California town of Crescent City. Tossed by heavy seas, her lifeboats were swamped, leaving a mere eighteen survivors as Brother Jonathan sank in just 45 minutes.

Attempts at salvaging her valuable cargo date back as far as 1916, and a number of gold bars and coins attributed to this wreck have been marketed over the years. Some of these have already been certified by NGC as having come from this shipwreck and are labeled "Brother Jonathan". The final expedition to the wreck site occurred in 2000, so the coins recently certified by NGC carry the distinctive pedigree "Brother Jonathan 2000".

Information supplied by Curator Bob Evans of the California Gold Marketing Group revealed that the final dive operations on Brother Jonathan occurred September 1 to October 10, 2000. It was conducted by Deep Sea Research under a salvage permit granted by the California State Land Commission (CSLC). This is the last such permit to be issued for Brother Jonathan, adding to the historic significance of these coins.

While a remotely operated vehicle was used to study the wreck site, all of the coins were recovered by actual divers. The great depth required use of a diving bell and compression chamber so that the divers could adjust to the water pressure at that level and thus avoid the "bends", a painful side-effect of nitrogen narcosis.

Coins and other artifacts found at the site were placed within a bag attached to the outside of the diving bell. Upon surfacing, the bag was removed by Curator Evans and CSLC Representative Bryant Sturgess for transfer to a shipboard vault. Here they were cataloged and tagged, with both men signing as witnesses. Each possessed one of the two keys required to open the vault, providing a clear custodial record. The recovered coins were than taken by Evans to a lab where he performed careful conservation work. A neutral solution was used to remove any encrustations from the coins, leaving them in a suitable condition for grading and encapsulation by NGC.

Of the 52 coins recovered during this final dive on Brother Jonathan, 38 have been certified by NGC in grades ranging from AU 53 to MS 64. These are being offered by renowned coin dealer and sports agent Dwight Manley. Information about their availability may be obtained by writing Dwight Manley, Inc at 24 Corporate Plaza, Suite 100, Newport Beach, CA 92660. The company may be reached by telephone at 800-362-6539.

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