Pair of Levi’s jeans salvaged from an 1857 shipwreck

The jeans salvaged from the wreckage.


From Vittoria Benzine - Artnet News


Vintage bank notes, gold nuggets, and jewelry were among 550 treasures from the 1857 S.S. Central America shipwreck that went to auction with Holabird Western Americana Collections in Reno this month.

Final prices across their multi-million-dollar sale ranged from $48 for a collection of books about treasure (estimated $80–$100) to $1,080,000 for gold from the vessel’s treasure box (estimated $1,800,000–$2,500,00).

However, a salvaged pair of miner’s pants from Mexican-American war veteran, merchant, and possible gold rusher John Dement stole the show, pulling in a total of $114,000—more than double their $50,000 estimate.

Holabird said the trousers could be the earliest known example of Levi Strauss craftsmanship. Gold from the S.S. Central America has appeared at auction before, but this is the first time its artifacts have been sold.

The 280-foot S.S. Central America had made 43 successful trips by September 1857, when it departed Panama for New York City carrying 477 passengers, 101 crew members, and 30,000 pounds of precious metal from the California gold rush.

After one stop in Havana, a hurricane shredded its sails and flooded its decks. Only 153 people survived. Marine engineer Tommy Thompson raised $12.5 million from 161 private investors to fund the expedition, which first surfaced coins from its wreck off the Carolina coast in 1988.

Thompson was prosecuted in 2005 for shorting investors of their shares. The thousands of gold bars, coins, and relics he unearthed were only five percent of the loot.


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