A steamship that sank off the Louisiana coast during an 1846 storm has produced a trove of rare gold coins, including some produced at a mostly forgotten U.S. mint in the Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega, coin experts say.
Last year, four Louisiana residents salvaged hundreds of gold coins from the wreckage of the SS New York in the Gulf of Mexico, said David Bowers, co-chairman of Stack's Rare Coins in New York.
"Some of these are in uncirculated or mint condition," Bowers said, predicting the best could bring up to $100,000 each at auction.
Of particular interest are gold pieces known as quarter eagles and half eagles, which carried face values of $2.50 and $5, respectively.
Those coins were struck at mints in New Orleans, Charlotte and Dahlonega. The Charlotte and Dahlonega mints operated from 1838, when the first significant U.S. gold deposits were found in those areas, until the start of the Civil War in 1861, said Douglas Mudd, curator of the American Numismatic Association's Money Museum in Denver.
The Dahlonega mint produced 1.38 million gold coins, while another 1.2 million were minted in Charlotte.
Most disappeared when the federal government confiscated gold coins held by individuals, banks and the U.S. Treasury in 1933 and melted them into gold bars as the country abandoned the gold standard.
"Relatively speaking, they are rare," Mudd said of the Charlotte- and Dahlonega-minted coins. "The mints were set up to take advantage of the resources there."