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S.S. Central America: A True Time Capsule


Among the countless treasures recovered from the S.S. Central America was a group of 112 tiny California Fractional Gold Coins. Not only did this find recover over fifty of the finest-known examples of their variety, but it dramatically illustrated the importance and utility of these almost forgotten little coins in daily commerce.

California Fractional Gold coins were privately struck in 1852 during the height of the "gold rush" to help fill the need for small coinage in the far west. Denominated in 1/4, 1/2, and one-dollar denominations, they remained legal until the Coinage Act of 1864. However, the law was not strictly enforced until the early 1880s, at which point non-denominated tokens were struck.

On board the S.S. Central America must have been quite a number of these tiny coins for as mentioned above, some 112 of these were recovered in the 2014 expedition. Due to their tiny size, there are doubtless more still on the site. But among those recovered, there were several that were literally "as made."

The first coin shown (BG-311) is now the finest known by four grades!

Part of the finest group of its kind in history, this 1856 gold 50 cent coin (BG-311), now graded PCGS MS68+PL, was among 112 California fractional gold pieces recovered from the fabled "Ship of Gold," the S.S. Central America.

This superb condition 1856 gold quarter-dollar (BG-111), graded PCGS MS68PL, is one of the 112 California fractional gold coins discovered in the latest recovery of S.S. Central America sunken treasure.

A rare Peacock variety 50 cent gold coin (BG-302), graded PCGS MS64, was among 112 historic California fractional gold coins recovered in the last sunken treasure expedition to the S.S Central America.

In addition to the California Fractionals found, an incredible number of larger Territorial Coins were also recovered, and we’ll discuss them in a future column in the PCGS Newsletter.

Learn the history of the S.S. Central America and enter to receive information on owning a piece of the treasure at

Bullion: Gold Articles