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One Cool Coin



An 1860-O half-dollar with a fascinating pedigree.

I have often wondered how coins minted decades ago found their way into my collection. I try to imagine who might have spent the coins in my collection and for what purpose the coins were used. I enjoy speculating on every place my coins may have been and the circumstances that caused them to be removed from circulation after many years of use.

With coins directly purchased from the mint this sense of romantic charm is lacking. Not that I do not enjoy owning coins purchased from the mint, but I miss the wonderment and imagination that older coins bring me. My fascination with coinage history is one of the more enjoyable aspects of coin collecting for me.

This is why my most recent purchase of an 1860-O half-dollar recovered from the shipwreck SS Republic sparks my imagination. The SS Republic left New York en-route to New Orleans with $400,000 in gold and silver coins to finance reconstruction in the South shortly after the civil war in 1865. On October 25, 1865, the SS Republic sank in a hurricane, 100 miles off the coast of Savannah, Georgia and up until 2003, my coin laid untouched in the deep dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Knowing my coin?s significance in American history, in that it was meant to finance the reconstruction of the South is icing on the cake. With all this, this coin still has some mystery to it. How did my coin get from the mint at New Orleans to New York one year before the Civil War? Perhaps the Union in anticipation of the war wanted to remove hard currency from the South. It is also possible that my coin remained in government control, never circulating, up until the time it was loaded into the cargo hold of the SS Republic. Even with this, it does not answer how coins minted in New Orleans, under Louisiana control and Confederate control made their way to New York during the Civil War.

From the perspective of the coin itself, it is clearly uncirculated. NGC grades most shipwreck coins that are uncirculated as ?Shipwreck Effect (A), (B), or © UNC?. ?A? coins are the least affected by salt-water corrosion and ?C? coins the most. My coin, conserved by NCS, has sharp devices with most of the saltwater damage confined to the fields of the coin, and the more significant damage being on the reverse. My coin received a ?Shipwreck Effect © UNC? grade filling the ?Seated Liberty Half, no motto? slot in ?Gary?s Type Set?. Furthermore, my coin was awarded full MS-60 points. Since I am a type collector, I try to collect coins with a bit of a story to populate my slots and this coin more than meets that criterion.

From a conservation standpoint, the apparent corrosion on the coin?s fields does not distract from the coin?s beauty. Unlike in my last post where I wrote that conservation harmed my coin?s appearance, conservation has enhanced the eye appeal of this coin. However, if this were any other coin, it would clearly be a details-grade, but since the reason for the corrosion can be accounted for, it contributes to the coin?s charm.

I purchased this coin on E-Bay for slightly more than Numismedia fair market value, making it almost impossible to resist. Included with my coin are a neat wooden presentation box, a COA, a small booklet, and a National Geographic DVD documentary on the SS Republic and its artifact recovery. Additionally, there is a website where I may register my SS Republic artifact. Enjoy the pictures I am posting of a piece of American History. Happy collecting!





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