1865-S $20 Lib – Brother Jonathan Shipwreck PCGS MS63

This coin, rescued from the famous Brother Jonathan Shipwreck, is one of my favorite pieces right now.

She’s sitting on my desk only because of the discovery and recovery of coins from the Brother Jonathan (and later the Republic) which changed the 1865-S $20’s rarity profile, raised a massive debate with tons of litigation, and is just inherently cool because she’s a shipwreck coin.


Brother Jonathan was a paddle steamer that struck an uncharted rock near Point St. George, off the coast of Crescent City, California, on 30 July 1865. The ship was carrying 244 passengers and crew, together with a large shipment of gold. Only 19 survived, making it the deadliest shipwreck up to that time on the Pacific Coast of the United States. …

For its final voyage, crates of gold coins had been loaded on the vessel, including the annual treaty payments in gold for Indian tribes, Wells Fargo shipments consigned for Portland and Vancouver, and gold carried on board by the passengers. A large ship’s safe safeguarded valuable jewelry, more gold coins, and gold bars. The gold alone was valued at $50 million in today’s dollars. Divers and ships began searching for the sunken treasure two weeks after the disaster, but despite the attempts of numerous salvors, for over 125 years, the ship’s treasure of gold and artifacts remained one of the Pacific’s great secrets. …

In 1996, a mini-sub scooted past a “glint” on the bottom [of the sea], raising curiosity. On 30 August 1996, divers found gold coins and on that expedition recovered 875 1860s gold coins in near-mint condition. Over time, the salvors recovered 1,207 gold coins, primarily $20 double eagles, in addition to numerous artifacts. …

In the first legally-recognized sale of all of the salvors’ gold discovered from [the] sunken treasure ship, more than 500 bidders crowded into the Airport Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles for the auction of gold coins on 29 May 1999. The sale of its 1006 coins fetched a total of $5.3 million.



PCGS Suggested Retail Price: $16,000.


I should only be so lucky to spend 125 years on the bottom of the ocean and come up looking like that …


  • David Thomas (mr.seateddime)

    I’d still rather have 200 1865-S Seated Dimes instead!


  • I never could figure out why America and England are given female pronouns but male names- Brother Jonathan / John Bull?

    But I’m just babbling. Thankyou Amanda. Treasure coins are really cool. 🙂



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