The majority of people view the word “shipwrecks” as decrepit old world Spanish galleons, sunk during a hurricane with chests of gold and silver coins and bars scattered on the ocean floor. This did happen with a lot of the galleons returning with their plunder from the new world. There are some estimates that over a third of all the treasure from shipwrecks is still waiting to be salvaged.
There were plenty of Spanish galleons that traveled the seas with their treasure but they were not the only country. Plenty of French, English and the Dutch traveled with the treasure laden ships. These voyages went from the New World to the Orient and back.
Among the treasures recovered from the Civil War-era steamship SS _Republic were a number of 1860-O Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollars, especially significant for being dated 1860 – one of the most fateful years in American history. The profound divisions that would soon result in bloody conflict were becoming apparent in 1860. Lincoln’s election in November triggered the secession of South Carolina from the Union in December – effectively dividing the nation. While political differences may have split the country in 1860, coinage kept both sides united. With the Civil War yet to begin, silver half dollars such as these would have lined the pockets of both the Southern plantation owner and the Northern abolitionist – or perhaps one of the very first Pony Express riders galloping out of Missouri carrying mail headed for Sacramento – maybe even Abraham Lincoln himself!
Struck at the historic U.S. Mint in New Orleans, 1860-O Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollars were among the last silver coins produced in New Orleans before the mint fell into the hands of the Confederate States of America in 1861. How these coins made their way to New York, where they were eventually loaded aboard the SS _Republic,_ in 1865 for her final ill-fated voyage remains a mystery. Ironically, the coins aboard the SS _Republic_ were enroute to New Orleans to help rebuild the war-ravaged South.
Each hand-selected 1860-O coin has been conserved, attributed and encapsulated with a pedigree label by NGC. Coins come presented in a hardwood display case with an engraved SS Republic plate affixed to the cover. Included is an illustrated booklet and National Geographic DVD documenting the discovery of the SS _Republic_ by Odyssey Marine Exploration.
Spain plundered billions of dollars of treasure between 1492 and the 19th century. They collected silver, gold, gems, and other treasure from many countries from South and Central America and the Caribbean. The Spanish loaded it into the galleons from their ports and sailed them to their home with armed escorts. These are known as the “Spanish Treasure Fleet.”
In the Spanish mints at Lima, Bogotá, Potosi, and a few others like Mexico City, the colonist would work 24 hours a day to mint coins. The coins they produced were irregular as the minting process was not very refined. The “macuquinas” that were made were often referred to as “cobs.” After the miners and smelters would craft a bar of silver the craftsmen would slice off the ends of silver or gold bars to create blanks, better know as “planchets.” After the blank, or planchet has been sliced off its trimmed to the appropriate weight and then placed in a die and struck. This crude process made it very difficult, actually impossible, for any cobs to be alike.
Interestingly enough and very important for the collector of shipwreck treasure or just cobs, most of the coins sent over to Spain were remelted and restruck into Spanish coins. The Spanish government wanted better control over the raw materials like silver and gold. That’s one of the reasons that finding or collecting shipwreck coins has become a popular hobby. Your getting a piece of history that made is 100’s of years with out being touched.
Before the advent of mechanical pressed in the 18th century cobs were struck between the years of 1500 and the mid to late 18th century. The presses were first introduced in Mexico and then later moved down to South America. There were two types of milled coins produced, one called “Pillar” and the other “Bust.” Pillar coins got their name for the design of a globe and two pillars on each side of it, hence “Pillar.” The busts were reserved for a portrait of the current king.
Pillar cob coins began the minting process in 1732 and were only mined until 1771-2. Busts cob coins on the other hand were minted in both silver and gold with silver minting starting in 1772 and gold in 1732. Every type of cob was minted in denominations of 8, 4, 2, 1, ½ and ¼ reales in silver.