A Coin Talk discussion thread was started this week when member TypeCoin971793 mentioned buying a an October 17, 1857 newspaper featuring a contemporary account of the sinking of the SS
Central America, the shipwreck which ultimately yielded a trove of gold-rush era ingots and coins.
Member doug444 responded with his recollection of meeting and working with Tommy Thompson, the leader of the team which recovered the treasure with underwater robot technology. -Editor
As you may recall, Tommy Thompson worked at Battelle Labs in Columbus, Ohio. I was a Columbus Realtor, working for Donahue Realtors, now defunct. I was his Realtor at the time he was
finishing up the deep-water technology. He and his wife and two darling little boys lived in a big old house on Neil Avenue just south of the OSU campus, where he had a short bike ride to work.
They had bought a small grocery to serve residents of that area, known as Victorian Village, but the store was losing money, so I listed the property for sale, including inventory. No takers. In
the meantime, Tommy found out I knew coins pretty well, and hired me to secure San Francisco mint records of the 1850s to try to make an educated guess about what he might find.
Eventually, I predicted he would find lots of San Francisco half eagles and double eagles of the 1850s, although neither denomination was struck until two years before the wreck, thus limiting the
variety of dates significantly. I also predicted there would be some private and territorial gold, mostly Moffat. This proved to be correct.
By that time, we had become good friends, much more than Realtor and client. I asked to invest in the venture, but he refused, stating that it was too risky for someone with such a small,
intermittent, unreliable income (Realtors, he meant).
In June, 1988, I moved from Columbus to Jacksonville, Florida, and never saw him again, although an eerie thing happened; my first day in Jacksonville, the newspaper published a front page story
about him, speculating that his vessel might actually be operating out of the Jacksonville area, instead of Charleston SC, as widely-believed. A large photo showed a $20 gold piece laying on clean
white sand on the bottom of the ocean.
When I first met him 30+ years ago, he was a smart, personable, likable guy with a big dream. His boys would be about 40 now.
To read the complete article, see:
A contemporary account of the SS Central America Disaster
Wayne Homren, Editor
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