Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Artifacts from shipwreck on Georgia's coast for sale


Augusta Chronicle
January 9, 2005

ATLANTA - For a marine exploration firm retrieving Civil War-era artifacts from a steamer that sank off the Georgia coast in 1865, gold is not all that glitters.

Lumps of old coal have a nice shine as well - to the tune of $99 each.

"For Sale" signs are going up on the lost cargo of the SS Republic, which was rediscovered by Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey Marine Inc. in 2003. The ship sank in a hurricane about 100 miles southeast of Savannah on Oct. 25, 1865. It was carrying $400,000 in coins, plus supplies.

The salvage company easily has sold the wreck's highest-profile artifacts - $10 million in gold coins has been sold so far. That includes a deal reportedly worth more than $2.5 million for the sale of a collection of 24 Coronet "double eagle" $20 gold pieces to a West Coast coin broker, according to Coin World magazine.

Now the salvage company is launching an online marketing effort to sell some of the wreck's more mundane items.
For example, empty Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce bottles, complete with glass and cork stopper, go for $600 each. Flasks that once held Henry T. Hembold's Buchu Extract, touted as a cure-all remedy to treat a "Loss of Power, Fatuity, and Epileptic Fits, Insanity and Consumption," are available for $900 each.

And there are plenty of $99 chunks of coal to go around.

"The Republic was known for using a lot of coal, and it was only halfway through its run when it sank, so there's as much as you want," company spokeswoman Laura Barton said.

The Union fleet side-wheel steamer was heading from New York to New Orleans to provide supplies for post-Civil War reconstruction of the South when it sank.

Odyssey will retain some of the ship's more distinctive items, such as the ship's bell, for use in exhibits, which are expected to be announced later this year.

But Odyssey Marine's research and recovery vessel, called the Odyssey Explorer, might not remain around for very long. It's off to find bigger bounty, after the company signed an agreement with the British government to salvage the HMS Sussex, an 80-gun English warship that sank in a storm near Gibraltar in 1694.

The ship was reportedly carrying a large quantity of gold and silver to the Duke of Savoy, an ally of Britain against France in the War of the Grand Alliance.

--From the Monday, January 10, 2005 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle

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