Throughout time, shipwrecks and sunken treasure have captured our imagination, stirring dreams of underwater adventure and discovery. Through the window of shipwreck treasure artifacts, one can gain a greater understanding and connection to days gone by. Monaco offers a wide selection of shipwreck treasure collectibles, including popular gold or silver coins and ingots. Also, there are unique examples of other sunken treasure artifacts that garner appreciation for this fascinating segment of the collectibles market. Listed below for consideration are primarily trade goods that reflect the popular merchant goods of the era.
In particular, it is quite interesting to see what articles were needed by Americans in the era of the Civil War, as demonstrated from artifacts recovered from the SS Republic, lost in 1865. And, the search and recovery story, which was chronicled in a National Geographic Society TV documentary, can be enjoyed by requesting a DVD from your Monaco Account Representative. Then, there are thrilling California Gold Rush artifacts and goods recovered form the shipwreck SS Central America, lost in 1857. Also, it is informative and intriguing to experience artifacts from the era of the Spanish colonial conquering, and treasure exportation, of the Americas, which have been recovered from the wreck referred to as Tortugas, noting the nearest island where it was lost in a hurricane. As the nation’s leader in authentic pedigreed shipwreck treasure, Monaco has extensive knowledge and expertise in this exciting collectibles market. Furthemore, Monaco has joined forces with the leading deep-ocean exploration company, Odyssey Marine Exploration.
Odyssey has discovered hundreds of shipwrecks across the globe. The artifacts, treasure and knowledge recovered from these fascinating time capsules provide a unique opportunity to share the excitement of shipwreck exploration in various exhibit venues. Many of the artifacts recovered from these shipwreck projects remain in permanent collections, reserved and available for exhibits and further study. Monaco and Odyssey, along with Florida-based Seascape Artifact Exhibits, exhibit displays featuring a diversity of shipwreck artifacts, combined with high-definition video or photographs from numerous deep-ocean sites around the world. Some exhibit venues also offer the opportunity to showcase the technology and methods Odyssey utilized to discover and excavate shipwreck sites hundreds, and even thousands, of feet below the ocean’s surface.
Odyssey founder, Greg Stemm, has estimated that there are more than 3 million shipwrecks world-wide, an abundance of cultural goods transported by mankind for more than 3,000 years. Until fairly recently, most of these sites and their priceless artifacts have been virtually inaccessible to archaeological excavation because of their extreme depth – far deeper than human divers can venture. Yet, with the advent of new and more sophisticated technologies, exploration of some of the seas’ darkest recesses is now within reach. Hundreds of shipwrecks spanning centuries of maritime trade, travel, exploration and warfare have been discovered across the globe.
These extraordinary finds, located hundreds and even thousands of feet below the ocean surface, range from ancient Roman and Phoenician trading vessels to U-boats and even modern fishing vessels. The SS Republic was a historic wreck, whose robotic excavation at 1,700 was the first of its kind conducted at such depths and produced the greatest shipwreck treasure of the Civil War era. Each shipwreck discovery is an isolated time capsule offering a window into lifetimes of long forgotten coins and bars, glass bottles, ceramic goods, religious artifacts, personal items and even pirates artillery are just a few of the treasures found in the depths of the ocean. These unique and precious items reveal historic events that would otherwise remain hidden deep beneath the ocean surface.
Shipwreck search operations are conducted from a research vessel fitted with survey equipment and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). A search typically begins with a side-scan sonar survey of the target area. Pulses of sound energy are bounced onto the seabed in a fan-shaped arc. In fractions of a second, the return echo is processed, exposing anything protruding above the seabed as small as a pipe, oil drum, or cannon. When the echo from the object on the ocean floor is received, it is converted into a side-scan sonar image depicting the object’s shape, form and shadow.
Every anomaly on the ocean floor is recorded and then analyzed by a team of specialists. The most promising anomalies are then targeted for visual inspection using a ROV, which is configured with high-definition video and still cameras. Live, high-definition video images of the seabed targets are sent back to the research vessel for review and interpretation. In some instances, an artifact will be recovered by the ROV to assist in the potential identification or dating of a site.
Conservation and Documentation
Before any excavation begins on a shipwreck, an archaeological pre-disturbance survey is conducted. This includes a photomosaic composed of thousands of high-definition images that capture and document the entire site. To create the photomosaic, still cameras that are mounted on the ROV take continuous, overlapping photos of the site. Photo technicians aboard the ship then digitally “stitch” the images together. Once the artifacts are brought to the surface, first-aid begins in the ship’s conservation lab. This is where the artifacts are stabilized to prevent further decay and undergo detailed recording, documentation and photography.
A Virtual Deep-Ocean Incubator
Believe it or not, the sea floor can be the perfect incubator for preserving treasure. Many gold and silver coins and bars are recovered in pristine condition from the depths of the sea. However, the salty water and other elements in the ocean can have negative effects on both silver and copper, which are the primary metals present in the composition of silver coins. Pure gold is virtually indestructible and does not deteriorate in a marine environment. For the gold coins that are not pure, and are made up of gold, silver and copper, are then exposed to corrosion and other harmful effects. However, the recovery of these important pieces enable the preservation by leading conservation experts, NCS, Numismatic Conservation Services.
“Blue China” Artifacts
An unidentified vessel was found off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, in 2003. The site was named “Blue China” because of the large quantity of blue-decorated ceramics found there. The “Blue China” shipwreck appears to be the remains of a modest American coastal trader that conducted business along the Atlantic seaboard in the years preceding the American Civil War. Examination of the “Blue China” site during a subsequent visit in 2005 revealed substantial damage to the apparent effect of modern trawl nets that were displacing and smashing the artifacts. As the site was in imminent danger, a “rescue archeology” excavation commenced. While the “Blue China” wreck did not yield a treasure in gold and silver, no chests of jewels and pearls, the ceramics recovered from the site present a rare opportunity to view the makeup of a British-made ceramic cargo carried by an American coastal trader in the mid-19th century.
Dubbed the Golden Age of Quackery, the 19th-century was an era in which snake oil, worm pills, invigorators and elixirs were touted as remedies for any and all afflictions. These various formulas were sold under many colorful names and made even more striking claims. They promised to cure everything from coughs, fever and nervous excitement to sore throats, frostbite and constipation. Many of the bottles found at the site of the SS Republic had once contained alcohol and addictive opiates or, in some cases, a dangerous combination of the two. Some other glassware found at the site included cathedral pickle bottles that stored a variety of preserved foods, champagne-style wine bottles whose classic shape exists even today and bottles of bitters, an herbal brew laced with alcohol that was sold as a medicinal tonic.
Take advantage of a special offer on a spectacular collectors reference book by calling your Monaco Account Representative. Bottles from the Deep offers a fascinating tour through the bottles of the Civil War era. This illustrated softcover book presents the colorful examples from an amazing find of 19th-century bottles in the SS Republic shipwreck lost in the deep Atlantic, 100 miles off the coast of Georgia. The bottles were en route to New Orleans in October, 1865, just months after the end of the Civil War. They reveal a time capsule of bottled goods of the times, from popular herbal bitters (with their high alcoholic content) to quack medicines like (Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for Children) to condiments, fruit preserves, hair tonics, writing inks, perfumes, beer and wine, and much more.