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Gold from sunken ship to go on display

Tons of California Gold Rush-era gold coins and bars recovered from a ship that sank in a hurricane in 1857 off the coast of North Carolina go on display Feb 10. to 13 in Long Beach, Calif., in conjunction with the Long Beach Coin and Collectibles Expo. Included will be the largest known ingot, a nearly 80-pound gold brick nicknamed Eureka! (Latin for "I have found it). The exhibit will be housed in a 30-foot-long replica of the hull of the SS Central America.

The cache had been tied up in litigation between the treasure hunters and the insurance companies that had paid off on the policies 143 years ago. In 1998 a federal court awarded 92 percent to the treasure hunters and 8 percent to the insurers.

Other exhibits are planned for Long Beach from June 8 to 11 and Oct. 5 to 8 and in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1201 Arch St., Philadelphia, from Aug. 9 to 13 in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association's World Fair of Money.

The first coins available for purchase will be 525 Double Eagle $20-denomination gold pieces made in 1857 at the San Francisco Mint. Prices are expected to range from $2,500 to more than $100,000 each. The tentative date for the start of the sale is March 1.

They will be sold by Blanchard and Co., 909 Poydras St., Suite 1900, New Orleans, LA 70112, phone (888) 524-2646, Wed address http: //www.blanchardonline.com; Bowers and Merena, Box 1224, Wolfeboro, NH 03894, phone (800) 458-4646, Web address http:// www.bowersandmerena.com; and David Hall's North American Trading, 1936 E Deere Ave., Suite 102, Santa Ana, CA 92705, phone (800) 359-4255, Web address http:// www.davidhall.com.

Additional coins and gold bars will available for purchase over the next two years as they are examined and cataloged by curators. Unique and finest known items will be auctioned by Christie's, and some items will be donated to museums, including the Smithsonian Institution.

Information from the Wall Street Journal was used in this report.

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