What happened to the gold from the S.S. Central America?
December 15, 2016 7:41 PM   Subscribe

Thompson’s investors, who originally expected to make tens of millions of dollars from the venture, said that they believe he had hundreds of gold coins secreted in a trust account for his children. At first, their search for the coins looked promising. Thompson pleaded guilty to contempt of court in April 2015, according to the Columbus Dispatch. He said the coins were in Belize and agreed to reveal their exact location.

But that didn’t happen.
posted by Chrysostom (8 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Don't tell anybody!
posted by oceanjesse at 8:09 PM on December 15, 2016

I read a good book on it. Interesting to see how it ended up in real life.
posted by Samizdata at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

This one, FWIW.
posted by Samizdata at 8:28 PM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Read that one too, Samizdata, and enjoyed the hell out of it. Sorry that the real life denoument has played out as it has.
posted by mosk at 8:32 PM on December 15, 2016

Ship of Gold, yes I read that too. The WaPo article doesn't mention if either the US Government or the Spanish government want their cut of the treasure trove. But bilking the investors who funded the project, that's not cool.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:33 PM on December 15, 2016

At least Ship of Gold splits the narrative between the description of the historical events leading up to the shipwreck and its survivors with the present-day story of Tommy Thompson's search & discovery of the wreck site. I haven't re-read it recently, but I think it will still hold up as a one of the great historical-disaster novels. Too bad about Thompson though -- the book made it clear that he was fairly eccentric, but it seemed like it was in a 'mad genius' kind of way, didn't expect him to turn thieving double-crosser.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:59 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sad ending to a great story. If I recall correctly Thompson helped to pioneer new search methodologies for locating wrecks like this.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2016

Another reader of Ship of Gold here (who knew there were so many of us?. I also have Thompson's own follow-up book, "America's Lost Treasure" which is mostly a photographic log of the activities of the recovery effort, and lots of "money shots" of the loot.

Another aspect that is worthy of note: I suspect that most of the accountings of "how much was stolen" refer simply to the weight & value of the gold. But the real value is far, FAR greater. We're talking about THOUSANDS of uncirculated gold coins and ingots.

Consider this: an 1887 Liberty Head Double Eagle ($20 coin at the time) has a gold value today of about $1,100. But the collector value of the coin in near-mint condition is closer to $90,000.

They recovered many, many hundreds of such coins, all of which were found, still neatly stacked, at the bottom of the ocean, in unblemished condition.

I have no idea what got into Thompson (though I know it was an HUGE clusterfuck while they were trying to establish ownership of the salvage.) but the story is utterly fascinating.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:37 AM on December 17, 2016

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