In the Beginning . . . there were the Shipwrecks
There I was, watching the History Channel, when up popped the commercial about "The Ship of Gold". It told about the recovery of $100,000,000 in gold from the S.S. Central America which sank in 1857. Now I too could own a piece of this exciting treasure simply by calling the number on my screen.
I didn't collect coins, so my interest wasn't about the coins. It was about the historical link to a tragic event in history that grabbed me by the collar. I had to have a piece of shipwreck treasure! But gold is expensive, and I wasn't ready to pay thousands of dollars for a coin, even if it was from a shipwreck. So I Googled "shipwrecks" and "gold" to see if I could learn more. That was when I learned about another shipwreck, the S.S. Republic, which sank in 1865.
Odyssey Marine Exploration was the company that recovered the treasure from the S.S. Republic. The difference between this shipwreck and the S.S. Central America was that there were also tens of thousands of silver half dollars recovered. Finally, I could have a piece of shipwreck treasure without paying thousands of dollars.
Another search on Google came up with more than a few coin dealers selling the S.S. Republic half dollars. They were priced from $999 up to over $1,500. Hmm? Still a little expensive for one of these coins, even if it did come from the bottom of the ocean where it sat for 140 years. But then I discovered the coins on ebay. A quick look at the history showed that occasionally you could get one of these coins for as low as $900. You just had to be patient.
So each time a nice one of the coins was auctioned on ebay, I put in my maximum bid of $900. The first few auctions I did not win, but as luck would have it, I eventually won one. It went for my maximum bid of $900. (Later, dealers would sell these as low as $800, so I guess I wasn't patient enough) When I received the coin, I thought it was beautiful. It came with a nice cherry wood display box along with the National Geographic special about the recovery of the treasure on DVD.
The coin was slabbed (what is that?) by NGC (who is NGC?) and designated as "Shipwreck Effect" (what does that mean?) instead of a grade (what is grading?). These were all questions that, at the time, I not only did not know the answer, I didn't even know to ask them. All I knew was that I had a piece of the treasure and I loved it. (Very cool!)
But as it turned out, this coin was the start of my interest in numismatics and the start of my collecting coins; I just didn't know it yet.