Bob Evans is best known for his involvement in the recovery of the S.S. Central America, more popularly referred to as the “Ship of Gold”. Since the autumn of 1983 Bob has been on the front line of matters related to that famous shipwreck, its story, and its treasure. The founder of the project recruited him to augment historical research already begun, leading to a search plan for the legendary treasure ship. With an academic background in geology and science he became the Chief Scientist and Historian of “the project”. Since science and history are part and parcel of numismatics, he naturally became the numismatist on point for all the treasure. In his role as scientist and historian, he played a critical part in curating the gold and silver coins recovered from that historic shipwreck site.
Located in 1988, the S.S. Central America was lost in a hurricane about 150 miles off of the Carolina coast on September 12, 1857. Bound for New York with a shipment of California gold coins and ingots the shipwreck lay undisturbed in 7200 feet of water until recovery efforts began in 1988.
As Curator, Bob Evans personally examined and cared for each coin as it passed through the laboratory. Inasmuch as the overwhelming bulk of the gold coins were freshly minted or lightly circulated, $20.00 double eagles made at the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, Bob was able to identify 37 different reverse die varieties from within a remarkable sample of over 6,000 specimens. His findings about the eight different 1857 varieties were published in The Numismatist, vol. 113, number 7, July 2000. He wrote another award-winning article about the S.S. Central America and the treasure, “Lessons from the Past,” which appeared in The Numismatist, vol. 121, number 4. April 2008.
From his work on the S.S. Central America, he has developed an expertise in mid-19th century American numismatics which is a natural outgrowth of his role as Historian for that project. In a special edition of Coin World (marking 60 years of Coin World Magazine) Bob was named among Coin World’s 60 “Most Influential People in Numismatics 1960-2020”.
Most recently, Bob concluded an exciting part of the S.S. Central America story when he curated the last group of $20.00 double eagles from a degraded box that was picked up from the seabed in 1991.
The last mystery of the treasure.
As Bob explains:
“It was quite a curatorial challenge balancing all the physical and chemical factors in stabilizing, storing, displaying and transporting the box of coins around the country for those displays. In the past couple of years the piece had demineralized to the point where it could no longer be moved without the coins disaggregating and shifting around. They each weigh over a troy ounce….very heavy for coins.”
One of the two largest coin grading services (for coins) has released a video showing the unpacking of the degraded box of $20.00 double eagles recovered from the seabed in 1991.
Bob now spends his time on his Ohio farm with his wife Jane. In addition to ongoing work with the S.S. Central America, professional consulting, and the farming, he also has a number of outside interests including, but not limited to, bird-watching and music (he is an active pianist).
Bob fits the image of a true Renaissance Man…highly educated, a gentleman, cultured in the arts and charismatic. We are truly honored to have him in the Society and pleased to profile him.