Large gold "tumbaga" bar, 1222 grams, approximately 10K-13K, marked with Emperor Charles V tax stamp

Currency:USD Category:Coins & Paper Money / Shipwreck Ingots Start Price:32,500.00 USD Estimated At:40,000.00 - 80,000.00 USD
Large gold  tumbaga  bar, 1222 grams, approximately 10K-13K, marked with Emperor Charles V tax stamp
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This item SOLD at 2022 May 04 @ 10:58UTC-4 : AST/EDT
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Large gold "tumbaga" bar, 1222 grams, approximately 10K-13K, marked with Emperor Charles V tax stamps and fineness(?) VII, extremely rare, ex-"Tumbaga Wreck" (ca. 1528), ex-Marchiselli, "Tumbaga Saga" Plate. 12" x 1-3/4" x 1/2". Quietly tucked away in a Christie's catalog in 1993 were twelve mixed-fineness "tumbaga" gold bars offered with little fanfare as being from an early, unidentified shipwreck off the Bahamas, with only a hint of their importance as evidence of the first encounters between Old and New World and the melting of metals that resulted, what Dr. Alan Craig later called "the smelting of miscellaneous artifacts of diverse provenances" (Spanish Treasure Bars, 2003, p. 31). The topic clearly demanded in-depth study, which was not provided till our own Augi Garcia published The "Tumbaga Saga" in 2010. Only four of the Christie's gold bars sold in 1993, the rest mysteriously disappearing from the market, although two of the unsold bars have resurfaced in our own auctions in recent years. Original reports by the MAREX group show that their 1992 salvage actually yielded twenty gold "tumbaga" bars, most of which were shown in a photograph on page 18 of the March-April 1998 issue of Treasure Quest magazine, including the present ingot. To our knowledge, none of those additional bars have ever hit the public market until now, the present piece ("front and center" in the photo) having sold privately by us in 1998 to collector Ed Marchiselli, who greatly enjoyed owning such an important piece of history for all these years. Impressive in size and intact (not cut at one or both ends, like most bars), but naturally somewhat coppery in color, this ingot shows no less than nine circular partial tax stamps bearing parts of CAROLVS EMPERADOR [sic] for Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Charles I of Spain), in addition to seven stamps showing the Roman numeral VII in a box, presumed to be the fineness, designed so that it could be cut into at least seven pieces for use as erstwhile coins, each with fineness and tax stamp to show official approval. Problem is, XRF testing shows this bar has quite a bit more gold than 7K, as is the case for the other bars as well, which show similar fineness markings ranging from V-and-three-dots (5-3/4K) to VIII (8K), most being VII like this one. It does not seem that saltwater leaching and surface removal of copper accounts for enough difference in marked and tested finenesses, so perhaps these ingots were fraudulently marked in their time to avoid tax. Where and how the assay sample was removed on the bar is also in question: While one end is "squared off" for the assayer's "bite," that straight part is smooth and rolled, not cleanly chiseled or broken as usual (with a small spot there tested in our time). The final mystery is where the bar was cast--some say Mexico, some say Santo Domingo--but its low fineness is clear evidence of the smelting of native artifacts as opposed to mined and refined gold, and as such this bar and its companions are extremely rare relics of one of the most important series of events in the history of the Western Hemisphere. From the "Tumbaga Wreck" (ca. 1528), pedigreed to the Ed Marchiselli collection, with full-page color photo mapping the markings, plated on page 66 of Agustin Garcia-Barneche's The "Tumbaga Saga" (2nd edition, 2018), a copy of which accompanies this lot.