The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 16, April 19, 2015, Article 32


Arthur Shippee and Philip Mernick forwarded this BBC News article about the salvage of a long-lost WWII coin treasure. Thanks! -Editor

City of Cairo coin cache

A British-led team has recovered a $50m (£34m; €47m) trove of silver coins that has lain on the seabed since the steamship carrying it from Bombay to England was sunk in 1942.

The SS City of Cairo was torpedoed 772km (480 miles) south of St Helena by a German U-boat and sank to 5,150m.

The 100 tonnes of coins, recovered in the deepest salvage operation in history, belonged to HM Treasury.

The silver rupees had been called in by London to help fund the war effort. But they never made it. The steamship's tall plume of smoke was spotted by a U-boat on 6 November 1942 and it was torpedoed.

Ten minutes later, amid efforts to abandon ship, the City of Cairo was hit with a second torpedo which sealed its fate.

The ship and its cargo was presumed lost until 2011, when a team led by British salvage expert John Kingsford located an unnatural object among the ridges and canyons of their South Atlantic search area.

The coins have now been melted down in the UK and sold, with the undisclosed sum divided between the treasury - which technically owns the coins - and the salvagers, who take a percentage of the sale.

The salvage was completed in September 2013, but DOS has only now been given permission by the Ministry of Transport to announce it.

Have ALL the coins indeed been melted down already? What a shame if none have been saved. Surely more money could have been raised; better examples would have certainly brought much more than melt value. -Editor

Philip adds:

I guess they have all been melted - the Government is not in the Numismatic business, if we ignore the activities of the Royal Mint! Anyway, sorting and cleaning 8.5 million (my calculation) coins might not have been considered a viable proposition. My calculations suggest that $50 million dollars is the value at current silver prices ($16 per troy ounce) - back in 2013 the price was much higher although volatile, starting at about $50 per troy ounce but falling to $34 by the end of the year.

To read the complete article, see:
Record dive rescues $50m wartime silver from ocean floor (

David Sundman forwarded this version of the story from The Times. Thanks. -Editor

On November 6, 1942, the steamer City of Cairo was on a desperate mission. From across the empire, Whitehall had called in Britain’s remaining riches to fund a war that still felt like a threat to its very existence.

Steaming across the Atlantic, midway through a perilous journey that began in India and took it around the Cape of Good Hope, the merchant ship was carrying 100 tonnes of silver rupees to pay for British food and arms. They were not to reach their destination.

Spotted by a U-boat and torpedoed, the City of Cairo was fatally holed. The U-boat captain surfaced amid the lifeboats and pointed them towards the nearest land: Saint Helena, 500 miles away, or, as far again but harder to miss, Namibia. “Goodnight,” he said, “and sorry for sinking you.”

To read the complete article, see:
Three-mile dive plucks £50m in rupees from ship sunk by U-boat (

Dick Hanscom and Heather Schena forwarded this story from the Daily Mail, which includes some additional images. Here are a couple. Thanks! -Editor

City of Cairo rupee

City of Cairo coin pile

To read the complete article, see:
£34million hoard of silver coins sent to the bottom of the sea by the Nazis is discovered aboard sunken steamboat at a record depth of 17,000ft by British treasure hunters (

Georges Depeyrot forwarded a link to the original story (with even more photos) on the Deep Ocean Search site. Thanks! -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Deep Ocean Search (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster