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The Oldest Known Jeans Were Discovered in a Shipwreck and Just Sold For an Astronomical Price

The pants were among 270 artifacts sold at the auction.


A shipwreck struck gold thanks to a pair of pants.

Courtesy of Holabird Western Americana Collections/

The oldest known pair of jeans were among 270 Gold Rush-era artifacts discovered on board the 1857 shipwreck of the S.S. Central America or "Ship of Gold" off the coast of North Carolina in 2014.

The items, including the lid of a Wells Fargo & Co. treasure box and an 1849 Colt pocket pistol, sold for nearly $1 million, while the pants alone sold for a whopping $114,000 at Holabird Western Americana Collections in Reno, Nevada.

The pants, which look like white miner's pants with a five-button fly, had some believing they had ties to Levi Strauss — but he didn't manufacture his first pair of jeans until 16 years after the wreckage in 1873, per CBS News.

Other historians have suggested the pants were an early prototype of the signature jeans we know today, but Levi's Historian and Archive Director, Tracey Panek, shut down those theories in an email to the Associated Press, saying the origin theories are "speculation," and that the "pants are not Levi's nor do I believe they are miner's work pants."

Despite the discrepancy over the pant's origin, they still mark a huge milestone for Gold Rush artifacts along with the rest of the items found on the ship.

"There has never been anything like the scope of these recovered artifacts, which represented a time capsule of daily life during the Gold Rush," said Fred Holabird, president of the auction company, told CBS News.

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