A pair of men’s work trousers that auctioneers in New York believe may be the world’s oldest pair of jeans have sold for $114,000, the BBC reported.
The trousers were found in a sunken chest in a shipwreck in 1857 off the coast of North Carolina.
They have five buttons and are believed to have belonged to a miner. The jeans were among 270 pieces of Gold Rush-era memorabilia that sold for a total of nearly $1 million, according to Holabird Western Americana Collections. The auction was held in Reno, Nevada, in the western United States, as well as online on December 3.
“These miner’s jeans are like the first American flag planted on the moon, a historic moment in history,” said Dwight Manley, managing partner of California Gold Marketing Group, which owns the artifacts. “There are no earlier five-button jeans”.
The items originate from the SS Central America, also known as the “Ship of Gold,” an 85-meter steamer that in the 1850s carried passengers to and from Central America to the US East Coast.
The ship sank in a category two hurricane in September 1857, killing 425 of the 578 passengers and crew.
The passengers sank along with about 21 tons of gold coins and artifacts. The shipwreck site was first discovered in 1988.
The men’s work pants were found in a suitcase belonging to John Dement, an Oregon man who may have purchased them in San Francisco, the auction company said.
Levi Strauss made the first pair of blue jeans in San Francisco in 1873, 16 years after the shipwreck that contained the miner’s pants.
But the company’s historian and director of archives, Tracey Panek, told the BBC there was “no connection between Levi Strauss & Co and the trousers from the Reno auction”, nor were they “miner’s work trousers”.
“The pants are not made of denim and were made years before” Levi Strauss patented his blue jeans, she said, adding that button-down pants were common in the 19th century.
The sale comes two months after a pair of vintage Levi’s jeans from the 1980s – found in an abandoned mine shaft in the western US – sold for $76,000 at an auction in New Mexico.