'America's Greatest Lost Treasure,' Worth $40 Million, Goes on Display for First Time

It's only a fraction of what was lost on the SS Central America in 1857.

For the first time ever, the public is being offered a chance to take a look at a trove of once-sunken gold that's been called the greatest lost treasure in U.S. history.

The Gold Rush-era steam ship, the SS Central America, went down in an 1857 storm off the coast of South Carolina while en route to New York from San Francisco.

The first incredible haul was uncovered in the late 1980s by a homemade undersea robot piloted by a sea captain who has since been jailed for refusing to disclose to his investors what became of some 500 missing gold coins.

An exhibit at the Long Beach Expo Center in California puts some $40 million worth of the treasures on display, including what was uncovered in a subsequent salvage mission.

These findings include historic gold and silver coins, gold ingots and unopened sacks of gold dust treasure recovered during the 2014 expedition to the 161-year-old Atlantic Ocean site.

"There are dozens of coins this time that are the finest known," Dwight Manley, coin enthusiast and current owner of the sizable booty, told CBS News. "They're like little time capsules every time you hold one — who had it before, what it was for." 

Manley believes each of his coins, which he's putting up for sale, could fetch a few thousand dollars.

The gold bars are worth considerably more.

"The 45 ingots are roughly $12 million," Manley said.

The public showing ends Saturday.