What is the most expensive pair of jeans you bought in the market? You might be surprised that there’s an item that costs so much more, and its price is $114,000. However, that is the price of a pair of jeans from a shipwreck that recently sold at auction — and it may not be that different from any other pair of Levi’s in your closet.
According to a press release from Holabird Western Americana Collections, the jeans were part of a collection of nearly 300 19th-century artifacts recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was known as “Gold Rush-era heavy-duty work pants,” with a five-button fly design that closely resembles those associated with Levi Strauss jeans, leading Holabird historians to speculate that Strauss himself may have made the jeans during his early years of work.
According to The New York Times, the jeans were discovered in the trunk of a Mexican-American War veteran named John Dement, who worked as a buyer for his family’s mercantile business. Dement traveled frequently and was a survivor of the sinking of Central America.
His trunk was discovered in 1991 and contained various objects such as socks, shirts, and paperback books, many of which survived due to a lack of oxygen, preventing bacterial degradation or biological consumption.
The coveted thick work pants are made of an unknown material and stained brown and black, but given Strauss’ prominence as a dry goods seller during the Gold Rush and the five-button fly, it’s possible he made the pants.
Tracey Panek, director of the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives, said to New York Times that the link between the work pants and Levi Strauss was pure conjecture. Panek discussed that the designs of LS & Co. isn’t similar with the jeans due to the number of buttons, buttonholes, and the fabric used.
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And, while the work pants are now worth more than $100,000, they were among the least valuable items aboard the ship at the time.