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Confederate bonds sold for $623,000

LONDON -- A collection of 'worthless' Confederate bonds from the Civil War were sold at auction Tuesday to an American coin dealer for $623,000, Sotheby's auction house announced.

The winning bid for the 75,000 bond certificates was received by California coin dealer John Saunders, who bought them with Heritage Rare Coins of Dallas, a spokeswoman for Sotheby's said.

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No other details were known about the buyers.

Saunders' bid was nearly twice the $354,000 Sotheby's expected to receive.

'He said they are going to promote them in America,' the spokeswoman said.

The certificates -- once worth about $60 million -- were originally issued to British and European sympathizers who loaned cash to the Confederate cause in the American Civil War. They became worthless when the Confederacy lost in 1865 and the U.S. government refused to honor the South's debts.

For the past 100 years, the bonds have been stored in a London warehouse that narrowly escaped flooding by the Thames River and bombing by the Germans in World War II.

The certificates are in mint condition and bear illustrations of ships and cotton bales, buildings and landmarks of the Southern states and Confederate soldiers and their leaders in battle or resting by camp fires at night.

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The bonds were controlled by United Kingdom Trustees, which was set up in the 1880s on behalf of the original bondholders to try to obtain compensation.

Profits from the sale will be held in a deposit account and ancestors of the owners will be able to file claims through the courts.

Sotheby's had five telephone bids -- most from the United States. Four people, including Saunders, were in the auction room, the spokeswoman said.

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