History : Dec 2015-Jan 2016
NEWS 4 DECEMBER 2015/JANUARY 2016 time, regular coins tended to look a bit rough as their mak- ers were more concerned about the weight and quality of gold and silver than their actual appearance. But a certain number of perfect-looking coins, called Royals, were made to be presented to the king. “Typically we excavate emp- ty holes and find beer cans,” says Eric Schmitt, the ship- wreck diver who led the salvage team. Although they ususally come up empty-handed, this time, in 15 feet of water about Shipwreck divers have salvaged gold from the wreck of the Capitana, flagship of a Spanish treasure fleet obliterated off the coast of Florida when a hurricane hit on July 30 and 31, 1715. The hoard included 52 gold coins, 40 feet of gold chain, and 110 silver coins and buttons— all worth over one million dollars. Among the finds was an extremely rare coin called a Tricentennial Royal, worth more than $500,000. At the 1,000 feet off a beach in Fort Pierce, Florida, the divers got lucky. The day started out like any other, Schmitt says. But short- ly after 9 in the morning, a gold coin popped out of the sand he was clearing on the seafloor. The dive team started to shift more sand, and ended up recov- ering the treasure. “It was ab- solutely unreal,” says Schmitt. The current find is probably the company’s biggest at that loca- tion, both in terms of volume and rarity.—Jane J. Lee Spanish Galleon Holds a Royal Find from 1715 An American salvage company uncovers treasure from a wreck almost 300 years after the ship was lost in a hurricane. PHOTO:1715FLEET—QUEENSJEWELSLLC THE FLEET of 11 ships were part of Spain’s Tierra Firme and New Spain fleets, regular convoys of vessels that transported gold, silver, and other precious resources from Spanish colonies to Europe. They were vital to the flow of goods between the Old and New Worlds. ORONOZ/ALBUM THE TRICENTENNIAL ROYAL, an extremely rare gold coin (center), clearly bears the year 1715 and Philip V of Spain’s name in Latin.