World Coins

Relic medal in Sedwick auction uses salvaged silver from shipwreck

A silver medal of the time marks the 1687 salvage and recovery from the wreck site of the Concepción, north of Hispaniola.

Images courtesy of Daniel Frank Sedwick LLC.

For some collectors, there is nothing like the allure of coins or metal recovered from shipwrecks. 

Such pieces are assets not for the designs or rarity of the coins but for what happened to them after they were minted. In rare cases, as for a highlight from Daniel Frank Sedwick LLC’s Oct. 29 auction, a piece combines such material with further meaning.

A large silver medal from Great Britain honors the salvage of the Nuestra Señora de la Limpia y Pura Concepción, a Spanish treasure ship that wrecked in 1641, northeast of Hispaniola. This piece was struck in 1687 from metal salvors recovered from the wreck’s cargo, making it a relic medal.

The Concepción was one of the most significant Spanish wrecks of all time, serving the Spanish with a loss of more than 100 tons of silver and gold treasure, according to the auction house. 

The Concepción was already compromised when it got caught in a storm on the way to Europe, becoming grounded on a reef in an area that became known as the Silver Shoals. Most of the sailors eventually drowned or starved, but the admiral and some of the officers escaped via longboat. 

The wreck was lost until New England’s William Phips (or Phipps) found it in 1687 and recovered tons of silver and some gold, to the delight of his English backers (Phips was knighted for his efforts).

King James II and his wife, Mary, the queen, appear on the obverse of this medal designed by engraver George Bower. A salvage scene is on the reverse. 

The 66.84-gram medal is toned About Uncirculated, according to the firm, and was once in the Virgil Brand Collection. 

It has an estimate of $1,500 to $2,250.

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