World Coins

Shipwreck silver and gold treasure soars in Sedwick sale

The lone Royal silver 8-real cob from the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet (right) realized $46,500 and a gold bar (left) recovered from the “Atocha” shipwreck realized $66,000 during Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC’s May 7, 8 and 10 auction.

Images courtesy of Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC.

Shipwreck treasure continues to excite bidders, if the results to Daniel Frank Sedwick LLC’s May 7, 8 and 10 auction are any indication.

Strong bids for rare world and shipwreck coins surpassed $4.07 million in the auction, the firm’s 29th.

This is a new record for the auction firm and an indicator of a robust market for collectible coins and currency, the firm said.

“Results for Latin American coins were outstanding and record-breaking,” said Daniel Frank Sedwick, president and founder of the company, “Given low mintages and survival rates, I believe collectors realize that their opportunity to own some of the finest examples may only come that one time during our auction — and they are bidding accordingly.”

One of the shipwreck coin highlights is the 1714-J Royal silver 8-real cob from Mexico City.

Graded About Uncirculated details, environmental damage by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., the coin sold for $46,500, including the 20 percent buyer’s fee.

One of four fully round examples known, the coin is the only known Royal 8-real cob recovered from the 1715 Plate Fleet, as opposed to a “pseudo-Royal” on a nonround planchet struck with Royal dies. That pseudo-Royal sold as lot 5336 in Bowers & Ruddy’s February 1977 auction.

Curiously, all the five known examples (including the pseudo-Royal) are struck from the same obverse die married with three different reverse dies (two with upright flower at top in reverse legend and one with the flower in an X-shaped orientation), according to the auction house. 

“Fortunately, the shipwreck provenance did not result in much corrosive loss on the surface of the present piece, although the reverse is a bit more darkly toned, and the entire shape of the coin is intact and fully detailed, including the rims (not to mention it has no hole or plug like most Royals),” according to the auction house.

The sharply tidy design of these 1714 Royals is clearly the beginning of a new style that continued into 1715 and cannot be confused with any prior dates (despite some overdate rumors stemming from some minor die-chips around the 4 on the obverse die).

While gold Royals clearly rule the top of the pile, this coin is the ultimate silver coin from the 1715 Fleet, the auction house said.

The coin weighs 26.39 grams and is pedigreed to Isaac Rudman Numismatic Cabinet and the Superior auction of August 1983 (lot 912).

Coins were not the only items to star in the auction.

Gold bar highlight

A 22.25-karat (.927 fine) gold bar from Colombia, recovered in 1985 by salvager Mel Fisher from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Atocha, realized more than double its start price to sell for $66,000, including the 20 percent buyer’s fee.

The bar weighs 358 grams, and measures 5 inches long, 1 inch wide and a quarter-inch thick.

According to the firm, “This is the highest-karat Atocha gold bar we have seen (besides the unofficial ‘church’ bars, which are quite different), correspondingly somewhat compact in length and height but with top surface wide enough to allow for lots of markings, including four each of the tax stamps and fineness (the latter also typically manifest as lightly scratched numerals on the surface) and one assayer/foundry cartouche that links this bar to the gold mine (foundry) at Zaragoza, Colombia, and an assayer (or similar official) whose exact name has not been determined (the letters of which were monogrammed together to make ‘PECARTA’).”

Zaragoza, on the shores of the Rio Nechi in the province of Antioquia, was home to one of the most prolific gold mines in the early 1600s, producing some 20 million pesos of gold from 1590 to 1645, and was represented by a caja real (royal treasury office) since 1582.

One end of this bar is thicker and narrower, with smoothly chiseled cut (tiny) and cylindrical assayer’s “bite,” while the other end shows two clean, small cuts from its time.

The bottom of the bar (as smooth as the top) was stamped “11” by the salvors and then re-stamped “66.” This bar is additionally desirable as being listed on the ship’s manifest (“p. 3 item 14”). All in all, an attractive bar in a manageable size.

Its connection to the most famous Spanish colonial shipwreck gives it an unmatched cachet, as seen by the sales result.

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