More than 50 gold coins and 40 feet of gold chain have been pulled up
from the site of the 1715 Treasure Fleet shipwrecks off the coast of Florida.
The items were located by the treasure-hunting Schmitt
family on June 17 in 15-foot-deep waters approximately 1,000 feet
from the beaches of Fort Pierce, Fla., which is about 30 miles north
of West Palm Beach. In all, 51 gold coins were recovered: 17 8-escudo
coins, 22 2-escudo coins, and 12 1-escudo coins.
One of the 8-escudo coins is particularly notable. Known as a
“Royal,” the gold coin was specifically made for the king of Spain at
the time, Phillip V. Brent Brisben, who owns the company that holds
the salvage rights to the 1715 Treasure Fleet, Queens Jewels LLC, said
the coin would have served as a celebratory piece for the king or
another member of the royal family.
A Queens Jewels release states that the Royal is a “perfect specimen
of the coinage of the period” and is one of only a handful of Royals
that were aboard the ships of the 1715 Treasure Fleet. It is dated
1715, and is being referred to as the “Tricentennial Royal.”
Brisben said that based on past market indicators, the Royal would
be valued at approximately $500,000, and the entire haul at more than
$1 million. He said that the rest of the 8-escudo coins would likely
be valued at between $15,000 and $25,000. He values each 2-centimo
piece at between $4,000 and $5,000, and each 1-escudo piece at between
$3,000 and $4,000.
Brisben said it’s the most notable find during the five years his
company has held the salvage rights, mainly due to the Royal, calling
it “the most amazing find in my tenure.”
The Schmitt family are subcontractors for Queens Jewels. Brisben’s
company offers individuals and groups of treasure-hunters the
opportunity to search the waters where the 1715 Treasure Fleet
wrecked. Once the state of Florida takes the 20 percent of the
artifacts it is entitled to, Queens Jewels and the Schmitt family will
each take half of the remaining 80 percent of the recovery.
“These finds are important not just for their monetary value, but
their historical importance,” Brisben said. “One of our key goals is
to help learn from and preserve history, and this week’s finds draw us
closer to those truths.”
The 1715 Treasure Fleet was a group of 12 treasure-carrying Spanish
galleons bound from Havana to Spain, where the gold they contained
would be used to support the Spanish crown, which was on the brink of
bankruptcy, according to Queens Jewels LLC’s website. On July 30,
1715, a hurricane wrecked 11 of the 12 ships off the coast of Florida,
as they were heading up the Bahama Channel.
Modern salvage efforts began in the late 1950s, according to Queens
Jewels, when building contractor Kip Wagner found a coin on the beach
after a hurricane and was curious about how it got there. Wagner then
located the original Spanish salvage camp, which led him to the
conclusion that the wrecks were likely located near that section of beach.
Well-known treasure hunter Mel Fisher began recovery efforts in 1963
and he or his daughter oversaw recovery operations until 2010, when
Queens Jewels obtained rights.
While much of the treasure was recovered soon after the wrecks,
Brisben said he believes that more than $400 million worth of gold
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