Nearly 300 gold coins discovered nearly 300 years after the famous
1715 Plate Fleet shipwreck are now coming to the market.
The coins are worth an estimated $1 million or more, according to
John Albanese, who brokered the deal between the salvors and the firms
now selling the coins.
More than 200 of the coins were found July 30 and 31, 2015, the
300th anniversary of the hurricane that drove 11 of 12 ships to the
floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
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The treasure was found in only six feet of water just 100 feet from
the beach in Vero Beach, Fla., by salvors working for 1715
Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC.
The discovery was “the largest find of gold coins from the 1715
Plate Fleet wreck in 30 years,” said Brent Brisben, who owns the
Capitana ship that was used during the recovery, and is
co-founder and operator of 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels.
Brisben and 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels in 2010 purchased the treasure
rights to the 1715 Plate Fleet from heirs of Mel Fisher and his
family. Since taking over the rights, Brisben and subcontractors have
recovered more than $6.5 million worth of treasure, he said.
“To be the first person to touch these coins in 300 years, it’s a
magical experience and one I’ll never forget,” Brisben told
World. “To have it happen literally 300 years to the day is pretty
much a magical thing.”
The anniversary find was worth some $4.5 million, Brisben said, and
included 300 gold coins of various sizes, and seven gold Royal
presentation coins (these were specially prepared with the intent of
being used as royal gifts and thus have limited mintages and are
In total, after several salvage efforts, 350 gold coins and nine
Royals were recovered in 2015, with the Royals representing much of
the value. In addition, one of the contractors on June 17, 2015,
discovered 21 coins worth an estimated $1 million.
Some of the coins from all the recoveries were given by the company
to its crewmembers and subcontractors as their share of the
recoveries, and all the large Royal presentation pieces were privately
sold earlier this year to anonymous collectors for an average of
$275,000 each, Brisben said.
The most expensive Royal was sold for $425,000, according to
Brisben. The state of Florida received 1711 and 1712 examples of the
Royal presentation coins as part of its 20 percent reward, for
permanent residence in the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
1715 Plate Fleet history
The fabled 1715 Fleet convoy of 12 ships loaded with New World
treasure set sail for Spain from Havana, Cuba, on July 24, 1715. In
the early morning hours of July 31 a fierce hurricane sank all the
ships except one off the eastern coast of Florida. More than 1,000
people were killed in the storm and resulting shipwrecks.
Famed treasure hunter Kip Wagner in the late 1950s and early 1960s
identified several of the wrecks and began salvage. According to
Brisben, six of the 11 ships have been located, and all remain
The heyday for salvage of these wrecks was the 1960s and, to a
lesser extent, the 1980s, said Brisben.
“That was really the last splashy salvage period on these wrecks,”
Now the treasure comes up in dribs and drabs, said Brisben, adding,
“When you get down there and the bottom is paved with gold it’s a
Brisben began his treasure hunting career with a bang, finding 50
gold and 40 silver coins inside the breech of a three-and-a-half foot
cannon in 2010, just 17 days after purchasing salvage rights.
“I thought, this stuff’s pretty easy — I think I’m going to enjoy
this,“ Brisben said, during a 2015 TEDx talk in Munich.
Some of the coins retrieved from the cannon are coming to market.
Despite his early successes, finding treasure has proved difficult.
Brisben noted that 2011 and 2012 were a “very dry period, with just
four or five gold coins found, though there were some interesting artifacts.”
Things got better in 2013 when salvors found 50 gold 1-escudo coins
at one site. It is rare to find any 1-escudo coin, to begin with, and
even more rare in quantity, and without other denominations in the
cache, he said. Some of those 1-escudo coins are also among the coins
now being sold.
Marketing the treasure
In total, Albanese brokered the sale for 224 coins from the 2015
discoveries, and 71 coins found in 2010 and 2013.
The coins range in denomination from 1 escudo to 8 escudos. They
were struck in Colombia, Mexico and Peru and are dated in the era
between 1692 and 1715, during the reigns of Spanish Kings Charles II
and Philip V.
All but five of the available coins are in Mint State condition.
Highlights include 1712 Peru 8 escudos of Philip V, graded NGC Mint
State 64; a 1711-LM Peru 2 escudos of Philip V, NGC MS-66; and a 1699
Colombia 2 escudos of Charles II (discovered inside the cannon) graded
NGC created special insert labels for the 1715 Fleet coins,
including a special designation for the coins recovered from the cannon.
Company and Monaco Rare Coins are the main firms to sell the
According to a press release, NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg said, “A
quantity of Uncirculated Spanish gold coins such as this simply does
not exist outside of a shipwreck discovery.”
NGC worked directly with the recovery group to not only preserve the
important provenance of these coins, but also the story of their
individual recoveries. For the first time, specific dive missions and
finds are recorded on the NGC certification label, Salzberg said. In
addition to the NGC encapsulation, each coin will be accompanied by a
certificate of authenticity signed by Brisben, along with the
original, numbered archeological tag that was used by the expedition
crew to denote each item as it was discovered and recovered. The
unique tag number is also indicated on the certificate of authenticity
for each coin.
Brisben has a connection to another famous American treasure find:
Brisben’s great-great-great grandfather, Daniel Beaver, died in the
fabled “ship of gold,” the SS
Central America, that sank off
the South Carolina coast in a hurricane in September 1857 while
carrying tons of California Gold Rush coins and gold bars to New York City. VIDEO