The Whydah of 1717: After three decades, the shipwreck continues to impress

Artifacts continue to be pulled from the $400 million shipwreck
By , Coin World
Published : 12/12/16
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In the early 1980s, Barry Clifford and his team of explorers made the discovery of a lifetime when they found the Whydah off the coast of Wellfleet, MA.

Perhaps that term is an overused cliché, but the chances of finding a shipwreck carrying this kind of weight, both literal and historical, is quite low. 

The amazing discovery and recovery effort is the focus of a recent video segment by Great Big Story

The Whydah was a slave ship that was captured by notorious pirate captain “Black Sam” Bellamy in February 1717, just two months before it sank on April 26, 1717. The wreck killed Bellamy and all but two of his 145 men, and took some 4.1 tons of gold, silver, and other pirate treasure down with it. 

So give the pirates a little bit of credit. They knew what they going for.

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Since Clifford's team began recovering items from the shipwreck in 1984, the site has yielded hundreds of thousands of artifacts, including thousands of coins and various precious metals items from the wreck's era.

The findings thus far have been valued at more than $400 million.

Clifford and his team have worked diligently for dozens of years diving, digging, and examining these rare pieces of history with extreme care.

Nearly all of the preserved discoveries are on display at the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, Mass.

“I made a promise to myself early on that I was never going to sell the treasure, that we would keep it all together,” Clifford says in the Great Big Story video. “My crew and my family, and people who have worked with me over the years have all felt the same way about preserving this for our cultural heritage.”

Though it is a very limited hoard for consumers and collectors, a few coins fell through the cracks. Rumored to be among just three available on the private market, a silver 8-real coin struck at the Mexico City Mint during the reign of Philip V appeared in a Daniel Frank Sedwick auction in April 2015.

According to Agustin "Augi" Garcia with the auction firm, early on in the recovery efforts, a small number of coins were distributed to investors and family. Many of those coins were bought back by the salvors, but some were never located and returned. The Sedwick firm has previously sold two other known examples, Garcia said, but "there may be a few more" out there, he said.

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