World Coins

Gold bar from 'Atocha' wreck in Sedwick auction

This 5-pound gold bar recovered from the famous “Atocha” shipwreck sunk in 1622 is up for auction on May 7.

Image courtesy of Daniel Frank Sedwick.

A gold bar from the famous Atocha shipwreck in 1622 highlights Daniel Frank Sedwick’s treasure auction No. 35, scheduled for May 7 to 9 in Winter Park, Florida.

The 5-pound bar is one of the largest gold bars ever recovered from a Spanish colonial shipwreck, in this case the famous treasure galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which sank Sept. 6, 1622, off what is now Key West, Florida.

The gold bar weighs more than 5 pounds (2,274 grams), measures 8.75 inches by 1.5 inches by .75 inches and is composed of .708 fine gold mined in the New World.

The unique bar features eight circular royal tax stamps bearing the King of Spain’s name as PHILIPPVS III and five XVII gold fineness markings indicating the 17-karat composition, according to Connor Falk of the auction firm.  The bar also possesses a single foundry and assayer mark reading SEBATN / ESPANOL at the center, a mark that is both unattributed and found only on two gold bars recovered from the Atocha.

The gold bar’s pre-auction estimate is $200,000 and up.

“This Atocha gold bar is a crowning treasure piece from the most popular salvaged shipwreck treasure ever,” said Daniel Frank Sedwick, owner and founder of the auction firm. “With its high intrinsic value in Spanish colonial gold plus its incredible historical value, it will be a trophy piece for its next owner.”

The gold bar was created in the early 1600s at a Spanish colonial foundry processing gold and silver mined throughout South America.

After being transported overland to Panama City, this gold bar, among others, was loaded in mid-1622 aboard the Atocha.

‘Atocha’ history

The Atocha, a three-masted galleon constructed just two years prior, was bound for mainland Spain, carrying a vast treasure of gold and silver ingots, Colombian emeralds, and silver coins.

When the Atocha departed its final port at Havana, Cuba on Sept. 4, 1622, it was the almiranta, the lead ship, of the 28-ship 1622 Fleet.

The Fleet was a vital link in Spain’s finances, as the gold and silver from the New World funded the royal treasuries. In addition to the treasures on board, the Atocha carried a crew along with soldiers and passengers, around 265 people in all, intending to cross the Atlantic Ocean and return to Europe.

Just two days out from Havana, the Fleet was engulfed by a hurricane while approaching the Florida Straits. Amid the storm, the Atocha was wrecked and torn apart upon a reef off the Florida Keys.

Only five people survived the sinking, having clung to the highest remaining mast of the ship as it sank. The wreck of the Atocha was further scattered just a month later during another storm, preventing the Spanish colonial authorities from salvaging any of her precious cargo spilled across the ocean floor.

The treasure of the Atocha did not see light again until 1971, when the first coins were found by the now-famous salvager Mel Fisher and his divers. Throughout legal battles and personal tragedies, the salvage group eventually recovered the bulk of the treasure in 1985 and thereby unleashed the largest supply of silver cobs and ingots the market has ever seen.

This gold bar will be auctioned along with its photo-certificate issued by the Fisher salvage company in 1985. The bar also boasts a pedigree to the Christie’s Atocha auction of June 1988 as lot 90.

Other ‘Atocha’ treasure

Other treasures from the Atocha in the upcoming Sedwick auction include:
➤ A large silver ingot from Oruro weighing more than 88 troy pounds estimated at $30,000 and up.
➤ A silver ingot from Potosí weighing over 82 troy pounds, estimated at $25,000 and up.
➤ A very rare silver piña ingot, one of only three known from the Atocha, weighing 5,335 grams, estimated at $15,000 and up.
➤ More than 180 silver coins from Potosí, Mexico City, and Lima, including 19 high grade pieces from the Bill Barman Collection of Atocha Research Coins

“To have this amazing gold bar alongside all these other treasure pieces from Atocha in a single auction is a feat not seen on this market in decades,” said Sedwick. “And it won’t be seen again anytime soon.”

The three-day auction will be held live online at auction.sedwickcoins.com.

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