World Coins

Silver bars from 1740 shipwreck in Schulman sale

Close-up shows VOC imprint on one of four silver bars recovered from the wreck of the Rooswijk offered in Schulman B.V.’s July 28 auction.

Images courtesy of Schulman B.V.

Silver bars helped facilitate trade between the Netherlands and Asia in the 1600 and 1700s, through the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company).

A shipwreck in 1740 left countless numbers of those silver bars at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of England.

Schulman B.V.’s auction No. 372, scheduled for July 28, offers four of them to collectors seeking artifacts of global trading history.

From 1602 till 1799 a complicated trade network developed as the VOC expanded its presence in Asia.

Ships filled with Asian spices and textile returned to Amsterdam to be sold on the Dutch market. However, what did the Netherlands offer Asia in trade?

The answer turned out to be silver and gold, and though coins initially composed this bounty, silver bars were added in 1646, according to the auction firm.

Rooswijk wreck

The four bars in the auction were harvested from the wreck of the Rooswijk, which sailed from Texel, the Netherlands, to Jakarta (Indonesia).

This was only the ship’s second trip to Batavia, having been built in 1737 in the Amsterdam shipyard.

On Jan. 8, 1740, it set sail, but one day later it hit a sandbank (Goodwin Sands) off the coast of England and sank. The captain of the ship was Daniel Ronzieres.

The wreck was discovered by an amateur diver and was recovered in 2004, and the treasure was sold in December 2005.

The bars show the logo of the VOC, with a capital A above it, indicating they were made in Amsterdam. Underneath is the coat of arms with a climbing buck to the left, and the assayer’s mark.

The silver bars (whose fineness is not declared) weigh from 1,935 grams to 1,964 grams, and each has an estimate of €3,000 ($3,151 U.S.).


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