Sunken Spanish colonial gold discovered on 300th anniversary of fleet’s demise offered for the first time
Nearly 300 gold coins discovered 300 years after the infamous shipwreck of the 1715 Treasure Fleet have entered the numismatic marketplace for the first time alongside coins from previous Spanish expeditions.
John Albanese, a coin dealer from Bedminster, N.J., brokered the deal to acquire the never-before-offered coins, which he says are worth at least $1 million USD ($1.32 million Cdn.).
“These historic treasure fleet gold pieces have been examined, authenticated and graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC),” said Albanese. “All but five are Mint State (MS), and one recovered treasure coin is graded NGC MS-66.”
The coins coins from the legendary 1715 Treasure Fleet were recovered during last year’s 300th anniversary of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane that sank 11 of the fleet’s 12 ships.
On July 31, 2015—exactly 300 years to the day of the fleet’s sinking—the historic shipwreck recovery company 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels made the discovery, and international headlines. The treasure was found in less than two metres of water and only 30 metres from the shore in Vero Beach, Fla.
The coins range in denomination from one escudo to eight escudos. They were struck in Colombia, Mexico and Peru and are dated between 1692 and 1715, during the reigns of the Spanish kings Charles II and Philip V.
Highlights include a 1712 Peru 8 escudos of Philip V, graded NGC MS-64; a 1711 Peru LM 2 escudos of Philip V Peru, NGC MS-66; and a 1699 Colombia 2 escudos of Charles II, NGC MS-64, that was discovered by 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels inside a recovered bronze cannon.
“In addition to the 224 coins discovered in 2015 by 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels, there are 71 shipwreck coins from the 1715 Fleet found during their two earlier underwater expeditions in 2010 and 2013 that now will also be available to collectors for the first time,” said Albanese. “The combined estimated market value of the 295 treasure coins is more than $1 million.”
1715 FLEET-QUEENS JEWELS
1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels is a group of Florida-based shipwreck salvagers who, since 2010, have focused their attention on the exploration and recovery of the famous Spanish treasure fleets convoy.
“Our goal is to bring the amazing story of the 1715 Plate Fleet to the public,” said Brent Brisben, company co-founder and operations manager. “We hope the recovery of these incredibly rare artifacts will help educate people about Spanish colonization of the New World and life on the high seas in 1715.”
Brisben called the discovery of gold and silver coins in sunken cannon an “amazing recovery.”
“For decades, treasure hunters have told tales of treasure hidden inside of cannons, but our recovery was the first time the tale was ever validated,” he explained. “We recovered a three-and-a-half foot bronze rail gun, the first bronze rail/swivel cannon ever recovered from the 1715 Fleet. We discovered 50 gold and 40 silver coins in the breech of the cannon.”
The fabled 1715 Fleet convoy of 12 ships loaded with New World treasure set sail from Havana, Cuba to Spain 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 a thousand people were killed in the storm and resulting shipwrecks.
On July 31, 2015, the 300th anniversary of that historic day, 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels recovered 350 gold coins, including nine extremely rare Royals. Some of the coins were given by the company to its crew-members and subcontractors as their share of the recoveries, and all the large Royals presentation pieces were privately sold earlier this year to anonymous collectors for an average of $275,000 USD a piece.
“We have owned the exclusive salvage rights to the 1715 Fleet since 2010. We have never previously sold a single gold coin from our recoveries,” said Brisben. “The story of the fleet is an amazing tale which really provides the fascination with these coins.”
Interestingly, Brisben’s great-great-great grandfather, Daniel Beaver, died in another famous shipwreck, the fabled “ship of gold,” the SS Central America, which 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.
SPECIAL INSERT LABELS
NGC has created special insert labels for the 1715 Fleet coins, including a special designation for the coins recovered from the cannon.
“Coinage of the 1715 Fleet offers up rare riches, providing researchers a unique opportunity to study the trade and transport of the day and gives collectors the chance to acquire a high-grade example of a coin from the golden shipwreck treasure of lore,” said NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg. “A quantity of uncirculated Spanish gold coins such as this simply does not exist outside of a shipwreck discovery.”
Salzberg said NGC worked directly with the recovery group to “not only preserve the important provenance of these coins, but also the story of their individual recovery.” It’s the first time specific dive missions and finds are referenced on an NGC certification label.
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 used by the expedition crew to denote each item as it was discovered and recovered. The unique tag number is indicated on the certificate of authenticity for each coin.