Million-dollar haul of Spanish treasure discovered in Florida

A 300-year-old Spanish treasure worth more than $1 million, including 52 gold coins, 40 feet of gold chain and 110 silver coins, has been discovered by shipwreck divers off the coast of Florida, National Geographic and other media outlets reported on Tuesday.

The treasure, which belonged to the flagship of a 1715 Spanish treasure fleet, was actually found more than a month ago on June 17. However, it was kept under wraps until it was announced this week, to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the sinking of the fleet, the website noted.

The flagship, the Capitana, was one of 11 ships that was part of Spain’s Tierra Firme and New Spain fleets, which regularly transported gold, silver and other valuable cargo from the country’s territories in the New World to Europe. The ships encountered a hurricane and sank as they were sailing past Florida en route to Spain on July 30 and 31, 1715.

Expedition leader Eric Schmitt and his family had been working with 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC, a Florida company with exclusive rights to the wrecks, for the past several years. The find included a rare coin known as a “Tricentennial Royal,” LiveScience said, and the entire treasure was found just 1,000 feet off the coast of Fort Pierce.

Massive haul may be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg

Schmitt told Nat Geo that his team typically only finds “empty holes” and “beer cans” during their expeditions, but things were different on the morning of June 17. Searching in 15 feet of water at about 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning, they saw a gold coin while cleaning seafloor sand. Schmitt brought it to the attention of 1715 Fleet co-founder Brent Brisben.

Once Brisben saw the discovery he said he was “blown away” and “literally shaking.” Among the coins discovered that day was the Tricentennial Royal, which was special because it was one of the rare coins minted in the day that was perfect in terms of weight and quality. These coins, he explained, were about the size of a silver dollar and would be presented to the king.

According to Gizmodo, Brisben’s salvage company owns the rights to five of the 11 ships that were found by the Schmitt family. All of the treasures discovered are under the jurisdiction of the United States district court of the southern district of Florida, and the state is entitled to 20 percent of anything found by the salvage company or any of its contractors. Once the state had its share, Brisben and the Schmitt family evenly share the remaining haul.

LiveScience added that both Brisben and Schmitt are hopeful that there is even more treasure waiting to be discovered in the waters off the Coast of Florida. The salvage company head said that he estimates there is still roughly $440 million dollars worth of Spanish treasure to be found, including the queen’s jewels, which were part of a dowry the fleet was taking back to Spain.


Feature Image: Front and center is “The Tricentennial Royal”, which was special because it was one of the rare coins minted in the day that was perfect in terms of weight and quality. (Credit: 1715 Fleet Queens Jewels, LLC)