Gold Coins of The Treasure Coast
Florida’s “Treasure Coast” name was most likely coined in the early 1960’s as a result of treasure found along Florida’s coast by treasure salvers Kip Wagner and Mel Fisher. Kip Wagner, recovered the first pieces of gold and silver from the 1715 fleet in January 1961, near the Sebastian Inlet. By the end of 1964, Wagner and Fisher had brought up about $3 million in gold and silver coins, jewelry and artifacts. From that time on major finds along the coast from Jupiter to Sebastian have produced fantastic quantities of Spanish Colonial coinage in both gold and silver for collectors. Thus appropriately giving validity to the name Florida’s Treasure Coast. Since all of these type coins most likely circulated in colonial America, at one time or another, we include them here along with Florida’s vast and varied forms of currency. The museum houses one of the most complete type sets of treasure coins in gold, including one of the five known 1622 Colombian 2 escudos from the Atocha treasure ship, found off of Key West by Mel Fisher. This is considered to be the first gold coin minted in the America’s. Our collection of gold coins from the 1715 fleet includes two of the famous “Royals” 8 escudos in superb condition, struck to be presentation pieces possibly for King Phillip V, of Spain. For more information on the 1715 fleet, be sure to visit the “1715 Fleet Society site” at www.1715fleetsociety.com
Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Our Lady of Atocha”) was the most famous of a fleet of Spanish ships that sank in 1622 off the Florida Keys while carrying copper, silver, gold, tobacco, gems, jewels, jewelry, and indigo from Spanish ports at Cartagena and Porto Bello in New Granada (current Colombia and Panama, respectively) and Havana bound for Spain. The ship was named for the parish of Atocha in Madrid.
An unfortunate series of complications kept the Atocha in Veracruz before she could rendezvous in Havana with the vessels of the Tierra Firme (Mainland) Fleet. The treasure arriving by mule to Panama City was so immense that summer in 1622 that it took 2 months to record and load the precious cargo on the Atocha. After still more delays in Havana, what was ultimately a 28-ship convoy did not manage to depart for Spain until 4 September 1622, six weeks behind schedule.
On 6 September, the Atocha was driven by a severe hurricane onto the coral reefs near the Dry Tortugas, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Key West. With her hull badly damaged, the vessel quickly sank, drowning everyone on board except for three sailors and two slaves.
After the surviving ships brought the news of the disaster back to Havana, Spanish authorities dispatched another five ships to salvage the Atocha and the Santa Margarita, which had run aground near where the Atocha sank. The Atocha had sunk in approximately 55 feet of water, making it difficult for divers to retrieve any of the cargo or guns from the ship. A second hurricane in October of that year made attempts at salvage even more difficult by scattering the wreckage of the ship still further.
The Spaniards undertook salvage operations for several years, with the use of Indian slaves, and they recovered nearly half of the registered part of the vast treasure from the holds of the Margarita. The principal method used by the Spanish for the recovery of this cargo was a large brass diving bell with a glass window on one side: a slave would ride to the bottom, recover an item, and return to the surface by being hauled up by the men on deck. It was often lethal, but more or less effective. Dead slaves were recorded as a business expense by the captains of salvage ships.
The loss of the 1622 fleet had an immediate impact on Spain, forcing it to borrow more to finance its role in the Thirty Years’ War and to sell several galleons to raise funds. While their efforts over the next 10 years to salvage the Margarita were successful, the Spanish never located the Atocha.
Bartolomé García de Nodal, explorer of the Straits of Magellan surrounding Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, died on 5 September 1622 in the wreck of the Atocha, 30 leagues from Havana, Cuba.
1622 Colombia 2 Escusdo
First Gold Coin of The Americas
1 of only 5 known to exist
The 1715 Treasure Fleet was a Spanish treasure fleet returning from the New World to Spain. In the evening of July 30, 1715, seven days after departing from Havana, Cuba, eleven of the twelve ships of this fleet were lost in a hurricane near present day Vero Beach, Florida. Because the fleet was carrying silver, it is also known as the 1715 Plate Fleet (plata being the Spanish word for silver plate).Some artifacts and even coins still wash up on Florida beaches from time to time.
Around 1,000 sailors perished while a small number survived on lifeboats. Many ships, including pirates, took part in the initial salvage. Initially a privateer, Henry Jennings was first accused of piracy for attacking such salvage ships and claiming their salvages.
Colombia: 1706 2 Escudos
Peru: Charles II Lima Mint
Lima, Peru, cob 2 escudos, 1701H, Posthumous Charles II, very rare. Choice pillars-side details with bold date (far superior to the stat of Florida collection specimen, which may be the only other one known), full butt slightly off-center cross with king’s ordinal II in legend, lustrous Mint State with dark orange sediment in crevices, desirable certificate. From the Corrigans site of the 1715 Fleet.
Peru: Charles II Cuzco Mint
Peru: Philip V Lima Mint
Viceroyalty of El Peru, Lima 1712 M eight escudos. Large planchet, boldly struck, great color and luster, wonderfully centered. Choice Mint State NGC MS 62 1715 Plate Fleet. Legend date reads ANO 711.
For some reason when in 1712 the Lima Mint resumes adding a second date in the legend, the die cutters (talladores) had a very difficult time correctly spacing ANO 712. In one well known variety they ended up punching the crown over the 2. In another variety they tried to wedge a half-size 2 between the 1 and crown. In this case the blunder was even worse. Initially the tallador punched in ANO 721. That had to be corrected, despite the fact that re-graving weakened the die. The tallador polished out the misplaced 2 and punched a 1 over it. Unfortunately, he mis-angled the 1 and positioned it too far to the right. At that point he realized that there was not going to be enough space to cleanly erase the (already partially erased) final 1 and replace it with a 2. More re-engraving may well have caused the die to fail. So the tallador had to quit at this point and hope that the tesorero or assayer Melgareojo or someone in the Viceroy’s office didn’t notice his little “ANO 711” mistake.
Finest known Peru Escudo. This 1703 is the only one graded of the 344 minted.
Mexico: Charles II
Viceroyalty of Nueva Espana, Mexico City MXo L 4 Escudos (169)5. From the 1715 Fleet.
A choice mint state Box-end Cross design with an exceptional Hapsburg Shield and crown. NGC MS 61 1715 Plate Fleet. This media onza was one of the stars of grandest Real 8 auction, Spanish Galleon Treasure, conducted in November 1972 by Hans Schulman. As lot 38 and (mis)dated 1693, it was touted as the earliest Mexican four escudos recovered from the Fleet. Alas, we know now it is not the earliest- a 1694 has surfaced- but it is one of only five datable Mexican media onzas from the entire Carlos II era (1679-1701). Second 1695 has also surfaced (Tauler 84), struck from the same dies as the present coin. A three digit date can be read on that coin, 695, confirming the somewhat weak 5 on this example.
It is remarkable that any mint state Carlos II media onzas have survived, all salvaged from the Nieves site of the 1715 Fleet. Someone was probably returning to Spain after 20 years of colonial service. Gold coins he had been setting aside since the 1690’s were traveling with him, but then a July 1715 Florida hurricane put paid to those plans. Before the Fleet salvages, only the XF specimen was known to Lopez-Sanchez in his monograph on the series. This minty 1695 is certainly one of the finest Carlos II media onzas. It shows the Hapsburg-style crown and a nearly complete shield on a lustrous, large, well centered planchet.
Mexico: Royal Coinage 8 Escudos
Finest of 2 KNOWN (Philip V)
Mexico: Philip V 1713 MXO J
Mexico City, Mexico, Cob 1 escudo, 1711J, “1712 style” reverse, Royal-like, from the 1715 Fleet, NGC MS 65, Finest known specimen.
Unusually broad flan, nearly round and with full inner details (shield and oXMJ, cross with “ears” -style ornaments in quadrants) and bold full date, much crown and legend. This coin features prominently in a famous photo by John De Bry of an example of a military decoration known as the order of the Holy Spirit that HRD recovered in 1988.
Viceroyalty of Nueva Espana, Mexico City Mxo J 1713 One Escudo. From the 1715 Plate Fleet. Cross with crosslets design (1711-13).
Well struck and lustrous, with coral and a reddish toning so often found on 1713-14 Mexican escudos recovered from Douglas Beach (the Nieves site). Gold was often transported in heavy leather sacks which slowly decayed in the ocean leaving a reddish-orange film on the coins from their tanning acids. Orignally sold by Real 8 in their biggest auction, Schulman’s Spanish Galleon Treasure, November 1972, lot 279. Conservatively graded by NGC as MS 62 1715 Plate Fleet (none higher).
No accurate census exists yet of the surviving 1713 Mexico one escudos. The Florida State Collection has three. The Gold Cobs census records four in the marketplace, but probably others exist. An estimate of a half dozen collectible dated specimens cannot be far off the mark. The cross-with-crosslets design began in mid-1711 to replace the ornate crosses of 1711 and in turn gave way in 1714 to the simplified standard cross.
Viceroyalty of Nueva Espana, Mexico City Mxo (1702 L) One Escudo. From the 1715 Fleet.
A choice mint state example of the box-end Cross style of the Mexican one escudo, struck from 1700 to 1710. A beautifully centered Bourbon shield pairs with an almost complete Box-end tressure and cross, better by far than any in the Florida State Collection. By style and from the base of the last digit at 11 o’clock, we can be sure of its attribution to 1702, which was the first year Mexico City struck coinage in the name of Philip V. NGC MS 63 1715 Plate Fleet.
The Box-end Cross design appeared suddenly in 1700, replacing the jeweled and Plain Cross issue that had been struck since 1679. It is a conspicuous design change for which we have no explanation beyond the obvious fact that the Box-end Cross design is simpler to engrave. Instead of framing the crossbars within a right-angled tressure (as on the previous issue), the crossbar are now attached to the tressure, forming four rectangles at the ends of the cross arms. The simple Box-end design was abandoned in 1711 in favor of two much more elaborate cross designs, which lasted only three years before Mexico City reverted to the simple cross and a new Spanish-style tressure of 1714 through 1732.
Mexico: Philip V 1714 MO J
1714 date with “J” punch for the “1” in the date. Finest Known
Normal 1714 date
Mexico: Philip V 1715 MO J
Before and after conservation (Obverse)
Before and after conservation (Reverse)
(17)15J Mexico 4 Escudos, Coral encrusted as from the 1715 Fleet.
1715 Rare Date (Philip V)
This was the only year that the assayer, Cristobal Melgrejo altered both sides of the Gold Cobs. The “front” or pillar side has horizontal rows separated by “Dots” versus the typical “lines”. Cristobal also added dots flanking the letters and numbers inside the “Panels”. The reverse (Cross Side) he added 12 more “Tear drops or drops of blood dripping out of the cross.” This is the ONLY year this was done hence the “Single Year Type”. It is commonly believed by Authors and field specialists that the “Blood Drops” or the “Blood Cross” was almost certainly done as a memorial (Commemorative) piece and in mourning for the loss of the 1715 Plate Fleet, which was the largest in Spain’s history.
During the Third Seminole War, army paymaster Major Jeremiah Yellot Dashiell was traveling to Fort Capron on the Indian River on the east coast of Florida with a leather pouch containing $23,000 in gold that had been withdrawn from the sub-treasury in Charleston, South Carolina. On May 1, 1857, Dashiell’s schooner transport had to anchor outside the Indian River Inlet because sandbars made it too hazardous for the ship to pass through the inlet. Dashiell boarded a small boat for the trip to the fort, but a freak wave swamped the boat. Although the passengers were saved, the leather pouch sank to the bottom of the inlet and was swallowed by “quicksand” , and could not be recovered. Major Dashiell applied to Congress for relief from responsibility from the loss, which was apparently granted, but a few weeks later in 1857 he suffered a mysterious theft of $13,000 in gold while staying overnight at a hotel in Palatka, Florida. The Federal government concluded that Major Dashiell was either extremely unlucky or extremely crooked, and dismissed him from service on July 10, 1858. Later, during the Civil War, Dashiell held the rank of colonel while he served the State of Texas as adjutant-general and inspector-general. After the war he lived in San Antonio and edited the Herald. His application in 1888 for a pension from the Federal government on the basis of service in the Mexican War was refused because of the circumstances of his discharge from the army in 1858.
106 years later two Ft Pierce locals–Ft Capron is located in modern Ft Pierce, Florida– were lobster hunting just north of the inlet. The morning of March 10, 1963 was not yielding many lobsters but then Al Ashley and the teenage Jim Gordy noticed a funny looking reef. Its top and lee side looked like they were paved in gold. In fact, they were! Over 3000 US gold coins, the entire Fort Capron payroll, were lying there in about 12 feet of water, waiting for someone to come and recover them. On July 2, 1964, James Gordy’s father, Ken F. Gordy, obtained a lease from the State of Florida to salvage the coins under the standard terms of three quarters to the finders with the remaining quarter to the State.
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Notes & Currency
- 18__ Fernandina $3 Obsolete Note
- 1882 $50 Jacksonville Note Charter #3869
- 1902 $10 Punta Gorda Note Charter #10512
- 1882 $5 Palatka Note Charter #3223
- 1902 $5 Key West Note Charter #7942