1715 Plate Fleet still resonates three centuries after its loss

COINWORLD | By Colin Sallee | August 28, 2015

Hundreds of coins rest with a piece of bedrock shortly after they were pulled from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Vero Beach, FL.
Hundreds of coins rest with a piece of bedrock shortly after they
were pulled from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Vero Beach, FL.

Fleet destroyed by hurricane 300 years ago continues to yield gold coins

Coins, artifacts and other treasures are hardly a mainstay in the national American media. Most reporters have bigger fish to fry or simply don’t care.

However, the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet, also known as the Treasure Fleet, has piqued global and national interest over the last few weeks with a find of more than 350 gold coins that the finders value at around $4.5 million.

“The attention has been worldwide,” Queens Jewels CEO Brent Brisben said. “It’s been quite a magical summer. I’ve spoken to BBC in London, done interviews from folks in Japan, Germany, and Australia. It’s been crazy. Here in the states, the likes of NPR, PBS, CBS This Morning have all been intrigued. I’ve gotten e-mails from all over the world, from people of all ages and walks of life. They can’t seem to get enough of it.”

Royal coins, dozens of other prized pieces flow out and around an Olive Jar that was pulled from the 1715 Fleet.
Royal coins, dozens of other prized pieces flow out and around an Olive Jar that was pulled from the 1715 Fleet.

The latest 350 coins were reported as recovered on July 30, the 300th anniversary of the 11-ship wreck caused by a hurricane that hit the fleet off the coast of Florida while it was making its way from Havana back to Spain with a large load of gold and silver.

The latest haul includes nine gold coins known as Royals that were struck specifically for Spain’s king at the time of the wreck, Phillip V. With each of those coins valued by the finders at $300,000, Brisben estimates the total haul to be worth $4.5 million. According to a Queens Jewels release, the nine Royals found recently represent 30 percent of all such examples known to exist.

The 350-coin find occurred only weeks after a Queens Jewels subcontractor discovered what the finders estimate as being about $1 million worth of gold, in the form of a long chain or rope and several coins, including one Royal.

Queens Jewels, the 5-year-old company that took over the Fleet-salvage operations from storied treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his family, had some immediate success upon taking on the venture.

Members of the Fleet salvage mission share some of the finer coins that wer found earlier this summer.
Members of the Fleet salvage mission share some of the finer coins that were found earlier this summer.

“Just 17 days after we took over the mission a few years ago, we found some very significant stuff,” Brisben says.

In addition to the Royal coins, the firm says it has found, during its ongoing salvage efforts, anchors, a silver sword handle, cannons, guns, a hulking iron hook, a rare swivel gun, and 40 feet of gold rope. According to Brisben, there’s plenty more where that came from.

“These artifacts are one-of-a-kind. There hasn’t been a Royal coin found anywhere in the Atlantic since 1998,” until the recent discoveries. “And we’ve got nine of them right here off the coast of Vero Beach, priced at roughly $300,000 each. It’s quite staggering.”

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