Spanish coin surfaces on Brevard County beach after Hurricane Nicole
BONSTEEL PARK, Florida. – In the world of TV news, you never know when you’re going to stumble upon an unexpected story (it actually goes with the territory).
Such was the case Thursday morning when News 6 reporter James Sparvero was on his way from one Nicole story to another. He passed a group of people walking on Bonsteel Park Beach about 2 miles north of Sebastian Inlet. The group, armed with metal detectors, were treasure hunters looking for anything uncovered by the hurricane’s strong winds and beach erosion.
And, you guessed it, at least one person thinks he’s grown up.
The image below shows an inauspicious piece of blackish-green metal that could be an old Spanish coin worth around $400. And oddly enough, coins from this vintage are worth more in their natural state than cleaned.
But where does this piece come from? Is the east coast of Florida a secret haven for Spanish plunder?
Why yes it is.
James and the Unnamed Treasure Hunter think that Nicole may have caused enough beach erosion to help anyone with patience and a decent metal detector find remnants of 18th century shipwrecks. Specifically, treasure hunters in this part of the state are still on the hunt for coins and jewelry from ships from 1715 (and to a lesser extent, 1733).
On On July 31, 1715, a flotilla of Spanish ships ran into a hurricane off the east coast of Florida.
The Treasure Fleet or Plate Fleet of 1715 (plate comes from the Spanish word plata which translates into English as the word silver) had left Cuba to return to Europe laden with gold, silver, tobacco and other wealth of the New World. Eleven of the 12 ships were lost at sea; the 12th ship, a French warship named Le Griffon, returned to Europe because the captain sailed through the storm rather than letting the storm push his ship ashore.
Eighteen years later, another fleet of Spanish ships sank in a similar location.
Although the Spanish were able to salvage some of their precious cargo, the two wrecks were largely forgotten for the next two centuries until a group of men discovered 3,500–4,000 silver coins on January 8, 1961, in what became known as Cabin Wreck. The men had previously formed a society known as the The Real Eight Company, Inc. and they are generally credited with starting the modern scavenger hunt on Florida’s east coast.
But even with the great transport of the Real Eight and others since, people continue to seek more Spanish riches, coins and jewelry that could be worth billions.
Of the eleven ships that sank in 1715, only seven have been recovered. One of 1715 ships found, the Urca of Lima, which was discovered in 1928, is protected as a Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve (a 1733 ship named the San-Pedro is also protected). Still missing from 1715 are the Santa Rita y Animas, the Maria Galante, the El Señor San Miguel and the El Ciervo.
The Maria Galante and the Sana Rita y Animas are thought to be somewhere off Cape Canaveral. Historians believe, however, that the El Señor San Miguel and the El Ciervo could be as far north of Brevard County as Amelia Island (near the Florida-Georgia border).
With four ships still waiting to be found and an unknown amount of gold and silver still buried near the Florida coast, treasure hunters armed with metal detectors will continue to roam the beaches, especially after the Atlantic coast hurricanes.
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