The 1715 Fleet Shipwreck Coins
Sailing through the Atlantic Ocean in the early 18th century, the 1715 Treasure Fleet, a convoy of ships commissioned by the Spanish crown, was entrusted with the transportation of riches from the New World back to Spain. Composed of 11 galleons laden with gold, silver, jewels, and other valuable cargo, the fleet set sail from Havana, Cuba, in July 1715, destined for Spain. Tragically, disaster struck as the fleet encountered treacherous conditions along the Florida coast. The sinking of the 1715 Treasure Fleet bears immense numismatic interest. During its time, the wreck profoundly impacted Spain's economy and geopolitical standing during that era. The loss of this enormous wealth dealt a severe blow to Spain's financial stability, leading to the decline of its global dominance. The repercussions reverberated throughout the country, leaving an indelible mark on its economic fortunes and diminishing its influence on the world stage.
According to historical accounts, the tragic fate of the 1715 Treasure Fleet resulted in a staggering loss of life, with only a small fraction of the estimated 1,500 casualties managing to survive. Among the fleet, a solitary vessel named "Le Grifton" miraculously escaped the perils and successfully returned to Europe. In contrast, the remaining ships fell victim to looting by pirates and sank to the depths of the ocean due to a hurricane. Following this calamity, coins and artifacts from the fleet began to wash up on nearby shores, hinting at the magnitude of the treasures within.
Salvage operations were conducted over several years by the Spaniards, who received assistance from local indigenous people. They managed to recover nearly half of the registered treasure from ships resting in shallow waters accessible to divers. A salvagers' encampment was established, and a storehouse was built near the beach. However, in 1716, British freebooters led by Henry Jennings raided the storehouse, absconding with a substantial amount of the treasure. Despite this setback, the Spaniards continued their salvage efforts until 1719 when they decided to cease operations. The remaining treasure lay untouched on the ocean floor for centuries until the advent of modern salvage endeavors (Sedwick). In subsequent years, starting as early as 1960, coins from the 1715 Treasure Fleet began to circulate among collectors and museums. Exhibits such as the notable "Explorer's Hall" in 1967 showcased these historic artifacts, captivating audiences with tales of the sunken treasure. In a remarkable development, a significant hoard of 1715 fleet coins, valued at over four million dollars, was discovered in 2015. This remarkable find, known as the Corrigan wreck, provided a way for collectors to access the treasure.
Denominations and Clusters
The gold single through eight Escudo coins from the 1715 Treasure Fleet undeniably hold a special place in the hearts of collectors. These coins, sought after for their historical significance, tend to fetch the highest premiums in the market. They are considered the focal point of what the 1715 Fleet represents – a symbol of wealth and treasure.
Before a market was established for Spanish Escudo cob coins, they were a rarity in private collections. Acquiring one of these coins was a daunting task, often accompanied by a hefty price tag. Many of the available coins at the time were problem coins that had undergone mounting or repair. However, with the arrival of the 1715 fleet, the scenario changed dramatically. The fleet had in store nearly “10,000 gold cobs and 100,000 silver cobs from the Mexico, Peru, and Colombia mints, gold jewels, Chinese porcelain, silverware, gold and silver ingots” (Sedwick). These coins primarily dated from 1700 to 1715, but some even had earlier dates. The presence of these rare gold coins in larger quantities made them more attainable on the open market. As a result, individuals were able to purchase them without having to resort to extreme financial measures.
Despite their increased availability, the value of these coins has remained strong over time. They continue to command high prices, particularly for examples that are well-preserved and in good condition. Coins that are currently on the market represent the height of Spanish culture in this era. Many of the coin varieties were rare or entirely unknown before the discovery. The enduring demand for the gold Escudo coins from the 1715 Treasure Fleet reflects their significance to collectors, and their allure among the general public. These coins have become an attractive investment option for all hobbyists to enjoy and allure.
A small assembly of coins found in the ocean belonging to the 1715 Fleet
For collectors seeking a more affordable option, the silver 8 Reales coins from the 1715 Treasure Fleet offer a plentiful choice. These coins are often found in large quantities, albeit with corrosion or saltwater damage due to their time spent underwater. It is common to find these silver coins stuck together and available in various denominations.
When purchasing any shipwreck coin, including the 1715 Fleet coins, it is crucial to ensure that proper documentation is provided, detailing the provenance of the coins. Unfortunately, there have been instances where coins have been falsely claimed to be from the 1715 Fleet in order to command higher premiums. In such cases, certification becomes necessary to guarantee the authenticity and origin of the coins.
Apart from the larger 8 Reales pieces, there are also fractional denominations available, including the ½ Reale. These smaller coins offer a more affordable option for collectors who wish to amass a diverse collection of coins from the 1715 Fleet. They provide an accessible entry point into the world of 1715 Fleet coin collecting, allowing enthusiasts to build a comprehensive collection without breaking the bank.
Cob 8 Reale of the 1715 Fleet
Courtesy of Frank Sedwick LLC
Article By. Colby J. Abele