Our Treasure of the Month for February is a bit deceptive. The featured item is a coin together with a Certificate of Authenticity. Naturally one would assume that there is something special about the coin that merits including it as our Treasure of the Month. However, it is not the coin that is special. It is the certificate that accompanies it. The certificate is special because it is the only one that we know of that is unique to Kip Wagner. 1715 Fleet aficionados know that Kip Wagner was the catalyst that precipitated the recovery of the treasures of the 1715 Fleet that continues to this very day. He, together with a band of like minded adventurers, formed the Real Eight Company in 1961. Under the auspices of that company they recovered the bulk of the treasure left behind after the destruction of the Fleet in a hurricane in 1715.
Coins recovered by the Real Eight Company were sold together with a certificate that attested to the coins’ authenticity. These certificates (or “certs” as they are called) were universally issued by the Real Eight Company and were signed by any number of members of that group. It is common to see certificates signed on behalf of the Company by Kip Wagner himself. However, upon close inspection, it can be seen that our featured certificate does not mention the Real Eight Company at all.This is quite odd. As this certificate is a recent discovery (we have never seen one before) it raises the question of when was it issued and why.
As to when it was issued, it would appear that these particular certificates were issued sometime after 1966. This can be confirmed by the certificate itself, as it mentions that Kip Wagner was the author of the book “Pieces of Eight”. This book went into production in October, 1966 so this certificate obviously post-dates that publication. As to why these were issued, the answer is more complex. The certificate notes that “the 250-year old lost Spanish Treasure fleet sank off the coast of Florida on July 24, 1715”. In actuality, the Fleet was lost on July 31, 1715 a fact that was well known to Kip Wagner. Why would he make such an obvious mistake on a personal certificate? It is called “ Kip Wagner’s Treasure Certificate” which means that it came from him personally and not through the Real Eight Company. Also, there is the strange notation that a John L. Lester and James McNamara are authorized to encircle the coin at the time of purchase. Why would Kip Wagner authorize other people to outline the coin and sign the certificate along with Kip Wagner? Obviously, Kip Wagner had a special arrangement with these other men, but why??
The answer may lie in the fact that by the early 1970’s Kip Wagner had left the Real Eight Company. Perhaps he created these special certificates after that. We may never know. But the fact remains that this certificate is a rare find. How many actually survive is unknown. Perhaps another will surface after this story circulates. Only time will tell!
Many thanks to Fleet Society member Dave Crooks who provided the images of the certificate and the coin that was attached to it. He says that the coin and certificate were purchased by an individual at a flea market and subsequently sold to him, which he then provided to us.