Karl H. Goodpaster was a conservator for the Real Eight Company. In the 1960’s he developed a presentation that included a slide show. What follows is that presentation including his slides which have been digitally enhanced and reformatted for greater clarity. Along with the photographs is the actual written presentation that Mr. Goodpaster wrote. The flavor of his presentation is summed up in this tidbit from his notes: “I will attempt to show you in this presentation a cross section of artifacts that have been recovered from the clutches of the sea and some idea of the value, both historical and intrinsic, placed on these items.” A copy of his actual type written notes and comments follow these photographs. We have attempted to remain as true as possible to the original text but some grammatical changes were necessary.
Biography of Karl H. Goodpaster
Like many of the Real Eight people, Karl Worked For NASA (safety engineer in the Launch Support division) and hunted for treasure in his off hours. While we do not know much about Karl’s official role with Real Eight, we do know that he devised their coin-cleaning techniques and also did some early marketing and promotion.
When the first finds were made on the 1715 Fleet, the salvagers had little idea as to how to clean and preserve the coins and artifacts, but Karl came along With a proprietary technique and chemical formula. While we do not know what his formula was exactly, we can tell you that the coins in his estate demonstrate some skill, as almost all of them show a lovely “gunmetal” toning, kind of a chrome color, dark but shiny at the same time, that is rarely seen but highly sought today. It appears Karl also had the “pick of the litter” in terms of quality of coins to start with, as every coin in his estate is full weight (or nearly so) and uncorroded, with a preponderance of visible mint marks, assayers, denominations and even partial dates, not to mention interesting planchet shapes. Perhaps he acquired an entire chest and cleaned it all himself. Whatever the situation, the fact is that fresh offerings of choice coins with early Real Eight connections like this do not come around often any more, and the popularity for such coins has skyrocketed in recent years.
Mr. Goodpaster’s documents also reveal his role in early marketing and promotion, as he went to New York to check out Stack’s and Schulman (the latter of whom eventually held one of the most important 1715 Fleet auctions of all time) and some private dealers, most of whom told him that nobody cared about cobs at that time. After that, naturally his next stop was jewelers closer to home, but unfortunately we do not have any further connection between him and the marketing efforts.
The documents in Karl’s estate also show that he contacted the State of Florida on his own behalf for the rights to a 1715 Fleet site within one of Real Eighth lease areas. Karl had found some coins “on the beach” (including what has to be the world’s finest Mexican 8 reales 1702) and wanted to do his own salvaging; it is unclear as to whether he was still involved with Real Eight at this point. As we have seen time and again, when you get into the real “behind the scenes” aspect of treasure hunting, you tend to see some real drama!
Above it all, it is clear that Karl had a genuine passion For the 1715 Fleet. Among his non-coin possessions offered here is a slide show with notes that he used for talks and demonstrations. It was very organized and meticulous, and his slides include some incredible specimens, like a 1714 Royal 8 escudos. You can almost relive his presentation today from what he left behind.
This Biography courtesy of Daniel Frank Sedwick, Winter Park , Florida
Published in Treasure Auction #7 Catalog (Page 9)
by Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC. April 7-9 2010
The Karl H. Goodpaster Slide Presentation with Commentary
Sunken treasure – it’s real and I’d like to tell you a little more about it. Diving for archaeological treasures in sunken hulks reminds one of an underwater buzzard picking at the carcasses of old ships. The flotsam and jetsam salvaged are then lifted as artifacts.
There is an aura of romance about diving for treasure that vanishes just as soon as work begins. There is nothing similar. It is like trying to tear up an old road bed with a toothpick.
In and beneath the concrete-like substance that is too hard to pump and too soft to pick, we try to recover fragile objects imbedded in the hard ocean floor.
All the while the surge from the ground swells, sweeping the divers like empty gunny sacks.
We provoke many, and answer a few, archaeological questions. I will attempt to show you in this presentation a cross section of artifacts that have been recovered from the clutches of the sea and give you some idea of the value, both historical and intrinsic, placed on these items.
$50,000 dollars for 5 minutes work! The “Dragon Necklace” 11 ft 4 1/2 inches of finely wrought gold chain, made up of 2,176 flower shaped links weighing nearly half a pound.
The pendant from the chain is a golden dragon about the size of a man’s thumb. From the dragons belly opens a gold toothpick, the tail forms an ear cleaning spoon. When you blow into the half open mouth, the dragon emits a shrill whistle. The Dragon necklace was not recovered in the water but on the beach and is the single most beautiful and valuable find yet given up by the sunken galleons on the Florida Coast.
Other gold chains have been recovered. This one is smaller than the first, 8 feet 5 inches and from it hangs…
(continued from prior slide)… a small glass-paned pendent with a gold filigree. Sea water has discolored the glass making it opaque.
However, the dim outlines of a miniature portrait can still be seen. Remarkable after over two and a half centuries of immersion in the sea.
Spain’s imperial grandeur imprints a golden doubloon. About the size of a silver dollar, it is here enlarged to show markings. “Phillip V, By the Grace of God, 1714,” reads the outer ring of lettering. “M” at left signifies minting in Mexico City. “J” is the mark of the assayer, Jose Eustaquio de Leon. “VIII” tells the value, eight escudos. The shield combined coats of arms of Spain’s provinces and possessions. Fleur-de-lis of the Bourbons, the King’s family, fills the center. Castle tower in upper left symbolizes Castile. Rampant lion at top represents Leon. Followed at the bottom by the Low Countries, and Spanish Netherlands. Vertical bars at top right denote Argon. Elongated bars with cross beams stand for Naples and Italy.
Coins of this type are valued at over 10,000 dollars today. Gold, a noble metal, remains untouched even by 250 years in salt water.
Artifacts of silver and silver coins are another story. These coins have sulfided and present this appearance when they are recovered.
At times a clump or cluster of silver coins will be found. The outermost layer of these coins is totally blackened, but by a treatment called electrolytic reduction, a solution of zinc and caustic soda reconverts the corrosion to metallic silver. Coins in the center of the clumps remain almost untouched. Some are as bright and undamaged as the day they were minted.
These angular coins look crude compared to the well-minted coins of other eras. Part of their fascination, however, lies in their irregularity. No two coins are alike. Each piece was chiseled from a flat bar of silver then stamped with the royal coat of arms on one side and a cross on the other. The mark “M” on many coins identifies them of the Mexico City mint. In the home country these cobs were probably to be re-minted into more regular coins. For this reason and because of shipwreck and the scarcity of transport during the War of Spanish Succession, museums and collectors own few examples of New World cobs from the 1700-1715 period.
Depending on their condition and the amount of detail shown, these coins can fetch from $20 each to $1,000 for a prime dated specimen.
Sometimes you find everything but the kitchen sink. Here is part of the dining room at least…
(continued from prior slide)… Silver fork used at a grandees table.
A seven pound biscuit of gold bears the stamp XI, which the finders believe to be an inventory number. Other ingots bearing Roman numerals (VII, VIII, IX and XIII) have been brought up. Uncovered beneath six feet of ocean floor, the ingot contains metal worth an estimated $3,000… only a fraction of it’s value as a museum piece. Surrounding spatters of pure gold could have spilled from the pot of British freebooters who attempted to melt down coins recovered from the Plate Fleet wrecks. The bits lay in the sand and scrub near other evidences of a camp established by the Spanish salvagers, which pirates later raided and sacked.
To me some of the most fascinating prizes have been pieces of seaman’s equipment from the far off-day. We turned up three pairs of brass navigation dividers, one still in working condition….
…and a 20-pound sounding lead, dated 1712, that is almost an exact counterpart of the weight still in use today… a striking example of the functionalism of a sailor’s tools, as well as the conservatism in the ways of the sea.
Here we have a set of bronze weights nested like graduated cups. These were used to measure the amount of gold and silver in each coin minted.
In a basket load of litter sent up from the bottom one day we found a lime-encrusted fist-size lump, which when exposed to a metal detector spoke strangely. The next basket brought up five wedges of blackened silver. Laid in a circle eight inches in diameter, the wedges made a silver “pie” with a gap for the encrusted piece. Three layers of these “pies” would fill a small keg, a lOO pound load for an Indian bearer. Two barrels made a full load for a donkey.
Here are two round ingots, one weighing three pounds and the other eight pounds, of solid gold. Here is a 26-pound ingot of silver and a two foot long silver bar dated 1659. There are gold rings…
….religious medallions, and a collection of gold coins. But this is only a sampling. We now estimate our total finds at more than a million dollars. But when I look back on our struggles over the years, the money value seems almost meaningless. The real treasure lies in our having touched hands with history. Slowly we are filling gaps in the knowledge of the Plate Fleets. And we have only begun. We have definitely located several more wrecks, and in coming years we hope to fit together more pieces of the puzzle.
The excitement of the search, even the months of waiting and despair, have provided moments that could not be bought. Every find comes as a gift from the sea, and our best reward will always be the unforgettable thrill of discovery.