Treasure of the Spanish Main

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Recently a rather important anniversary slipped by the 1715 Fleet community (including me ) unnoticed. It was 50 years ago on February 4, 1967 that the famous “Treasure of the Spanish Main” auction took place at the Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York. The sale consisted of 331 lots of major treasures recovered by the Real Eight Company from the wreck sites of the 1715 Fleet.

The first session of the auction started promptly at 10:30 am on Saturday, February 4. There were 100 lots in this session all of which were artifacts including, but not limited to, ship’s equipment, navigational instruments, utensils, jewelry, ingots and porcelain. These items sold for a combined total of $104,195.00 including the famous Dragon Whistle (Lot 21) which itself sold for an astonishing (at that time) sum of $50,000.00.

The second session at 1:45PM in the afternoon consisted of gold and silver coins (cobs) from the Spanish colonial mints of Mexico City, Lima, Santa Fe de Bogota and Potosi. Consisting of 221 lots the total sales from this session was $123,375.00. When you consider that recent auctions of this nature gross millions of dollars it is remarkable indeed that the total amount realized from this historic auction was a mere $227,570.00! With all of the iconic artifacts and coins sold at this auction one can only wonder how much these items would realize today.

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Ben Costello

Ben Costello is a director of the 1715 Fleet Society and an attorney in Washington, PA.

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