Florida Treasure Hunters Discover Gold Coins Worth $4.5 Million

A group of treasure hunters in Florida have discovered a trove of rare Spanish gold coins, reportedly worth $4.5 million.

Astonishingly, the discovery was made 300 years to the day that a fleet of ships carrying the coins sank while sailing from Havana to Spain, according to the New York Post. The coins were discovered off Vero Beach, Florida on July 30 by a crew working with 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels, a salvage company that owns the rights to the wreckage. Brent Brisben, the company’s owner, noted that the treasure was being transported to the king of Spain when it was lost.

The 350 coins reportedly include nine extremely rare pieces, known as royal eight escudos. Prior to the discovery of those nine, only 20 of the gold coins were known to still exist, as Stuff reports.

William Bartlett, 51, was the diver who spotted the gold while working from Brisben’s boat, S/V Capitana. According to him, the treasure appears as if it were brand new.

“The gold looks like it fell into the water yesterday,” he noted.

The salvage operation which recovered the treasure reportedly took five days, during which the team used the boat’s propeller to move aside sand on the ocean floor, eventually reaching bedrock 8 feet (2.4 meters) down. The gold coins represent just a fraction of the treasure which was being transported by a fleet of 11 ships in 1715, when they encountered a hurricane that ran them upon reefs off Florida’s east coast. Wreckage from the fleet is now spread over a wide area in the region.

Despite his astonishing find, Bartlett isn’t a full-time treasure hunter, instead diving as a hobby. Like many treasure hunters in Florida, he operates under a contract with the salvage company. As such, he is entitled to a share of the treasure he found, after the state of Florida avails itself of its right to 20 percent.

Though impressive, the discovery is hardly the first to be made in the area known as the “Treasure Coast.” In 2013, a family diving off Fort Pierce discovered a gold chain, coins and a ring which were valued at $300,000, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels is the legal custodian of the sunken fleet off the Florida coast, having acquired the rights from the estate of treasure hunter Mel Fisher.

[Photo by Augi Garcia for Daniel Frank Sediwck, LLC via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0]