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Caught On Tape: The Moment Diver Discovers $1 Million In Gold From 300-Year-Old Spanish Shipwreck

Following the latest mass media assault on gold, capped with such trollbait pearls as "Gold is doomed" or the classic "Let’s Be Honest About Gold: It’s a Pet Rock" by the inimitable Jason Zweig (imitable perhaps only by the September 2011 version of Jason Zweig when, days after gold hit its all time high just shy of $2000, he famously said "Is Gold Cheap? Who Knows? But Gold-Mining Stocks Are"... since then gold-mining stocks are down 80%) we were more shocked that someone would actually bother to look for the worthless pet rocks (of which China allegedly just bought 600 tons) than actually finding them during a random dive in the sea.

Which is precisely what happened.

For several weeks the Schmitt family had a million-dollar secret on their hands. Last month, it recovered $1 million worth of sunken Spanish coins and jewels off the Florida coast.

The Schmitts are subcontractors to 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC which since 2010 has the salvaging rights to a fleet of Spanish ships, aka the "1715 Fleet", that wrecked off the Florida coast some 300 years ago. While $50 million has been pulled in from the fleet’s resting place so far, this is so far the biggest single haul.

"One of the most amazing recoveries in 1715 Fleet History. Congratulations to the entire Schmitt family and the crew of the Aarrr Booty," said 1715 Fleet on its Facebook page Monday.

Some more details from the Fleet Society's website: "Gold and silver in great quantity was homeward bound to Philip V when a hurricane destroyed his fleet along Florida’s coast. Some recovery in the aftermath still left much to be recovered beginning in the 1960’s and ongoing to this day."

“The treasure was actually found a month ago,” said Brent Brisben of 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC. Keeping the news under wraps was “particularly hard for the family that found it. They’ve been beside themselves.”

The timing of 1715 Fleet’s announcement coincides with the 300th anniversary of the Spanish treasure fleet’s shipwrecks off the coast of Florida.

Among the precious items recovered:

  • 51 gold coins
  • 40 feet of ornate gold chain
  • A single coin called a Royal made for the king of Spain, Phillip V. Only a few are known to exist, and the coin — nicknamed “Tricentennial Royal” — is dated 1715. Brisben said the extremely rare silver-dollar-sized coin is worth “probably around half a million dollars itself.”

Queens Jewels owner Brent Brisben told the Daily News this discovery is of the biggest single hauls taken from the ship.

Or, as the WSJ would call it, a whole bunch of pet rocks.

Brisben gives 20% of everything found to the state of Florida and then splits the remaining treasure equally with the contractor that finds it. Brisben said he and his family will keep everything they have and save it for a special collection for the public.

It's believed there is still $400 million worth of treasure located below, he said.

As the WSJ's sister publication, MarketWatch adds, "the discovery comes almost 300 years to the day that the fleet wrecked. As for the history, the ships were sent to America to fetch gold and silver and under pressure to get back quickly, as the Spanish crown needed to replenish its coffers to finance wars. Sailing from Havana, Cuba on July 24, 1715, the ships crashed during a hurricane a week later near present-day Vero Beach, Fla. The Spaniards returned a few times, salvaging a great chunk of that treasure."

Three hundreds years later wars are financed by long strings of 1s and 0s, backed by the full faith of a government whose total unfunded obligations amount to over 5x the total amount of goods and services produced by said government.

Back to the discovery, whose key components are shown below.

Fifty-one gold coins and 40 feet of gold chains were found from a Spanish ship of the 1715 Fleet

The total value of the haul is more than $1 million.

About $50 million worth of treasure has been discovered since the 1960s.

* * *

But the biggest drama was the actual moment when Schmitt discovered the gold, captured conveniently in the video below.