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Detectives they're not

Spain has committed an act of war against Panama. Did you miss it on the news?

Last Thursday a Spanish patrol ship intercepted the vessel, the Ocean Alert owned by Odyssey Marine Exploration, in international waters after it had left the port of Gibraltar. The ship is registered in Panama and by marine law is the affronted party.

Coin collectors are interested because this is the latest salvo in a fight about sunken treasure.

On May 17 Odyssey Marine announced that it had found the treasure, but did not identify the lost ship.

Spanish authorities are seething because they figure a plot is afoot to grab treasure from an old Spanish warship to which it has rights under international law.

It uses as its evidence photos of coins that seem to show Spanish or Spanish colonial 8 reales coins.

As collectors know, that is pretty flimsy, but greed knows no bounds. Spanish coins were the international currency of the world in the 17th and 18th centuries. Through its colonies its mines produced vast silver supplies that colonial mints poured forth as coins and sent back to Spain. The coins were so common, that they were the currency of choice for the 13 colonies that declared their independence from England in 1776. Colonial paper currency promised to pay Spanish milled dollars and the basis of the U.S. dollar was the Spanish milled dollar, which is the 8 reales.

The United States melted and assayed the 8 reales to determine what the U.S. dollar should be. Because they were off slightly, the U.S. dollar was just a tad lighter than the Spanish version.

Collectors know just because Spanish coinage is present on a ship doesn’t make the ship Spanish.

Is it surprising that Odyssey Marine would want to keep its find’s location secret? Well, if you find something of great value in international waters and you cannot anchor a security force there 24 hours a day, what would you do?

Spanish authorities have already sued the company over the matter, but apparently the legal process is not fast enough.

Perhaps the U.S. government can start seizing hoards of U.S. currency wherever they are found in the world under the supposition that they must be originally stolen from us somewhere.

Oh, these notes circulate freely around the world?

Tell that to the Spanish government about its historic coins.

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One Response to Detectives they're not

  1. Joh Amrhein, Jr. says:

    Yes, Spain is at it again. They are emboldened by their victory in 2000 when they were awarded title to two Spanish warships named La Galga and the Juno.

    In 1997, a treasure hunter, inspired by coin finds on the beaches of Assateague Island, filed claim to two Spanish warships in federal court. One was La Galga which wrecked in 1750, and the other the Juno which sank in 1802. Both ships are real but historical research contradicts his believed discoveries. Neither Spain nor the judge knew anything about the history of the piece of eight and its usage in American commerce. But it was a handful of Spanish coins which cinched the deal. Spanish coins have been found all up and down Assateague Island and Ocean City, MD. The popularity of these coins in nineteenth century commerce is demonstrated in an article in the Baltimore Clipper of October 31, 1839, which said that around 1820, Spanish dollars were as common as American half-dollars were in that year of 1839. This was long after the loss of the Juno.

    In an amazing coincidence, this author, after six years of historical research, is set to release The Hidden Galleon. In this book you will read that La Galga was actually discovered in 1983 by this author, and it is buried under the island just as legend describes, and not in the ocean as the over-anxious treasure hunter wanted to believe. The book also documents that the Juno sank hundreds of miles away from the wreck awarded Spain.

    The author is not new to the misconception assumed by some that Spanish coins prove that there must be a Spanish shipwreck. In 1977, when a conman had heard of Spanish coins dating to 1820 had been found on the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, he was inspired to fabricate a compelling and entertaining story about a Spanish ship he called the San Lorenzo. Even the National Park Service was duped. He claimed in published sources that not only did the San Lorenzo wreck in 1820 with a huge cargo of gold and silver, but he also put forth that the world famous wild ponies of Assateague Island along the Maryland and Virginia coast had originated from this non-existent wreck. To lure unsuspecting investors into his scheme, he actually had his treasure hunting company claim the wreck in federal court followed by a claim by the State of Maryland, whereupon the bogus shipwreck was then awarded to the State. Investors in that case lost a small fortune while the con man walked, even after being exposed by this author.

    The piece of eight was accepted as legal tender in this country until 1857 when Congress passed a law which called for the discontinued use of the coin and it being melted down to make American silver coins. This fact goes largely unnoticed by the modern beachcomber and novice treasure hunter. Beware of the modern pirate who may seduce you with these common but historic coins.

    The author is a maritime historian who learned the hard way about these coins. In his book, The Hidden Galleon, you will read about his adventures and the misadventures of others.

    For more on this story visit thehiddengalleon.com and gibfocus.gi/ details_todaysnews.php?id=2571

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