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Treasures Make the News
May 14, 2008

Treasures seem to be making a lot of news these days. It is not just one but three that have come to my attention in the last several days.

The dispute between the Spanish government and Odyssey Marine Exploration goes on over what is claimed to be $500 million in Spanish silver coins taken from what Spain says is the wreck of a naval vessal, the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, sunk in the Atlantic Ocean in 1804.

Hobbyists may be cheering for one side or the other, but the fact is that sooner or later the coins will enter the market.

The legal dispute could stretch on for years in the Florida court handling the matter, though if the coins are indeed from a warship, then Spain would seem to have a very strong case under admiralty law.

A recovery team that planned ahead and got legal title to a wreck in the Gulf of Mexico 60 miles off the Louisiana coast has yielded U.S. gold coins struck at the Southern mints and a nearly complete set of Capped Bust half dollars.

This treasure is smaller. It is valued at $1 million, but U.S. collectors who collect Dahlonega, Charlotte and New Orleans gold will be interested to see the census of the coins recovered even if they don't want to buy them when they become available.

The wreck is of a sidewheel steamer called the SS New York that sank in 1846.

And a subcontractor of the Mel Fisher Center in Florida claims to have found some jewelry from the treasure fleet of 1715 that sank in a hurricane. Not numismatic, but interesting and it puts a name back in the spotlight that has been coming in and out of numismatics for decades, though Mel himself is no longer living.

Stay tuned. Treasure always seems to attract buyers who are willing to pay too much.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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