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Nambia Shipwreck Under Government Control
May 23, 2008

Namibia Takes Over From Namdeb

Seems the Namibian Government has Namdeb Diamond Corp. excavation in search of diamonds last month.* After being contacted by the Portuguese Government, Namibian officials have Oranjemund wreck a prime historical site on which they plan to bring in their own archaeologists and technicians to ensure the careful examination and cataloging of all items.

In another arena, the Odyssey Marine vs. Spanish Government case currently making it's way through a Florida court, highlights what can happen when joined parties to shipwreck exploration keep secrets. Odyssey Marine had an agreement with Spain to search for a particular ship, found another wreck site, removed the coins and artifacts, transported them to Gibraltar and flew the back to their home base in Florida, without clarifying the situation to Spain. A year later the Spanish government has done their research and believes they Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes and have made claim to all contents, as that particular ship was Spanish and would have been sailing under Royal flag.

I don't know a great deal about maritime law, nor am I an expert on the Namibian Heritage laws, under which Namibia has laid claim to the Oranjemund wreck site, but I am wondering; if the 500 year old Namibian shipwreck site turns out to be a Royal Portuguese ship, who retains title to it's contents, which include large numbers of both gold and silver Portuguese and Spanish coins, along with eight cannons, 50 ivory elephant tusks, copper ingots, case of the Mercedes a Florida court will decide between Marine Odyssey and the Spanish Government. With the Namibian wreck, it seems there may be better cooperation, at least for the moment, between the four interested parties of Portugal, Namibia, Namdeb and De Beers.

With the large number of significant coins involved, the numismatic community will be watching closely and hoping that these treasured numismatic properties will be handled with care and consideration, both for future researchers and for hopeful sea salvage collectors.

*For more details about the Namibian shipwreck uncovered by Namdeb, check out my archived interview with Lisa Bellavin on Coin Chat Radio!

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About the Author
Tom Michael has been Krause Publications primary market analyst on more than 80 world and United States coin catalogs produced over the last 20 years. He came to KP in 1987 with a bachelor of arts degree in history, a master of arts degree in economics and a history of coin collecting stretching back to the 1960s. He began collecting world coins as a child by asking friends and relatives to bring coins back from overseas trips, visiting flea markets and having his mother watch for foreign coins in her register at the local grocery store. Today he works with a dedicated base of over 200 contributors to provide accurate market values for the five-volume Standard Catalog of World Coins series, as well as many specialty catalogs, including Coins & Currency of the Middle East and the fifth edition of Unusual World Coins.

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