The Early Spanish-American Mints
and Their Coinages 1536—1773

By Sewall Menzel 

(Published by the American Numismatic Society, 2004)

As the leading English language work in the field, the book has some 484 referenced (Archives of the Indies, Seville, Spain, etc.) pages and over 4,000 photos and diagrams covering the ten early Spanish colonial mints in the Americas (Mexico, Santo Domingo, Lima, Potosí, Santa Fé de Bogotá, Cartagena, Cuzco, Panamá, Guatemala, and Cuba) and their coinages: 1536—1773. The Numismatic Literary Guild's choice as the best specialized book in world coins (2005), it is in use by dealers, collectors, auction houses, museums, treasure hunters, historians, and nautical archaeologists the world over.
To order:
American Numismatic Society
PH: (212) 571-4470 (book store)
PRICE: $125 (list) in hard cover
(ANS member 30% discount: $87.50)

The Practical Book of Cobs
by Daniel & Frank Sedwick
This popular book has been out of print since 1995 and unavailable for a number of years now, so this [fourth] edition should be a most welcome addition to the market! Greatly expanded from the previous edition (more than 100 pages longer!), this 20th Anniversary Edition contains a long new section on the shipwrecks that have yielded cobs over the years, complete with a foldout map and specified bibliographies for each wreck. Also, the assayer section incorporates the latest research information, with specimen photos of most of the assayers (not separated into a photo section as before). The values in the back, of course, have been updated. What has not changed, however, is the appeal to both beginners and advanced collectors alike, as well as dealers and jewelers who work with cobs.

The Practical Book of Cobs offers readers a look at the following topics:

Historical background / Elements of design / Market values / Extensive bibliography / Complete ID of mint marks, assayers, and period / How cobs were made and used / Treasure Fleets and other shipwrecks that produced cobs / How to buy and sell, and how to spot counterfeits.

Soft cover, perfect binding, 8.5” x 5.5” format, 253 pages. Order directly from the author: Daniel Frank Sedwick / P. O. Box 1964 / Winter Park, FL 32790-1964 / USA; PH: 407-975-3325; FAX: 407-975-3327; or

$25.00 plus shipping: $2.00 by Media Mail; $5.00 by Priority Mail; $16.00 Express the US.

Foreign: Please e-mail or call for exact rate.


3 November 1993—10 March 2006

“Michael Christopher Abt, Jr., without any warning, died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) on March 10, 2006 at the age of 12 years. He was a perfectly healthy, happy, active and fit young man. The day he died, he was on the PE field at his school, and he just collapsed onto the ground.

“It is for this reason that my husband Michael Sr. and I have started a trust fund in the name of our son, “The Michael Abt, Jr. Have A Heart Fund” to provide AEDs (Automatic Emergency Defibrillators) to public schools nationwide. It is our belief that this simple machine may have been able to save Michael’s life. The funds from this foundation will provide AEDs to schools which do not already have them as well as secondary units to schools with large campuses. These devices weigh less than two pounds and cost approximately $1,500 each.

“Just as important as the presence of the AED is the necessity to educate the staff of the schools in how to maintain and use them. The funds raised for this foundation will also provide advanced education for school health aides (who are grossly underpaid) and training for all school staff in the use of these life-saving machines. It is said that they are so simple to use that a ten-year-old could learn to operate one in less than ten minutes. The key to successful use of an AED is a plan of action.

“If you wish to donate to this fund, an account has been set up with the Indian River National Bank in Sebastian, Florida. Checks should be made out to “The Michael Abt, Jr. Have A Heart Fund” and could be mailed directly to the bank or to the address below.

“If you are unable to donate to this fund, we understand completely. However, whether you decide to donate to this fund or not, we urge any of you who volunteer, visit, teach, administrate, or have children, grandchildren, etc. who attend public schools to get involved in your community to ensure that these devices are available at your schools, that staff is trained in their use, that the AEDs are maintained in an easily accessible area well known to all possible operators, that batteries are checked on a weekly basis and, most importantly, that a ‘Plan of Action’ is in place.

“We hope that no one on Earth EVER has to experience this tragic heartbreak again. The next life saved could be someone you love.

“For links on how to get involved, visit, or Google: ‘parent heart watch.’

Taffi and Michael Abt and Family

Michael Abt, Jr. Have A Heart Fund
c/o Mel Fisher Center
1322 U. S. HWY #1
Sebastian, FL 32958


by Noel Wells

At last! Someone has written a book whose subject is focused on the weapons that the conquistadors held when they overran the New World inhabitants, that the Indigenous Peoples fought back with, and that the soldiers and sailors of the galleon fleets used to repel boarders...and quell mutinies! From artifacts recovered on the many Spanish wreck sites in the Americas come studies, photos, and sketches describing the hand-held weaponry used in the periods of conquest and colonization in Spanish America, how they were built and decorated, and how they were used in practice.
    Small Arms of the Spanish Treasure Fleets, in 6” x 9” format, contains 192 pages filled with cogent text, accented with 204 b&w photos and sketches. Hardbound, the book is priced at $30.00 plus $3.50 postage (Media Mail) or $6.50 (Priority Mail). [Autographed by Author.]
AVAILABLE NOW. Order from:

P. O. Box 1698 West Palm Beach, FL 33402-1698 USA


by Jorge A. Proctor

You have read about the short-lived, early mint of Panamá in PLVS VLTRA Newsletter, and you have also read about the coming of a book dedicated to that Spanish colonial casa de moneda. It is now a reality. Not since Pradeau and Nesmith wrote their books on the Mexico mint, and not since Sellschopp, Paoletti, and others published their works focused on the key mints in colonial Peru, has a book about a specific mint been so comprehensively and meticulously constructed as this one.
    Its author, Jorge A. Proctor, doggedly searched the national archives in Seville for the long-lost details of the primitive workings and output of the minting house which operated in his native Panamá in the 1580s. His research included studying and documenting each of the 40-some known surviving specimens of coinage from this early effort —many “in person” and some by photographic representation. This was a Herculean task, taking up much of his available time and dedication for several years.

    The pages between these gold-embossed, black hardbound covers are a fountain of knowledge on his subject, expertly presented and superbly illustrated with photographs and diagrams of each of the known types, denominations, and variations of Panamanian cobs. Further, Proctor has included excellent photocopies of many of the ancient documents —plus their translations into modern Spanish— which were critical to his study. Text is in English. Illustrations are in both color and monochrome, color shots of the coins being used wherever possible. This book is an object of physical beauty as well as an historical and educational resource, no expense having been spared in its design and construction. Kudos to our friend Jorge Proctor!
    In 8.5" x 11" format, the book consists of 329 info-packed pages. Only 150, consecutively-numbered copies were printed, making it urgent that one secures a copy now … as these will move quickly.  SORRY! ALL SOLD OUT. Please search the Internet for used copies!
    Selling at $135.00 each, plus postage, there is only one outlet for this scholarly opus. Order from Daniel Frank Sedwick / P. O. Box 1964 / Winter Park, FL 32790-1964. PH: 407/975-3325. Your request can also be processed at:



Division of Historical Resources

Bureau of Archaeological Research

Has just released a new pamphlet in honor of our earliest settlers and commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15, 2005. This 24-page, full-color publication takes the reader on the underwater trail of the various wreck sites of the Spanish Treasure Fleet ships destroyed in the Florida Keys during a hurricane in 1733.

Titled 1733 SPANISH GALLEON TRAIL, the cover invites one to “Explore the Spanish Plate Fleet disaster of 1733”.
To request your copy of this milestone publication, contact the Bureau of Archaeological Research
 500 S. Bronough Street / Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250

Or e-mail Ryan J. Wheeler:

Web Site: underwater/galleontrail/



NEW BOOK (Last Before His Passing)

TRUE STORIES of Sunken Treasure: The Best of Bob “Frogfoot” Weller
is a collection of his favorite short stories.

In his style of “yarning ashore,” Bob tells sixteen of the sagas he has written over the years —those which still fire him up when he reads them again. From ships “wracking” in the “Caribees” ... to Spanish riches still to be found in Florida waters ... to gold and silver coins retrieved from the sands of time along the “Treasure Coast” —during a hurricane!— “Ol’ Frogfoot” is at it again (for the NINTH time), writing true and exciting stories of treasures lost and treasures found ... his first new book since 2001.

Many of the tales between these covers —filled with danger, intrigue, and greed— have never been told before, not by “Frogfoot” ... not by anyone. The maps associated with a few of these stories should encourage readers to “get it all” or “get the rest” of the sunken treasures sure to be where he says they are.

TRUE STORIES of Sunken Treasure... ISBN 1-893758-01-X, is being published by Crossed Anchors Salvage and will be available as of 10 MAY 2005. COST: $15.00 plus $3.00 p/p (slow) or $5.65 (Priority).

Order from: Crossed Anchors Salvage / 1818 17th Ave., N. / Lake Worth. FL 33460.


07 DEC 2004
Dear Ernie:

The Historical Society of Martin County is submitting a grant application to the state of Florida requesting funding for a survey to be completed of the historic shipwrecks in the Treasure Coast area. The outcome of this survey will educate residents and visitors of the significance of Florida’s Gulf Stream relating to the history of the worldwide shipping industry. 

However, the ultimate goal of this survey is to locate the final resting place of Jonathan Dickinson’s ship Reformation, which wrecked off the shores of the Jupiter Island area in 1696.  The story of Jonathan Dickinson is a significant part of Florida’s history and Dickinson’s eventual arrival in Philadelphia, where he became Mayor, makes it a significant event in the history of our country.

Locating Reformation will enable us to more accurately interpret his journal allowing historians and future historians to document Florida’s position in relation to American history, and will provide endless educational opportunities through museum exhibits, educational outreach programs for school children and adults, as well as tourist kiosk-type displays throughout the community, and even allows the possibility of eventually establishing Jonathan Dickinson’s trail allowing hikers and tourists to follow the journey Dickinson literally took up Florida’s East coast.

For more information about how you can support this proposal please contact:

Renee Booth Martin County Historical Society 825 N.E. Ocean Boulevard Stuart, FL 34996-1696 PH: 772-225-1961 ext. 110 E-mail:


Jonathan Dickinson's Journal
May be ordered through this web site or from Florida Classics Library
P. O. Box 1657
Port Salerno, FL 34992-1657
PH: 772-546-9380

The Colombian Connection


The final chapter in a 20-year-old saga was lived out on Wednesday, 25 June 2003, in Tampa, FL. The personal “collection” of treasure confiscated from a notorious South Florida drug dealer was auctioned off at the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel on Ashley Drive in that city.

Thomas Ruck, with links to the Cali drug cartel of Colombia, relinquished his prizes along with a guilty plea, for a lighter sentence. Indicted in 1993 on drug trafficking charges, Ruck jumped bond and was not apprehended again until his arrest in 2001 in Hawaii. 

Serving a 12-1/2-year stretch in the Taft Federal Prison in California, Ruck admitted, “They were looking for a very substantial forfeiture; I decided rather than get life in prison, I’d give them everything I had.” “Everything” included the treasures, a Ferrari Testarossa, three Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and $300,000 in cash.

The treasures sold on the 25th consisted of an 87-pound silver bar from the Atocha, six gold ingots and nuggets, a gold and diamond brooch, a gold chain, a cluster of gold and silver coins, a gold coin “cocooned” in coral, an ornate gold “candlestick,” 196 gold coins from Spanish colonial mints, and 280 U. S. $20 gold pieces. All but the Atocha bar and the U. S. coins came from the sunken Spanish treasure fleet of 1715 in Florida.

Ruck admitted to excavating the 1715 treasures in the 1980s—along with four other divers— from a site on Florida’s east coast, which he declined to disclose. He feels that when and if he gets out of prison he might return to the area and continue to search for treasure.

TOP: The Auction Hall.
BOTTOM: Whitey Keevan, Alan Craig discuss treasures.


The sale was vigorously and efficiently conducted by personnel associated with EG&G Technical Services, based in Manassas, VA. An estimated 450 people attended the auction, with 228 of them actually becoming registered bidders. When the 233 seats were filled, the balance of the observers lined up along the walls and hung out in doorways in the crowded auction hall.

Several people there who make their livings selling coins and artifacts included (in no special order) Taffi Fisher, Kim Fisher, Paul Karon, Mike Dunigan, Charles Adams (Cayman Islands), Danny Lee, Mel King, and Dan Sedwick (who was the official appraiser and certifying authority for the Spanish material). Notable divers, historians, and others to be seen at the event included Dr. Alan Craig; Atty. Dave Horan; Bob, Margaret, and Rob Weller; Carl Ward; Whitey and Jackie Keevan; Buddy Martin; Dominic Addario; Rodney Grambo; and Steve Atherton. 

Bob "Frogfoot" Weller in the auction!
(How did he take all these photos and bid too?)


The Treasury Department’s take for the day was $761,500. Some of the items sold went as follows: 1715 4.1-pound gold ingot, $18,000; 1715 gold “candlestick,” $16,000; a 1703 dated Lima 8 escudos, $13,250; and an Atocha silver bar, $8,300. The 1715 fleet gold coins sold between $900 and $13,250, and the U. S. gold coins brought an average of $475 each, mostly in lots of several pieces.

Kim Fisher of Key West was quoted as saying he had bought about 60 of the gold coins from the 1715 fleet, his sister Taffi (of the Mel Fisher Center in Sebastian) was there to collect data on what coins and artifacts were selling for and only made one unsuccessful bid. Whitey Keevan went home with a 7-ounce gold disk for his collection, Bob Weller brought back the clump containing two “Bogie Two’s” and a number of silver coins —plus 14 of the gold coins from the 1715 fleet, and a mysterious man known only as “Caribbeus” wound up winning the 1703 Lima 8-escudo coin.

The complete results of the auction are scheduled be posted on the government website 30 days after the date of the sale. Go to:



“Caribbeus,” personal observations via e-mail and telephone, 27 June 2003.

Schouten Cory. “Once-In-A-Lifetime Auction: Bidding on Bullion,” article in the St. Petersburg Times, Thursday, June 26, 2003. I-net:

Silvestrini, Elaine. “Silver Smiles, Golden Deals,” article in the Tampa Tribune, Thursday, June 26, 2003. I-net:

U. S. Treasury Department. “Seized Shipwreck Artifacts and U. S. and Spanish Colonial Gold Coins,” Auction Catalog of Wednesday, June 25, 2003.

Weller, Bob “Frogfoot,” personal observations via e-mail and telephone, 27 and 28 June 2003.

TOP: One of the Bogotá 2 escudos in a clump
containing two, plus numerous silvers.
BOTTOM: The other "Bogie-Two" peeking out
of the matrix.


Monday, 19 May 2003, was one of the most memorable days in the life of a treasure diver (or a wannabe). On short notice, Taffi Fisher-Abt and Bob “Frogfoot” Weller had organized a famous author book signing at the Mel Fisher Center in Sebastian, FL.

Taking advantage of John S. Potter, Jr.’s visit to Florida (and his patience and benevolence), Taffi announced at the State—Salvor annual kick-off meeting almost three weeks earlier the possibility of such an event. Bob Weller and yours truly sent out e-mail invitations (to those whom we felt would be within reach) to come to MFC at 2:00 p.m. on the 19th “with your copy of The Treasure Diver’s Guide” and have it autographed by Potter.

Other authors, Dave Horner (The Treasure Galleons +…) and Dave Crooks (Bibliography of Sunken Treasure Books) were specifically encouraged to participate in the happening, though they lived in Maryland and Illinois, respectively …and participate they did! Horner was available to sign copies of his SHIPWRECK: A Saga of Sea Tragedy and Sunken Treasure and Crooks for “Dave’s Bib.” The MFC gift shop had plenty of copies of “Potter’s Guide” and “SHIPWRECK…” (plus six of “Frogfoot’s” titles) on hand for those who did not already have these works in their libraries.

Potter was accompanied by his son, John S. Potter III (Johnno), also an avid treasure diver and future author, and after a breakfast with them and the Wellers, the five of us  embarked on our trek from Lake Worth to Sebastian in the Weller “Conestoga.” After a light lunch at “Captain Hiram’s” in Sebastian we returned to the MFC reception room (gift shop), and the signing began in earnest (that’s me, the autograph hog). 

LEFT: Having lunch at Captain Hiram's in Sebastian, left to right, are Bob Weller, Margaret Weller, "Johnno" Potter, Ernie Richards, and "The Treasure Diver's Guide" author, John S. Potter, Jr. 

RIGHT: At the Mel Fisher Center Gift Shop, Johnno Potter, John Potter, Ernie Richards, Bob Weller, Dave Horner, and Margaret Weller mug for this photo-op. 
PHOTOS COURTESY: John Harkins / Zack Magnusson.

First in line, I asked Potter to sign five of the books in my collection…one each of five of his titles. Then I stepped aside as the room filled and people queued up for signatures. Besides those mentioned, other notables were also taking advantage of the opportunity to meet and greet John S. Potter, Jr., a true northern gentleman. 

Bill Moore (finder of the Atocha gold bars and MFC’s data coordinator), Greg Bounds (one of MFC’s resident salvage captains), and Harold Holden (a real treasure-diving presence on the Treasure Coast) were among the luminaries participating in this historic event. Co-incidental or otherwise, a TV film crew arrived in the “nicotine” to videograph the gathering. John Harkins and Zack Magnusson (Blue Water Films), in Florida shooting scenes for an upcoming series on the Outdoor Channel, covered the event from all angles and with digital still cameras as well.

The turnout was moderate—considering it was during the workweek and mildly publicized—but it was fruitful and exciting. To hear each of us tell J. S. P., Jr., each of us in our own perspective, how he had shaped our future and careers was truly awesome and enlightening. The genuine person that he is, Potter apologized for having missed the location of the Atocha in his book. Well, so did everyone else researching that wreck in the late 1950s and early 1960s! No apology necessary, John…Mel found it.

LEFT: John S. Potter, Jr., the man who "showed us the way," signs copies of his famous work "The Treasure Diver's Guide" at the Mel Fisher Center in Sebastian, FL.

RIGHT: "Captain" Greg Bounds, Taffi Fisher-Abt, John and Johnno Potter pose with a bronze bust of the "King of Treasure Divers," Mel Fisher at MFC in Sebastian.
PHOTO COURTESY: John Harkins / Zack Magnusson.

LEFT: John Potter apparently enjoys the thrill of gold as he holds a seven-pound gold disk recovered from "Corrigan's Wreck" by John Brandon and now part of the Weller Collection.

RIGHT: At "Casa Weller" Bob, The "Frogfoot," is bookended by John S. Potter III (Johnno) and his famous Dad John S. Potter, Jr. in front of one of Bob's mini-museum displays.

We (Potter’s welcoming committee) were privileged to give him the (land) tour of the 1715 wreck sites, which included a pilgrimage to Kip’s Cabin (courtesy of Pete Fallon) and a visit to the McLarty Treasure Museum on the site of the 1715 survivors’ camp…none of which he had previously experienced. During our comfortable cruise home (we were in no hurry to part company), the Wellers, the Potter gents, and I swapped sea and life stories. It is amazing how our individual lives had paralleled and crossed paths over the past decades.

Back in Lake Worth, I took my leave of this enjoyable company and went home to my bride and cats. I understand that John, Johnno, Bob, and Margaret enjoyed the rest of the day at “Casa Weller” viewing part of Frogfoot’s collection of shipwreck treasures. A diving trip the following day for the four of them had to be cancelled due to the sea state, and the Potters continued on down to Key West to meet with Kim Fisher and company on Wednesday.

It was great!


Ernie Richards

Pat Clyne, our Defender of SalvageRights, posts a "net-note" announcing that one of our US Government agencies now wants to ask Spain if it's OK with them if we dive on merchant ships which sank in Florida in 1733! Follow the forum on the Mel Fisher site: -- look for "Welcome to the US, a Territory of Spain." And read more commentary at: .





In response to an inquiry from reader Jerry Wilkinson, Florida Keys Historian.

In the world of SPANISH COLONIAL COINAGE, one of the most interesting and important areas of study is that of the “king of coins,” the pivotal piece that was to forever alter methods of coin manufacturing in this hemisphere and was to be the model for monetary systems which are still sound today—over 275 years later: The Spanish Milled Dollar!

by Ernie Richards

It is not difficult to imagine the thoughts that occupied the mind of King Philip V of Spain as he drafted the Royal Order of June 9, 1728. This decree, to come into fruition four years later in Mexico City, contained the instructions for minting, perhaps, the single most important coin ever in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Philip must have dreamed of perfection and beauty, much like Da Vinci or Michelangelo might have, for the resulting coin was a masterpiece, a work of art. He must have decreed that the new mintage, designed to replace the functional but irregular “cobs”, should be, each and every one, a medallion honoring two hundred years of colonial coinage.

Not only is the Spanish Milled Dollar a work of art, it is a testimonial as well. The story that it tells is of Spanish entrepreneurs venturing out into an unknown ocean because it was felt (due to Columbus’ early voyages) that there was “more beyond” (PLUS ULTRA). It brazenly displays the “two worlds”, the old and the new, capped by one Spanish Crown and riding on waves emanating from between the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar). This is a declaration that Spain claimed dominion over both worlds and the sea in between and that “both are one” (UTRAQUE UNUM). Further emphasizing that belief is the legend: PHILIP . V . D . G . HISPAN . ET IND . REX, which declares that Philip the Fifth, by the Grace of God, is King over Spain and the Indies.

The magnificently styled crowned Shield of Spain adorning the reverse boasts the strength of the union of the kingdoms of Castile and Leon and, with the Bourbon Crest centered in the shield, puts to rest any doubts that Philip’s family was in control in the home country.

Although the irregular “cobs” were to continue to be manufactured until late 1734, they were doomed to total replacement by their royal bloodline descendants, the Spanish Milled Dollars. Minting of the new coinage was begun on March 29, 1732, (in 8, 4, 2, 1, and 1/2-real denominations), after the new dies and associated machinery arrived from Spain. Not only were the dies of precision quality, but the individual coins were no longer struck by hand since a marvelous machine called a “screw press” was introduced at this time --transporting the coin industry from the Medieval Era into the Age of the Industrial Revolution with its mass-manufacturing technology. No longer was each coin unique in size and shape; but, rather, all coins were uniform...and beautifully so.

Each coin, by virtue of the new method of manufacture, was of the same size, shape, weight, and appearance. Additionally, another new process was introduced at this time which thwarted the common practice of “clipping” of coins; the new series was manufactured with a “milled” edge. This meant that by a special procedure, the edge of each coin was imprinted with a wreath-like chain of blossoms. Later coins, like most modern ones, were supplied a “reeded” rim for the same purpose of discouraging clipping.

The original design of the Spanish Milled Dollar was produced from 1732 to 1772 and acquired many nicknames along the way: Pillar Dollar; Piece of Eight (a carryover); Two-World Dollar (and the Spanish counterpart, Dos Mundos Dollar).

Such was the success of this design --especially for its constant value (weight and silver content)-- that it enjoyed the popularity of being accepted as “coin of the realm” by several European nations and American colonies. In the pre-U.S. colonies, this fabulous piece was the basis of what was to become the United States’ monetary system. It was officially recognized as early as May 10, 1775, when the Continental Congress issued its first paper currency payable in “Spanish Milled Dollars or the value thereof in gold or silver”; and the coin was officially sanctioned for circulation in the United States until 1857!

Interestingly, the existence of the coins dated 1732 and 1733 were virtually unknown to numismatists worldwide because nearly the entire two-year’s production of Pillar Dollars was being carried to Spain in the ill-fated Plate Fleet of 1733 which was dashed to bits against the Florida Keys by a hurricane. None again saw the light of day until the 1960s, when treasure divers started retrieving them and making them available to collectors.

Adding to the numismatic value of the first two years of issue of this coin, is the fact that two variations were minted in 1732 and two more in 1733. The first type in 1732 was exactly as in Figure-A, with the exception that nothing appeared adjacent to the shield --no assayer’s mark and no denomination. The second issue was as shown. In 1733, the coin featured assayer “F” coupled with a mint mark of “M . X” in the first variation, which was replaced later in the year with a combination of assayers “M” and “F” and a standard “o/M” mint mark. The latter was to remain the pattern for the rest of the history of the Pillar Dollar. After sometime in 1772, the pillars, waves, and two worlds were replaced by a bust of the current Spanish Monarch (adding “Bust Dollar” to the list of nicknames), while the reverse remained basically the same. The assayers for our period of interest were:

1732 - 1733 Felipe (F) Rivas Ángulo
1733 - 1747 Francisco (F) de la Peña and
    Manuel (M) de la Peña.

The rarest, and, naturally, the most valuable issues of the Spanish Milled Dollar are the 1732 without a denomination or assayer’s mark; all 1732s; the 1733 with the “M . X” mint mark; and the final year of issue, 1772.

In retrospect, if there were to be another single silver coin engulfed in so much beauty and historical significance, the first Mexican issues of the Charles and Johanna series could conceivably relegate the Spanish Milled Dollar to second place...but it would be a photo-finish and would not go uncontested. --EJR

(Article excerpted from PLVS VLTRA Newsletter, 4th-Quarter, 1983.)

Above and Below. The Mexican 1732-F 8R to be sold at auction on 7-8 April in Chicago. Est: $20-30,000!**
SOLD: $21,000...
Above and Below. The Mexican 1733/2-MX-F 8R to be auctioned on 7-8 April in Chicago. Est: $25-35,000!**
SOLD: $24,000...
 **Photos Courtesy of Ponterio & Associates,
San Diego, CA. Call 800/854-2888 for
details of the auction & mail bid sale.

Rings of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet
by Bob “Frogfoot Weller

Gold Band of 1715. Weller Collection.
All Fotos by Frogfoot. Copyright 2001.

Beginning in May 1960 when Kip Wagner’s “Real Eight” group first worked the 1715 Urca de Lima site about a mile north of the Fort Pierce inlet, a great quantity of coins, jewelry and artifacts have been recovered from the various ballast piles of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet. By 1967 Kip and Mel Fisher’s group “Treasure Salvors” had recovered literally thousands of gold coins and well over a ton of silver coins. So, when it comes to the salvage community, it’s sort of “Ho-Hum” whenever a few more gold or silver coins are recovered. But the low and high karat rings being recovered are another situation. The rings have more character than coins…you see one coin you’ve seen them all, even though each cob coin is different. Many of the rings have stones: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, amethysts, and quite a few have been recovered with engravings on them. Some rings are circled with engravings of cannon, swords, pistols, and probably belonged to the gunnery crew on board. Other rings have dogs engraved, or flowers, whatever fancied the engraver. Some of the rings are unusual in their geometric design, a design not seen for several hundred years. 

Plain Band w/Silver Corrosion
Gold "Rope" Design
Band Of Etched Circlets
All Fotos by Frogfoot. Copyright 2001.

The gold content of the rings is also unusual. The high karat rings are assayed out at 22.3 kt., the same as the gold coins being recovered. For that reason they are known as having “coin gold content”. The lower karat gold coins vary from as low as 6 or 8 karat gold to as high as 18 karat, and definitely have considerable bronze or copper content. I recently came across a ring recovered during some beach erosion that appeared to be 100% copper, but I am sure that is just a case of being burnished by the sand as the ring washed in and out from the beach. I also have a badly sulfided ring that in all probability has considerable silver content. 

Engraved Chain of Diamonds
Bronze "Two-Rope" Design
Sulfided Silver Band
All Fotos by Frogfoot. Copyright 2001.

Many of the rings were recovered along the beaches after a storm by ardent metal-detector-swinging beach hunters. Nothing wrong with that, it’s healthy and keeps the guys from being couch potatoes. There are even a few female metal detector enthusiasts who brave the pounding waves to snatch a glint of gold or silver as it is uncovered. But for the most part the many rings that have been recovered have been on or around the ballast piles, or in the scatter patterns that stretch along the reefs and sand pockets just offshore. 

High-Kt "Olive Blossom" Band
Carved Diamond & Rope Motif
High-Kt, 3-Amethyst Beauty
All Fotos by Frogfoot. Copyright 2001.

My group “Crossed Anchors Salvage” has been working the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet since 1978, and over that period of time we’ve recovered well over 90 rings, mostly from the Nieves, that sank 2-1/2 miles south of the Fort Pierce inlet. In 1993 we did recover 22 gold rings from the “Cabin Wreck” or almiranta of the 1715 fleet, the San Roman. As I look back over the recoveries I tend to agree with the rest of the salvage community that the rings, in most cases, were carried as cargo. One day I recovered eight rings within an area no larger than a kitchen table. Three years later, we revisited the same area, and another diver, Bob Luyendyk, recovered eight more rings also within a very small space, about 15 feet from my own recovery. We called this area “Ringsville,” because there seemed to be a sort of swale, or low depression between the reefs, in which we had recovered a number of valuable rings. George Hook, one of our divers, recovered a high karat gold ring with five emeralds! And another diver, Don Kree, came up with a beautiful high karat three-stone amethyst ring! Photos of both rings are included in my book Sunken Treasure on Florida Reefs

Low-Kt "Beaded" Design
Plain, Single-Amethyst Design
High-Kt "Chain of Diamonds"
All Fotos by Frogfoot. Copyright 2001.

There is some speculation that many of the more intricately engraved rings were made in China, traded at the Manila fair, and brought to Mexico by way of the Manila Galleons. It seems that the Spanish artisans did not have the capabilities during the 1600s and 1700s to carve the ring designs, nor cut the emeralds and diamonds that are found on the rings. The plainer rings were possibly made by the local Mexican artisans, as were the rings engraved with various designs. These are indicative of Spanish conquistadors, or sailors, with time on their hands. Regardless, the rings are different in the story they tell. Most of us in the salvage community really do not believe that they graced the finger, or fingers, of some Spaniard who didn’t survive the 1715 hurricane. Again, this is speculation…I wasn’t there. =Frogfoot=

 Carved, Rimmed Circlets 
"Pyramid-Style" Gold Band
All Fotos by Frogfoot. Copyright 2001.




In response to charges that Mel Fisher’s company in Key West had been involved in the sale of several “fake” gold coins of the 1733 era, Bob “Frogfoot” Weller has posted a “rebuttal” on the internet. One of the “incriminating facts” of the case against the “King of Treasure Hunters” was statements by well-known coin dealers and state officials to the effect that “no gold coins were recovered from the 1733 Spanish treasure fleet!” It is this point that Weller debates. He was “there” when many of the gold pieces from that armada were recovered by his diving buddies in the 1960s and afterward. With photos as backup, and with depositions from some of the other Keys divers, Ol’ Frogfoot presents his case very well. If you have access to the internet, do yourself the favor of visiting the site and adding to your understanding of some of the golden recoveries of the Spanish treasure fleet of 1733. 

 Go to: and page through some great narration. 



On The