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Man's hand holding two Spanish gold coins from 1700's
Jonah Martinez was able to dig out 22 silver coins. CBS AFFILIATE WPEC-TV

Two Florida men find trove of valuable treasure from 1715 shipwreck

PortandTerminal.com, March 4, 2020

A trove of Spanish coins dating back to a 1715 shipwreck during a storm has been found along a beach in Florida. 

INDIAN RIVER SHORES, FL – Jonah Martinez, a 43-year-old treasure hunter in Port St. Lucie, said he and his friend Cole Smith were combing through Wabasso Beach Friday night with metal detectors when they found 22 rare Spanish coins he estimates are worth about $6,000.

Map of Florida showing where treasure was found.
The 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet sunk near Vero Beach, Florida. Friday’s bounty of 22 Spanish coins was discovered in Wabasso Beach, about 10 miles away

‘Our metal detectors were catching target after target. We found 22 beautiful Spanish coins from the 1715 Treasure Ship Wreck that were all hammer-struck” Martinez said.

The coins, valued at an estimated $5,000 to $6,000, washed up on Florida’s “Treasure Coast” when a storm system moved across the Gulf of Mexico and over the state on February 22. As winds of up to 40 miles per hour swept through the area and 13-foot-tall waves crashed offshore, friends Jonah Martinez, Cole Smith and Jeremy Prouty set out to search the beach for newly unearthed artifacts.

A selection of Spanish coins unearthed on Florida's "Treasure Coast"
A selection of Spanish coins unearthed on Florida’s “Treasure Coast” 
(Courtesy of Jonah Martinez)

“It takes an element like that from mother nature to move the sand away in such a way that we can get down to the stuff from the 1700s and 1600s,” Martinez told the Weather Channel. “ … Maybe [just] four times [per] year I can go out and pick up items from that era.”

Twelve Spanish galleons laden with treasures from the New World were bound for Spain on July 31, 1715, but 11 were lost during a hurricane off the coast of Florida. Most of the treasure lies beneath the ocean.

Florida law requires recovery permits for individuals who want to explore or recover artifacts on state-owned lands underwater, but not on a public beach.

READ: How much sunken treasure is in the ocean?

Martinez said he has combed through the beach for the past 24 years searching for shored up treasure from the notorious 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet. 

Man walking along beach using metal detector
Jonah Martinez, a 43-year-old treasure hunter in Port St. Lucie, said he and his friend Cole Smith found the coins using metal detectors

The story of the perished Treasure Fleet is well known in the area and has drawn treasure hunters for decades.  

Around 1,500 sailors perished in the hurricane but a small number survived on lifeboats. 

Fourteen million pesos in registered treasure were lost in the maritime disaster, according to the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum.  

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