Friday, June 8, 2012

6/8/12 Report - Silver Coins in the Florida State Collection & More

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Can You Believe This Stuff?

The item shown to the right is from an October 2011 auction by Manor Auctions.  It has nothing to do with the Florida Collection that I'll discuss below.  Other similarly big gaudy items were also in the auction.

Here is the link if you want to see more of this item and other similar items.

I’ve seen a lot of misinformation circulating in the treasure community about the treasure coins in the Florida Collection. As you probably know, Florida collects a portion of the finds from the leased shipwrecks salvaged in Florida waters. The collection of silver cobs and treasure coins, as of the first comprehensive inventory in 1997, included over 23,000 silver coins, most coming from the 1715 Fleet.

This information is provided by James Miller, in the foreword to Alan Craig’s book Spanish Colonial Silver Coins in the Florida Collection, 2000. At the time Miller was the Chief of Archaeological Research for the State of Florida,

Earlier, Craig conducted an inventory and wrote a book on the gold coins of the collection.

It doesn’t seem to me that a taxpayer of the State should have to purchase an expensive book to learn about the state collection, but that seems to be the case. I’ve not seen how you can get access to information on the State Collection otherwise. Isn’t the collection gathered and maintained for the people of the State? Has anyone seen it? Maybe I just don’t know how to gain access to the database, and maybe it is possible to simply walk in and look at the collection. I don’t know. I’ve done a few Google searches, but haven’t found out how to access the State‘s database at this point. If you have seen the collection or if you know how to access the database or detailed information on the database, please let me know. The taxpayers pay to maintain the collection and should get some value out of it.

I wanted to give you some information on the silver coins of the Florida Collection today. Remember that this information is over ten years old at this point and presumably more coins have been added to the collection since the book was written.  I understand, though, that coins are not routinely selected in mass for addition to the collection these days unless they are somewhat unique and provide some additional numismatic information Unlike the early days when bags of coins were accepted by the pound, now the State is more particular in their selection of coins and artifacts.

Of the total of the 22,938 silver coins in the collection when Craig's inventory was conducted, by far the greatest number, 13,433, came from the Douglass Beach wreck. The second greatest number, 8637, came from undetermined wrecks. ( It seems to me that can mean a lot of different things. ) The third greatest number came from the Cabin Wreck, 199. And then the Jupiter Wreck, 198.

I am almost certain that the ranking has changed in recent years, and the Jupiter Wreck has been one of the largest contributers in more recent years.

The overly large proportion of coins coming from the Douglass Beach Wreck is surprising to me.

The book states that the easiest finds have already been made and the number of coins found in more recent years had decreased.

So does that mean that the large number of coins already found on the Douglass Wreck indicate that that wreck has been worked out to a greater extent than the other wrecks? That is what the book seems to suggest to me.

The greatest number of coins in the collection is the large denomination cobs. Of the coins in the collection at the time, 11,779 were identified as being 8 Reales, 5,366 4 Reales, 1,099 2 Reales, 2,573 1 Reales, and 1,161 halves. With the exception of 2 Reales, as the denomination decreases, so does the number found, or should I say, the number in the collection decreases.

It makes sense to believe that larger denomination coins were the most convenient for shipping large amounts of silver. Craig suggests that smaller denomination coins were kept for daily use in the New World rather than being shipped back to Spain.

Could it also be that smaller coins are not as easy to detect/find? Certainly that is true, but I don’t know how large that effect would be on the overall number of coins added to the State Collection. Maybe insignificant, maybe not.

I do know that a lot of detectorists were missing the small denomination coins on the beach back in the eighties. I have questioned the relationship of beach found coins of different denominations compared to sea-salvaged coins before.  I have also collected a little data on that in addition to my personal experience, which suggests a higher percentage of small denomination coins found on the beach as opposed to those salvaged from the sea.

I'll talk more about the coins in the Florida Collection again sometime soon.

The waves were higher this morning than predicted and expected.  There were actually a number of surfers out.  Nonetheless, beach detecting conditions remain basically unchanged.  The water was just a little rougher.

In the past, I used to frequently remind that my beach detecting conditions rating  goes from 1 to 5, with 1 indicating poor conditions and 5 excellent detecting conditions and that I start the scale with a 1 rather than a zero because even when conditions are poor there is still some chance of a cob popping up, no matter how slim.  I bring that up because even now there are a few scarce cuts and a few cobs and artifacts being found.
Sometimes you have to check a lot of beaches to find one good spot.  That is the case now.

Happy hunting,