Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4/22/14 Report - Denominations Of Silver Treasure Cobs Found On Treasure Coast Beaches And Why

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of treasurebeachesreport.blogspot.com.

Going back to the eighties it has been my observation that more low denomination cobs are found on the Treasure Coast wreck beaches than high denomination cobs.  There are eight and four reales found on the beach, but not as many as the lower denomination cobs. 

Of the cobs found on the Atocha and Margarita, which can't be compared to 1715 Fleet wrecks for more than one reason, 8 reales are most numerous (63%), followed by 4 reales (22%).  2 reales were rare (15%), while 1 reales were scarce (.001 %).  1/2 reales recovered from those two wrecks are almost non-existent.  It appears that cobs of the larger denominations were chosen for bulk transport of the Crown's silver.  That makes sense.

That information came from the Odyssey Marine Paper (30), 2013.

By the way, there were no gold coins listed on the Margarita or Atocha manifests, although at least 77 were found on the Margarita site and 128 on the Atocha site.   Those were undoubtedly the personal property of individuals.  

Alan Craig in Spanish Colonial Silver Coins in the Florida Collection states, Since the Florida Collection is based on samples of bulk specie being shipped back to Spain, it is deficient in these small denominations that were usually retained in the New World to support daily commerce.  Those that were  placed on board treasure galleons often did not survive well in the corrosive marine environments...   HE goes on to say, Eights dominated colonial mint production...

OK.  So large denomination reales were a good choice for the bulk transfer of silver, and small denomination cobs were needed in the New World for daily commerce.  That all seems to support the idea that more large denomination coins would be found on the treasure ships.

I don't, however, buy the idea that smaller denominations disappeared in great numbers due to corrosion.  They do indeed corrode, but the numbers that have been found on the beaches do not seem to me to agree with that idea.  They might be corroded but you can usually tell pretty much what they are.

Commenting on the small number of small denomination cobs in the Florida Collection, Craig says, The contrast between large denominations recovered from salvaged shipwrecks of the 1715 Plate Fleet is easily seen beginning with the year 1710.

Taking 1714 as a prime year for 1715 Fleet cobs, the Florida Collection, as of the time Craig's 2000 book was written, contained 288 eight-reales, 81 four-reales, 2 two-reales. 2 one-reales, and 3 half-reales.

That is very different from what I have observed of those that were found on the Treasure Coast beaches.  I've seen a lot more half reales, followed by a good number of one and two-reales, with very few four and eight reales that were found on the beaches.  That is almost the opposite of the sample in the Florida Collection.

I did a poll in this blog once and found that the results supported the idea that more small denomination cobs were found on Treasure Coast beaches.

Some beaches, such as Bonsteel, to name one, is known for the small cobs that have been found there.  Not only are they small denomination cobs, but they are also heavily worn.

Bonsteel, not being associated with a nearby wreck, might be an exception.  From what I've seen though, some other beaches have produced a big disproportion of small denomination cobs.  That could be more true in the last ten years than it was in earlier years when I believe more detectorists were missing the smaller denomination cobs on the beaches.

I know that there are places and times when eight reales and four reale cobs have been found on Treasure Coast wreck beaches.  I'm just talking about overall relative numbers.

In 1713 the Mexico mint produced about four times the number of eight reales as half-reales.  I don't have the numbers for 1714.   In the years leading up to the 1715 Fleet, there were times when nearly ten times more eight reales were produced than half-reales. 

All things considered, I believe that higher numbers of small denomination cobs have been found on the Treasure Coast beaches than were salvaged from the water.   I know I haven't provided an iron-clad closed case.   Maybe some day I'll take the time to get this all put together better.

Here are some possible reasons why smaller denomination cobs have been found so disproportionately on the beaches even though it would seem from what I've read that there should be many more large denomination cobs on the treasure ships.

1.  Smaller cobs are washed up onto the beach more easily and frequently than larger cobs which tend to remain out in deeper water.
2.  Smaller denomination cobs might for some reason be salvaged first by the Spanish salvors.  For example, maybe they were personal property and so the owners traveling with them made sure to get them out.
3.  Maybe they weren't carried in the depths of the cargo areas.
4.  Maybe they were used for commerce during salvage operations.
5.  Once salvaged, maybe they were more easily lost or left behind in the surf and sand of the beach.
6.  Maybe they were not cared for quite as carefully.

I'd like to hear what you think.   Let me know if you have any additional reasons or think any of these ideas are not likely true.

On the Treasure Coast today we have the wind coming out of the North/Northwest.  Doesn't seem like much wind at all.  The surf is supposed to be up to about five feet today and declining for a week or so.

On the basis of what I saw yesterday, I'm not expecting much good to happen.

Happy hunting,