Monday, April 28, 2014

4/28/14 Report - Grading Cobs, Two Sources of Beach Cobs, Earliest Settlement on the Gulf Coast

Written by the Treasureguide for the exclusive use of

Thin Piece of Unidentifiable
Silver Found Years Ago
On a Treasure Coast Shipwreck Beach
You probably noticed that I started a new poll on the blog.  The poll will tell us what people are doing or not doing these days.

To the left is a photo of what might be called a razor.  It is silver and is the first shipwreck silver I found on a Treasure Coast shipwreck beach back probably around thirty years ago. 

I wasn't living on the Treasure Coast and drove a couple hours to give it a shot.  I had made to trips to the Treasure Coast a few times before with no luck.

I could tell you within a very few yards exactly where it was dug even after all these years.  I dug it up and my wife took it out of the scoop and started to through it away.  I told her to hold onto it.

I took it home and not knowing what it was yet, tested it with acid.  It turned out to be silver.  For a while I thought it might be a thin severely worn cob.  Today I do not think it is.  Since I found that first silver piece, I found other silver pieces that are definitely not cobs in the same area as well as cobs, all within a few yards of the same spot.

After seeing many more pieces of silver from the same area, both cobs and not, I feel fairly confident  that it is not a worn cob but a piece of some other silver item.

The reason I'm showing it today is as an example.

Cobs are typically graded on a five point scale.  Grade One cobs are almost like new.  Both sides are in good to excellent condition with no pitting or corrosion.  The details are well defined and the features of the design are as struck.

Remember that with cobs, there might be some areas where details are not present because they weren't struck on the original planchete and there may be flat or poorly defined areas as a result of the original strike rather than from wear or corrosion.

Grade Two cobs clearly show most of the details of the original strike and the design features are easily seen but due to exposure there is obvious wear and deterioration of the surface.  Despite the wear the cob is still in good condition.

Grade Three cobs show very apparent wear but still have easily identified features and fairly good definition.  One side might be much better than the other.  You might describe those as being in fair condition.

The following photo is not the best, but it shows what might be a grade three cob (on the left).  It shows the assayer mark and a good monogram.  The other side is also good.
Grade Four cobs are very worn with faint markings.  The design features are not clear, but you can still tell that they are Spanish Colonial cobs.

Two Cobs.
On the left maybe a grade three,
and on the right I would say a grade five.
Grade Five coins are poor and barely identifiable as Spanish Colonial cobs.  Additional information such as context may be used to support the definition.  For example, if the suspected cob was found in a pile of other more identifiable coins, that might be used to support the definition.

Both of those shown in the second photo are half reales.  The one on the right shows a small section of the monogram (bottom center of cob) on the shown side and one arm of the cross on the other side.  I would call it grade five.

A Fragment is a piece of silver found with other cobs with few if any other identifiable features.  It will probably be very much under weight.

That brings me to the reason I posted the first picture.  It could be considered no better than a fragment even if it was found in a pile of cobs, and that wasn't the case.  It was not found with any other items at the time of the find even though the same area produced both cobs and other silver items over the years. 

Other things that can contribute to the value of a cob besides condition are rarity, visible date, assayer and mint mark. 

See Sedwick's article on how to determine the value of a cob or treasure coin.  I'll post a link to that when I run across it or some other similar article.

I'm convinced that cobs that have been found on a beach are different on average from those found by salvage crews on a wreck site.  I believe that beach cobs tend to be of smaller denominations on average, and also tend to be in poorer condition.  I've made that argument and provided evidence in the past.  Beach cobs are also often under weight by as much as one third or more.

There are two ways that cobs end up on a beach.  Either they are washed up onto the beach or are washed out of the dunes (My dual source theory).  My idea is that the larger denominations and those in better condition, more often come from the dunes rather than the water.

Those that wash up on the beach may have spent considerable time in the zone of high turbulence right in front of the beach where the waves break and the sand churns.  Such cobs can be washed up onto the beach and back into the water several times.  They are tumbled, covered and exposed over and over.   They can spend a lot of time protected by layers of sand, and then be uncovered and covered again multiple times.  I believe that is how they lose so much weight.

Here is a very good article on what was possibly the earliest European settlement on the Gulf Coast.

It has good maps and pictures of sites and artifacts.

On the Treasure Coast we still are having fairly high high tides.  The surf is small though.

The wind is from the South/Southwest.  Don't expect much improvement in beach detecting conditions real soon.

Happy hunting,