Shipwreck treasure stories are among the most popular collateral literature that circulates through the hobby of coin collecting.
Awash in drama, these blue water tales of loss and recovery can keep you up at night with visions of sea-salvaged gold and silver snatched from the sunken hulks of a by gone era. Or, you may coolly jot yourself a note to drop by the table of the treasure coin and artefacts dealer at the next coin show. But be careful. Should you then be impelled to purchase a shipwreck coin, you will risk sinking into the debris field of shipwreck sagas where the winds of enthusiasm can tear the canvas of your budget from the main mast of your bank account! Shipwreck stories and associated coins have become a major sub-field of coin collecting, with some obvious paths into the hobby of metal detecting. There is a natural synergy between these pastimes, as coin collectors become metal detectorists and vice versa.
What often happens to those who participate in either or both of these activities is that they become students of sorts, purchasing books and visiting websites that extend their knowledge of the shipwrecks, but also the historical, economic, and social context of these disasters, and as well the science and the legalities involved in the salvage.
Mapping my own interest through the hundreds of documented shipwreck treasure stories bring to mind several recurring themes, exemplified by signature shipwreck coins.
For example -
A large silver Dutch ducatoon, dated 1734, from the wreck of the tVliegent Hart, An oddly shaped silver lump-like coin, called a cob, from the famed Spanish Plate Fleet of 1715, A sparkling twenty-dollar gold piece from the 1857 sinking of the SS Central America. As you may have guessed, my interest in this field has grown steadily over the years. And the enchantment continues.
I've collected coins since age 11 so, more than half a century. Coins have been a pleasant distraction over the years. Though I've never been a coin dealer, I have occasionally sold a coin or two at a nice profit, when the market was right. These experiences have taught me a bit about coin value in the marketplace. But I have to say that my greatest pleasure with coins has been the hooks they have to history and other areas of learning. And, I can never quite get beyond the feeling that, if any of my coins could talk, the stories would be priceless!
By David W. Baker