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Shipwrecks, pirates & profits

In 1985, legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher discovered the sunken treasure of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, part of a fleet of Spanish ships that sank in 1622 after sailing into a massive hurricane off the Florida straits.

The cargo carried with it the wealth of a New World empire: 40 tons of gold and silver bars, ingots and coins from Peru and Mexico. Pearls from Venezuela, Uncut emeralds from Columbia. 17th century religious and cultural artifacts.

To mark the thirty-year anniversary of this historical discovery, Guernsey's will auction off select items from Fisher's collection on August 5th in New York.

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Guernsey's president Arlan Ettinger, said "dreamers" will be the type of collector most likely to bid on the lots.

"This was the greatest buried treasure discovery of all times, by the relentless Mel Fisher, who spent decades searching for the Atocha." said Ettinger. "Spanish galleons. Shipwrecks. Treasure hunters. It sounds like a scene from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, only better. Anything goes at this sale."

An ornate, solid gold chalice thought be the property of a duke or baron is considered the most valuable discovery from Fisher collection. Given its provenance and pristine condition, the item could to fetch $500,000 dollars when it hits the auction block.

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Of the estimated 16,000 pearls unearthed from the shipwreck, two attributed to Indian pearl divers off Venezuela's Isle of Cubagua carry a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 to $400,000. It is believed that the lead box containing these pearls had protected them from significant damage and erosion after lying for hundreds of years underwater.

The Atocha was estimated to have been carrying 70 pounds of emeralds when it sank, all excavated from the famed Muzo mine in Columbia. One unpolished 29.89 carat emerald, originally intended for Spain's King Philip IV, is expected to sell for $250,000 to $400,000 dollars.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Michael Abt, Jr. Have a Heart Foundation, which works to provide Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) to schools nationwide.


Treasure hunter mel fisher and his team, circa 1985, off the Florida Keys, at discovery of a Spanish galleon sunk in 1622
Source: Guernsey’s /Estate of Mel & Deo Fisher
Treasure hunter mel fisher and his team, circa 1985, off the Florida Keys, at discovery of a Spanish galleon sunk in 1622