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Thread: Colombia in Dispute over Shipwreck Treasures

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  1. #16
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    Sometimes, the translation of the word "billion" between English and Spanish is tricky; it literally means two different things. In English, a billion is represented numerically as 1,000,000,000. In Spanish, a billion (un billn) is represented numerical by 1,000,000,000,000 (or what we would call a trillion in English).

    The value of the San Jose has been [mis]represented in the literature and the press with the denomination of "$10 billion" for a long time, as does the latest article in Infobae. The only thing that can be assumed about the value of this particular shipwreck, is that I carried around 7 to 8 million "pesos" [a Spanish unit of value equivalent to 1 once of silver in colonial times]. How much is a peso worth today is a subject that deserves careful considerations, with estimates that run from $50 to a $1000 depending who you ask. Personally, I believe that with the right marketing and shipwreck history, a peso could be worth around $150 today (assuming that the proportion silver to gold on that wreck was the historical average of 90 - 10% respectively).

    Taking this into consideration, the treasure of the San Jose could then be worth around $1 billion dollars in my opinion (not ten). There is good reason to think that there was more gold than normal on this particular wreck and that the emeralds could also help to raise the final valuation. But it is also true that the galleon did not make it to Cartegena, therefore there was a portion of the final cargo that was never loaded on the vessel. On the other side, they have not had a fair in Portobelo for many years due to wars, and an unusual amount of treasure was loaded at that port in 1708. It is difficult to know what the final tally will be (but we are close to find out).

    The issue of how much a "peso" is worth today is an extremely important one in order to calculate the valuation of any given shipwreck project and/or commercial archeology company. Leaving aside exaggerations in order to raise funds, I will appreciate if we, as a community of ocean explorers and shipwreck experts, could debate this issue and come to a conclusion or aproxiamtion of realistically how to make this calculation so investors, entrepreneurs and governments can look at these valuations with more realist eyes.

    Thank you for your opinions in this matter.
    TRG, Salvor6, sprailroad and 1 others like this.

  2. #17

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    Can we not assume also that there will be no emeralds from the Muzo mine if the San Jose never made it to Cartegena?
    doc-d likes this.

  3. #18

    Jan 2016
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    Emeralds of the day were simply large crystals with not the emphasis on cutting them to a gemstone as we know today, like the kilo bags of emeralds for sale on ebay. You can root through the bag an perhaps find one to cut down to todays standards of clarity, but not the huge value we assume on emeralds on these shipwrecks.
    Look at the "quality' of emeralds that are in the artefacts, such as the crosses, that have been recovered.


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    Those stones would be worth little on todays market.
    Last edited by seekerGH; Jan 30, 2018 at 07:21 PM.
    doc-d likes this.

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by seekerGH View Post
    Emeralds of the day were simply large crystals with not the emphasis on cutting them to a gemstone as we know today, like the kilo bags of emeralds for sale on ebay. You can root through the bag an perhaps find one to cut down to todays standards of clarity, but not the huge value we assume on emeralds on these shipwrecks.
    Look at the "quality' of emeralds that are in the artefacts, such as the crosses, that have been recovered.


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    Those stones would be worth little on todays market.
    I worked "Emerald City" on the Atocha site as a subcontractor in 1992. The emeralds we found were all of exceptionally good quality. They were sold at a premium with a certificate of authenticafancy since they came from a famous shipwreck. Michaels "Emeralds International" bought most of them for re-sale.
    Last edited by Salvor6; Jan 31, 2018 at 12:45 AM. Reason: spelling

  5. #20
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    Dec 2010
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    Current market value USD on a 1715 8 reale is more than $150 so is an Atocha 8.

    Oddly 16 pesos @ $150 a peso for a 1 escudo is $2,400 USD which is closer to a 1 escudo market value.

    The San Jose should also hold some very desirable numismatic Lima 8 escudos.
    doc-d likes this.
    "The finding of a great treasure from the days of the Spanish Main is not the cherished dream of only the United States and Florida citizens; countless peoples from other lands have shared such thoughts. It would amaze and surprise most citizens of this country, when their dream, at the greatest of costs, was realized, the agents of respective governments would, on the most flimsy grounds, lay claim to the treasure."
    ---Judge William O.Mehrtens
    1978 Ruling Against the State of Florida

  6. #21
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    Our friend Panfilo, who participates regularly in this forum, is an emerald expert. He has argued to me (persuadably) that even though, like you suggest, the SJ did not have a chance to load some of the gold and emeralds from Nueva Granada, that the fair that year at Portobelo was so large and unusual, with so much contraband loaded on the SJ, that he would expect that many emeralds should be found on the wreck. According to Colombian Law, only rough or natural gems are subject to a division with the government. Polished emeralds and jewelry as depicted in the picture from Seeker GH, will be technical defined as submerged cultural patrimony of the country and therefore not subject to division.
    sprailroad and doc-d like this.

  7. #22
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    Au Dreamers, thank you for your comments. I agree with your assessment. However, a large portion of the treasure cargo returning to Spain were in the form of silver bars, not coins. As much as we can market today a 1 oz silver coin for it numismatic and historical value ($170), rendering a 100 times more valuable than its current metal value ($17), I'm pretty sure that the same proportion cannot be applied to silver bars. In my experience, I have seen silver bars going for twice, or some time three times, their current metal value, but not much more than that. This will move down the average value of a peso on any given shipwreck treasure calculation considerably. Other factors, like gold, will move it up. Still, the question remains: when we say that a vessel was carrying $1 million pesos, how much in the opinion of this forum is that worth today?

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salvor6 View Post
    I worked "Emerald City" on the Atocha site as a subcontractor in 1992. The emeralds we found were all of exceptionally good quality.
    I heard that the total value of the emeralds salvaged from the Atocha exceeded the total value of the silver.
    doc-d likes this.
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  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boatlode View Post
    I heard that the total value of the emeralds salvaged from the Atocha exceeded the total value of the silver.
    I don't know about that. Are you counting all the silver coins too?
    doc-d likes this.

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salvor6 View Post
    I don't know about that. Are you counting all the silver coins too?
    You got me there, Pete. I'm not sure. When I heard that I thought it meant everything, but maybe it was just the 30 tons of silver bars. I wish I could remember who told me that.
    Mike
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  11. #26

    Jan 2016
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    I worked "Emerald City" on the Atocha site as a subcontractor in 1992. The emeralds we found were all of exceptionally good quality. They were sold at a premium with a certificate of authenticafancy since they came from a famous shipwreck.
    Sold at a premium, and exceptional quality, have no bearing in market terms, its all relative. A famous shipwreck, well, it was famous for being famous, but like the Kardashians, there is little value over time, especially since the generation that remembers why the Atocha was famous is fading.

    The image shown is from a shipwreck, and is of little value in todays cut market. Previously, a large green stone was all it took, not the gem quality we know of today.
    Look at many of the Crown Jewels, just really large gaudy stones, but cut/clarity....

    Attachment 1547752

    MAI....The Atocha recovery seems to have been widely misrepresented in the value, reportedly valued at $400 million, but in reality only selling for $80 Million? (and quite a bit still for sale?)

    Look at the coins from other wrecks, such as the El Cazador or Sao Jose.....why is the Atocha famous? Because......

    As you are wondering, what are the values for bars and coins, you can get a silver El Cazador 8 Reale coin in a NGC box with Cert for $20 on eBay....
    doc-d likes this.

  12. #27
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    Dec 2010
    back on the 1715!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by seekerGH View Post
    Sold at a premium, and exceptional quality, have no bearing in market terms, its all relative. A famous shipwreck, well, it was famous for being famous, but like the Kardashians, there is little value over time, especially since the generation that remembers why the Atocha was famous is fading.

    The image shown is from a shipwreck, and is of little value in todays cut market. Previously, a large green stone was all it took, not the gem quality we know of today.
    Look at many of the Crown Jewels, just really large gaudy stones, but cut/clarity....

    Attachment 1547752

    MAI....The Atocha recovery seems to have been widely misrepresented in the value, reportedly valued at $400 million, but in reality only selling for $80 Million? (and quite a bit still for sale?)

    Look at the coins from other wrecks, such as the El Cazador or Sao Jose.....why is the Atocha famous? Because......

    As you are wondering, what are the values for bars and coins, you can get a silver El Cazador 8 Reale coin in a NGC box with Cert for $20 on eBay....
    You are seriously lacking knowledge of the Atocha to make such a post.
    doc-d likes this.
    "The finding of a great treasure from the days of the Spanish Main is not the cherished dream of only the United States and Florida citizens; countless peoples from other lands have shared such thoughts. It would amaze and surprise most citizens of this country, when their dream, at the greatest of costs, was realized, the agents of respective governments would, on the most flimsy grounds, lay claim to the treasure."
    ---Judge William O.Mehrtens
    1978 Ruling Against the State of Florida

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marine Archaeology Int. View Post
    Au Dreamers, thank you for your comments. I agree with your assessment. However, a large portion of the treasure cargo returning to Spain were in the form of silver bars, not coins. As much as we can market today a 1 oz silver coin for it numismatic and historical value ($170), rendering a 100 times more valuable than its current metal value ($17), I'm pretty sure that the same proportion cannot be applied to silver bars. In my experience, I have seen silver bars going for twice, or some time three times, their current metal value, but not much more than that. This will move down the average value of a peso on any given shipwreck treasure calculation considerably. Other factors, like gold, will move it up. Still, the question remains: when we say that a vessel was carrying $1 million pesos, how much in the opinion of this forum is that worth today?


    I am no currency expert, but here's the best estimate I could find online:
    I looked at the value of 31 gms of silver in 1660's labor compared to the labor value today. I believe that is a closer estimate of worth than merely the metal value.
    Historicalstatistics.org:
    Historical currency converter (test version 1.0)
    Question:
    What is the equivalent of 31 gram silver [1658-2015] in year 1660 in the currency of US dollar [1791-2015] in year 2015?
    31 gram silver [1658-2015] in year 1660 could buy the same amount of consumer goods and services in Sweden as 55.74934775620069 US dollar [1791-2015] could buy in Sweden in year 2015. This comparison should be used if the purpose of the analysis is to compare absolute worth over time rather than relative worth.
    Another way to compare the worth of money in different periods is to estimate how much labour power an amount of money could buy. 31 gram silver [1658-2015] in year 1660 was the amount a male worker in Sweden received in wage for 58.72159415074811 hours work. A male worker in Sweden in 2015 received 1456.3390573986171 US dollar [1791-2015] in wage for 58.72159415074811 hours worked. This comparison should be used if the purpose of the analysis is to compare relative worth over time rather than absolute worth.
    31 gram silver [1658-2015] in year 1660 could buy 2.16317634674126 gram gold. The price of 2.16317634674126 gram gold in year 2015 was 80.67954489257158 US dollar [1791-2015].
    31 gram silver [1658-2015] in year 1660 could buy 30.999999999999996 gram silver. The price of 30.999999999999996 gram silver in year 2015 was 15.62783489207864 US dollar [1791-2015].
    By Rodney Edvinsson,
    (Associate professor, Stockholm University, Pro Futura Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study
    It's a reasonable jumping off place at least...1,000,000 pesos in 1660 would be roughly equal to (1,456 x 1,000,000 = 1,456,000,000 USD)
    Bill Black
    Search and Salvage "C-31"
    Sebastian, FL
    ropesfish@gmail.com

    Subcontractor on the 1715 Plate Fleet
    You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.
    Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

  14. #29
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    Dec 2010
    back on the 1715!!
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    531 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by Marine Archaeology Int. View Post
    Au Dreamers, thank you for your comments. I agree with your assessment. However, a large portion of the treasure cargo returning to Spain were in the form of silver bars, not coins. As much as we can market today a 1 oz silver coin for it numismatic and historical value ($170), rendering a 100 times more valuable than its current metal value ($17), I'm pretty sure that the same proportion cannot be applied to silver bars. In my experience, I have seen silver bars going for twice, or some time three times, their current metal value, but not much more than that. This will move down the average value of a peso on any given shipwreck treasure calculation considerably. Other factors, like gold, will move it up. Still, the question remains: when we say that a vessel was carrying $1 million pesos, how much in the opinion of this forum is that worth today?
    What the market will bear ....

    Large silver bar #247, 89 lb 0.5 oz troy, Class Factor 0.8, with markings of manifest 335, fineness - Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC

    47k USD

    Atocha Grade 1- 8 reale $1,700+
    1715 8 reale $200 to $1,000 depending on condition

    Isn't the Treasure Diver's Guide general valuations based on gold at 1960's value? Something like $59 an ounce? So that $1 million dollar wreck in the book is worth $22 million in mere bullion value....

    If I remember correctly the transition from bars to coins was between the 1622 and 1715 Fleets as the mints were cranking out more and more coins less bars were shipped.
    doc-d likes this.
    "The finding of a great treasure from the days of the Spanish Main is not the cherished dream of only the United States and Florida citizens; countless peoples from other lands have shared such thoughts. It would amaze and surprise most citizens of this country, when their dream, at the greatest of costs, was realized, the agents of respective governments would, on the most flimsy grounds, lay claim to the treasure."
    ---Judge William O.Mehrtens
    1978 Ruling Against the State of Florida

  15. #30
    TRG
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    One can get a high price for something that is highly valued in the current market. In a large lot of recovered coins some will be of high quality with good, attractive preservation (likely relatively few) and many will be average or poor quality/desirability as artifacts. The minimum value is the silver (or gold, or gem) value in today's market. To figure the value of the whole based on the best of the lot isn't reasonable any more than to ignore the value of the most desirable pieces. The value of coinage in 1660 (or 1715) has no bearing on it's current value in today's market. The comparison is useful to understand the value of coinage to people in 1660 in today's terms. I think that, in advance of actual recovery and assessment, trying to value an ancient cargo is simply an exercise in hopeful guesswork.

    This artifact, for instance, (Pylos Combat Agate) I would guess to be nearly priceless - not bad for a piece of agate 1.5" wide...

    Click image for larger version. 

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