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Owlscrying

Shipwreck yields estimated $500M haul

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May 18

Tampa, Fla. -- Deep-sea explorers said Friday they have hauled up what could be the richest sunken treasure ever discovered: hundreds of thousands of colonial-era silver and gold coins worth an estimated $500 million from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean.

A chartered cargo jet recently landed in the United States to unload hundreds of plastic containers packed with the 500,000 coins, which are expected to fetch an average of $1,000 each from collectors and investors.

Because the shipwreck was found in an area where many colonial-era vessels went down, the company is still uncertain about its nationality, size and age, although evidence points to a specific known shipwreck.

The site is beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country.

In seeking exclusive rights to that site, an Odyssey attorney told a federal judge last fall that the company likely had found the remains of a 17th-century merchant vessel that sank with valuable cargo aboard, about 40 miles off the southwestern tip of England. A judge granted those rights Wednesday.

The coins - mostly silver pieces - could fetch several hundred to several thousand dollars each, with some possibly commanding much more, he said.

Value is determined by rarity, condition and the story behind them.

It's absolutely impossible to accurately determine the value without knowing the contents and the condition of the retrieved coins.

The richest-ever shipwreck haul was yielded by the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, which sank in a hurricane off the Florida Keys in 1622. Treasure-hunting pioneer Mel Fisher found it in 1985, retrieving a reported $400 million in coins and other loot.

The company salvaged more than 50,000 coins and other artifacts from the wreck of the SS Republic off Savannah, Ga., in 2003, making millions. But Odyssey posted losses in 2005 and 2006 while using its state-of-the-art ships and deep-water robotic equipment to hunt for the next mother lode.

In January, Odyssey won permission from the Spanish government to resume a suspended search for the wreck of the HMS Sussex, which was leading a British fleet into the Mediterranean Sea for a war against France in 1694 when it sank in a storm off Gibraltar.

Historians believe the 157-foot warship was carrying nine tons of gold coins to buy the loyalty of the Duke of Savoy, a potential ally in southeastern France. Odyssey believes those coins could also fetch more than $500 million.

But under the terms of an agreement, Odyssey will have to share any finds with the British government. The company will get 80 percent of the first $45 million and about 50 percent of the proceeds thereafter.

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There's a rather long article about Odyssey in this months Archaeology magazine, it was fascinating. I was glad to hear they are working on ways to protect shipwrecks in international waters, this could preserve treasures for generations to come

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But under the terms of an agreement, Odyssey will have to share any finds with the British government. The company will get 80 percent of the first $45 million and about 50 percent of the proceeds thereafter.

Typical British government... :P

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