Eric Schmitt has found undersea treasure three times, but the novelty must never wear off, as his excitement is simply contagious as he finds a trove of gold coins off the coast of Florida.
On June 17, Schmitt and his family discovered more than $1 million in gold coins while diving near Fort Pierce, Fla., reports the Orlando Sentinel. The gold was found near the wreckage of a fleet of Spanish ships that was lost in a storm in July 1715. The find was announced this week to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the wreck.
The haul includes 52 gold coins, including an extremely rare coin called a Tricentennial Royal, which is worth about $500,000.
Schmitt and his family made news in 2013 when they discovered an assortment of gold chains and coins among the same wreckage. In 2014, Schmitt discovered part of a gold religious artifact at the same site.
A Florida company called 1715 Fleet–Queens Jewels has exclusive rights to the wrecks, and Schmitt has a contract with them to dive at the site. The state of Florida is entitled to 20 percent of the find and may put in requests for specific items to transfer to museums. 1715 Fleet–Queens Jewels and Schmitt will split the rest evenly.
“To be one of the first people to hold artifacts that are over 300 years old, it’s remarkable,” Brent Bisben, cofounder of 1715 Fleet–Queens Jewels, told JCK in 2013. “You never get tired of it. Gold comes out almost like the day it was made. It is such a pure mineral. It doesn’t corrode. To give it context, this stuff was lying out there 150 years before the Civil War.”