The multi-billion dollar Spanish Galleon, ‘San Jose’ is the fourth of Mint XXI’s ‘Grand Shipwrecks’ silver coins

We’ve been finishing the week off with our favourite subjects, dinosaurs yesterday, and naval history today. Mint XXI’s ‘Grand Shipwrecks in a History’ showcases some of the most famous rediscovered shipwrecks and has done a great job to date picking out some iconic subjects. So far, we’ve had the Whydah Gally, the Titanic, and earlier this year, the incredible Swedish warship, Vasa. The latest is one that coin collectors will find fascinating, the Spanish galleon sunk in 1708 by a British squadron, the San Jose.

So why would coin fans find this ship special? She was carrying a few gold and silver coins (along with some precious gems). By a few, we mean A LOT!. It’s estimated she had in her hold, around 11 million 27g gold coins alone – some 8.8 million troy ounces!. At today’s prices, it equates to over 16 BILLION dollars, and that’s without the silver and gems. As you’d expect, a huge legal battle over salvage rights between the company that found the wreck, and the Colombian government that controls the waters it sits in, is still ongoing.

The coin follows the same design layout as previous coins, but the San Jose issue is perhaps the best yet. The colour image of the ship is there, looking as if viewed through a porthole, and there’s a finely patterned border, but it’s always been the high-relief detailed cargo element that has distinguished this series, and the one here is beautifully done. A pair of the famous ‘Dolphin’ cannon take centre-stage, and it sits on a giant pile of doubloons. It sums up the ship perfectly.

The common obverse returns and the two-ounce silver coin comes in a wooden box with a certificate of authenticity. A fine release in a fine series, we hope it continues. I’d love to see the Mary Rose (flagship of renowned instant weight-loss practitioner, King Henry VIII), or perhaps the sister ship of HMS Belfast, HMS Edinburgh, which sank in 1942 with 4.5 tons of gold on board, and the recovery of which in 1981 still hold the record for deepest dive for bullion recovery at 245 m (800ft). Available to order now, with a mintage of 500.


San José was a 64-gun, three-masted galleon of the Spanish Navy. It was launched in 1698, and sank in battle off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia, in 1708, while laden with gold, silver and emeralds worth about US$17 billion as of 2018. The sunken ship was located by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in November 2015. In July 2017, it was announced that a salvage operation managed by the Colombian government would proceed.

San José was designed by Francisco Antonio Garrote and built by Pedro de Aróstegui at the shipyard in Mapil, Usurbil, Gipuzkoa, Spain. Construction started in 1697 and ended in 1698. They built twin ships simultaneously and named them San José and San Joaquín.

San José and San Joaquín were part of the Spanish treasure fleet during the War of the Spanish Succession, under General José Fernández de Santillán, the Count of Casa Alegre. On its final voyage, San José sailed as the flagship of a treasure fleet composed of three Spanish warships and 14 merchant vessels sailing from Portobelo, Panama, to Cartagena, Colombia. On 8 June 1708, the fleet encountered a British squadron near Barú, leading to a battle known as Wager’s Action. During the battle, the powder magazines of San José detonated, destroying and sinking the ship with most of her crew and the gold, silver, emeralds and jewellery collected in the South American colonies to finance the Spanish king’s war effort. Of the 600 people aboard, only eleven survived. (Wikipedia)

COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, Colour
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes