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.