The rediscovered wreck of the Spanish treasure galleon, Nuestra Senora de Atocha, donates silver to Art Mint’s latest issue

In the early 17th century, Spain was a superpower, it’s empire vast, and its fleets feared, but no matter how big and powerful you get, nature will always be the apex predator. Built in Havana, in 1620, for the Spanish Crown, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha (Our Lady of Atocha), was a 550-ton, 34 m long, three-masted galleon. Heavily armed with 20 large cannon, and 4-8 smaller ones, she was designed as a rear-guard ship, meant to trail a fleet to protect it from attack from behind.

She was poorly built, not from oak, but from mahogany, which no doubt had a devastating impact on her sinking, just three years later. Carrying a treasure that was so large it took two months to catalogue and load on board, she left Havana on 4 September 1622 as part of a 28-ship convoy headed back to Spain. Two days later, about 140 km from Havana in the Florida Straits, the fleet was battered by a massive hurricane, and eight ships, including both the Atocha, and fellow treasure galleon, Santa Margarita, had been lost. Atocha herself lost 260 of her 265 crew, Margarita giving up 142 lives to the sea.

Spain relied heavily on its treasure from the West, and sent out five ships to try and recover what it could from the wrecks. The Atocha alone was carrying a veritable fortune, perhaps half a billion dollars at today’s prices, including tons of silver, gold, and copper, along with kilos of emeralds, and pearls. Margarita was similarly well loaded, including 166,574 silver “pieces of eight”, over 550 ingots of silver weighing around 5,000 kilos, and over 9,000 ounces of gold. Of course, the wrecks were found in the late 20th century, and much of the treasure recovered.


Part of that treasure, specifically some silver from the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, has ended up embedded in Art Mint’s latest coin issue. It’s a terrific link to the past, having a coin benefitting from all that modern minting technology can offer, yet giving a nod to a more exciting and dangerous past. Coins really are a unique item when it comes to continuity through human civilisations, and we’re all for celebrating that.

Ships under full sail almost always look great on a coin, and when you’re throwing in high-relief, and getting a top designer like Sandra Deiana, who has designed some great coins for Art Mint (also responsible for the Royal Mint’s 2022 Britannia Exclusive Edition) to work on it, the end result is this. A beautiful, classic representation of a galleon in stormy seas, it employs high-relief to impart substantial dynamism to the sails. We’re under no illusion that this ship is in motion. We particularly like the way the sea is drawn – so much better than a few stylised wavy lines. The original Atocha silver slice is well-placed and highlighted, and even the font looks bang-on.

We’re pleased to see the obverse getting plenty of attention as well. The pretty coat-of-arms of Niue sits at its centre, having eschewed the more common Elizabethan effigy, and it’s surrounded by a packed trove of Spanish treasure, full of detail. That is then edged by a rope, on the outside of which is an inscription filled border. This face often gets little love, but that’s clearly not the case in this instance.

This is a two-ounce, 0.999 silver coin, and it’s available in two versions. Despite having a mintage of just 200 pieces, the antiqued variant is the more common of the two, and, to be honest, our favourite. It just seems to suit the theme so well. The other version, of which just 50 will be struck, is gilded, and we’re sure many will prefer this one, although you’ll have to dig a little deeper into the wallet for one. Both are identically packaged in a neat box with a Certificate of Authenticity. A pretty, classic issue, packed with history. Available to order now.

DENOMINATION $5 NZD (Niue) $5 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams 62.2 grams
DIMENSIONS 50.0 mm 50.0 mm
FINISH Antique Gilded
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, silver fragment insert High-relief, silver fragment insert
MINTAGE 200 50
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes Yes / Yes