Florida Salvage Diver Strikes Gold – Finds $300,000 Worth of Gold and Priceless Artifact

Source: Booty Salvage / La Prensa

Treasure hunters and salvagers go searching for sunken wrecks. Sometimes, they’re rewarded with treasure far beyond their expectations. In this case, a Florida treasure hunter salvaging the wreck of a shop found a priceless gold artifact and hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold coins. Here’s how it went down.

Not An Overnight Haul

Source: Booty Salvage

Eric Schmitt is a professional treasure hunter. Aside from being one of the coolest job descriptions to stick on a business card, he spends his days searching through sunken wrecks, trying to find lost artifacts that could net him and the owner some money.

Throughout his exploration of this particular ship, Eric ran across many things. One of them is a solid gold artifact known as a pyx. The artifact was supposed to be attached to a chain, which was fished up from the same shipwreck a few years earlier. The pyx is a pendant used in religious rituals.

Gold And Priceless Artifacts in Florida

Source: La Prensa

The shipwreck yielded a lot of salvage, aside from the pyx. Under the water, Eric and his family collected some $300,000 worth of gold coins. The pyx, being solid gold itself, was also invaluable since it was both a historical piece and a solid chunk of gold.

The wreck is one of many that Eric has been down to salvage in his lifetime. Brent Brisben, the operations manager of Queens Jewels, owns it. According to Brisben, the wreck went down off the coast of Florida sometime in 1715 after a particularly nasty hurricane struck it.

A Regular Spot to Explore

Source: Flickr/ Mal B

The wreck has been out there for hundreds of years; salvagers typically visit it several times a year. Typically, they find artifacts relating to the ship itself, like ship spikes and musket balls, that give a bit of history of the boat and its crew before it sank.

Eric’s discovery is unique because it’s not only a sunken treasure but also contains a rare artifact that no one expected to find down there. Overall, Eric’s haul is worth a lot of money, which will likely be split between Eric and Brisben.

Much Treasure to Find in Florida

Source: hyku

Florida’s the home to several shipwrecks because of where it sits. In the colonial empire days, Florida was owned by the Spanish and would regularly see the treasure fleet as it collected loot to take back to Europe. Not all of those ships remained afloat.

These treasure ships would routinely carry millions of dollars in gold and silver extracted from the mines in mainland South America (the Spanish Main). The flotilla could number dozens of ships, and each carried a treasure in their holds. When they sank, the treasure went to the bottom of the sea.

Hunting Treasure is a Grueling Business

Source: Booty Salvage

Eric is a professional treasure hunter, but that requires less reading of maps and finding secret Xs carved into tree trunks than you’d expect. It does require a lot of backbreaking labor under the hot sun with barely anything to show for hours of work, though. The books may have been lying about sunken pirate treasure.

Eric and his entire family have been treasure-hunting for as long as he can remember. They would set out on their 44-foot doubt-engine fishing trawler aptly named the Aarrr Booty and find a wreck they’d want to check out. They’d dive down for the next few hours to collect salvage and resurface to bring their finds up.

What Does it Take to Become a Professional Treasure Hunter?

Source: Flickr/svenstorm

You don’t need a crew of scurvy sea dogs, but you will need a boat and a lot of time. Eric runs his own company, Booty Salvage, which tracks down shipwrecks with the permission of their salvage owners and dives to collect what he can from the ship itself.

Diving equipment and a professionally trained crew would also be necessary. Having the good graces of a salvage expert or an appraiser may also be in your best interests. Since Eric typically partners with Brisben and his company, he’s already got that covered.

Do Treasure Hunters Make A Lot?

Source: Met Museum

While Florida has an active treasure hunter scene, many other places in the US also have treasure waiting for ardent hunters to find them. However, depending on the jurisdiction and how good you are, you might be making quite a lot or quite a little.

Partnerships also factor into the payment that a treasure hunter might get for finding a cache of coins and precious gems. Some hunters start off in debt to buy equipment that they need. It’s a constant race to stay ahead of things, but many of these treasure hunters do well.

What’s Out There to Find, Anyway?

Source: Wikimedia

Based on the area around Florida, Eric and his family have uncovered many other things besides this wreck. It’s not only about the treasure, however. Eric’s a massive fan of history; part of his time is dedicated to researching and locating historical items that might not have monetary value.

Aside from the treasure and the gems, there are priceless artifacts that help archaeologists and historians piece together how people lived in the past. These artifacts might be worth a lot to collectors, or they might simply be things that museums may want as part of their exhibits.

Are There Taxes Associated With Finding Treasure?

Source: Queens Jewels LLC

This depends on where in the US you’re planning to do your treasure hunting. In many locales, the state has some claim on treasure, even if it’s just to notice it as income, that the state may charge income tax on. It depends on which part of Florida you found the treasure in.

Eric’s find falls under South Florida, and the US District Court is entitled to 20% of his total treasure value. The proceeds of the rest of the goods are split up between Eric and Brisben, along the lines that they decided in their original contract. Naturally, drawing up a contract is necessary to ensure everything is fair.

The Joy of Treasure Hunting

Source: Flickr/profzucker

As we mentioned before, treasure hunting is a lot of grueling work. Sometimes, you’ll dive for hours and find nothing worth salvaging. Other times, it’ll just be odds and ends that won’t go for much, if anyone is even interested in them at all. But sometimes, you really hit something memorable.

For Eric, the joy he finds in treasure hunting comes from touching something that is so old that he can feel its history. Eric describes finding an artifact hundreds of years old as a surreal experience. The money’s nice sometimes, but other times, finding a piece of history hidden away for centuries is worth more.

Treasure Hunting From an Early Age

Source: Wikimedia/Swiss Banker

So, how did Eric start off with treasure hunting? At the tender age of 14, he uncovered an “incredible” silver platter that stoked the flames of exploration. Over the years, Eric and his family discovered more and more treasure, some of it worth quite a lot of money when sold.

Among their most impressive discoveries was a cache of 52 gold coins worth over $1 million! If anything, Eric and his family have a good thing going as long as they stick with it. It’s not for everyone, of course, but they seem to be doing pretty well.

Getting Started With Treasure Hunting On a Budget?

Source: Flickr/skuds

Eric’s family has been treasure hunting for years, but they have the benefit of an established business. How does someone who’s only just decided to dip their toes into the profession start? What sort of equipment do they need, and how expensive is it to get?

Budget treasure hunting can be relatively inexpensive. All a treasure hunter really needs is a metal detector and some gloves to get started. However, doing the research will take time since you can’t possibly cover all the potential areas that treasure might exist.

What Sort of Research Do Treasure Hunters Do?

Source: Flickr/ NOAA’s National Ocean Service

Knowing where to look for treasure is almost as important as having the right equipment. If you limited yourself just to Florida, you’d have to cover the entire state. If it were just the coastline, it would still be too much for you to cover in your whole lifetime.

Research comes from doing a lot of reading and following your gut feeling. Eric notes that some of his finds are due to that unspoken feeling that something is there. Finding a valuable treasure happens when your research and preparation meet the opportunity.

Is Florida The Best Place for Shipwrecks?

Source: Wikimedia/Photograph of a painting by Eldred Clark Johnson.

While there are several places on the coast where shipwrecks occur, the ones that tend to have valuable ancient artifacts are typically around Florida. Estimates put the total number of shipwrecks off Florida’s coast at around 5,000 entities. If even five percent of those are hundreds of years old, that’s still a lot.

Florida is home to many shipwrecks because it served as a port for ships during the colonial era. Ships would typically dock at the Florida coastline on their way back to Europe from the Caribbean. Unfortunately, some of those ships ran into hurricanes off the coast and sank.

Should You Hunt Treasure on Florida Shipwrecks?

Source: Steve Lonhart (MBNMS)/NOAA/ONMS/Hickerson.

If you’re up for an adventure and have a lot of time and resources to spare, treasure hunting is an exciting endeavor. However, it’s probably not how you’d want to make a living. There’s no guarantee you’ll find anything or that what you find will be valuable.

Stories like these show us that history is in the water around us. But bringing those sunken treasures to light takes a lot of dedication and ambition. Sometimes, it’s more than just a little bit of luck to find a pyx in an ocean.

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Charlotte Clad

Written by Charlotte Clad

Charlotte Clad is a brilliant writer who possesses the remarkable ability to craft content that goes viral and leaves an indelible mark on readers. With an innate passion for storytelling and an unwavering commitment to her craft, Charlotte has consistently pushed the boundaries of creativity to captivate audiences worldwide.

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