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22 Spanish silver coins from 1715 shipwreck unearthed on Florida beach

Max Chesnes
Treasure Coast
Walton Sun

They don't call it the Treasure Coast for nothing.

Jonah Martinez, a 43-year-old treasure hunter from Port St. Lucie, was scanning the sand with his metal detector at Turtle Trail beach access Friday night when his device picked up a signal.

Beneath him, over three centuries of history were buried in the sand:

Martinez pulled 22 Spanish silver coins from the surf, each dating back to a shipwreck 305 years ago, he said.

Twelve Spanish galleons laden with treasures from the New World were bound for Spain July 31, 1715, but 11 were lost during a hurricane off the coast of Florida. Most of the treasure still lies beneath the ocean.

"Not everyone knows why it's called the Treasure Coast," he said. "This is why."

Martinez, who has hunted treasure along Florida's coastlines for 24 years, estimates the total haul to be worth around $7,000, he said. One coin alone could be worth upwards of $2,000.

But while this isn't his biggest or most successful find (Martinez once found $6.5 million worth of gold coins), the thrill is still there, he said.

"I know how to read the beach, and I'm always trying to increase my odds of finding something," Martinez said.

According to Florida law, recovery permits are required for individuals who want to explore or recover artifacts on state-owned lands underwater, but not on a public beach.

Martinez said he has no intent to sell the coins.

In July 2017, Martinez and his team found only a few artifacts from the 1715 wreck in what the crew considered a slow summer for treasure hunting.

“It has been one of the worst summers weather-wise that we’ve ever experienced,” Martinez told TCPalm in 2017. “But we’re getting through it day by day, and we’re working in an area where we found items before so we’re optimistic.”

But that was then, and this is now.

Martinez said he has no plans to polish the 22 new coins in his collection and will put them in a safe spot next to some of his other historic finds just as he found them.

"It's a passion," Martinez said. "It's the thrill of the hunt that I love."

Max Chesnes is a TCPalm breaking news reporter for Indian River County. You can keep up with Max on Twitter @MaxChesnes and give him a call at 772-978-2224.

This story originally published to tcpalm.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.