Atocha Shipwreck Coins

Posted by Juli Hales on

Atocha Shipwreck Coins

We love shipwreck coins!  We use reproductions of coins found in the Atocha shipwreck in many of our styles.  We are constantly asked about their meaning, so here's a little history:

"On September 6, 1622, the heavily laden treasure galleon of King Philip IV’s Tierra Firme Fleet struck a reef and sank in a raging storm near the Florida Keys. More than two hundred and sixty persons perished and tons of gold, silver, and other precious cargo were lost to the sea. All attempts to locate the shipwreck failed until the location of the primary cultural deposit was made by Treasure Salvors, Inc., on July 20th 1985.

 The Nuestra Senora de Atocha carried over 200,000 hand stamped silver coins from mints in Potosi, Lima and Mexico City. To date, only 128 gold Atocha coins have been recovered! The gold Atocha coins were minted in Spain, as gold coins were not minted in the New World in 1622. The gold Atocha coins would have been in the pockets and possessions of the wealthy passengers.

The coin design in use during the Atocha time period, referred to as shield type, incorporated the Spanish coat of arms or shield on the obverse side and a cross representing the union of Church and State.


Silver coins are referred to as “pieces of eight” and were measured in reales. Their denominations are 8 reales, 4 reales, 2 reales, 1 real, ½ real and ¼ real. An 8 reales silver Atocha coin was roughly equivalent to one month’s pay for a sailor in the 1600’s.

Denominations of the Atocha coins were based on the “Onza” or avoirdupois ounce equaling 28 grams. Each denomination was to equal one-half of the next higher denomination. Due to the crude hand-struck minting process, no two coins look alike.

Gold Atocha coins were measured in escudos and were referred to as “doubloons”. The term dubloon originally came from the word “double” for a two escudo coin. Two pieces of eight (silver) equaled a one-escudo coin or a sixteen-to-one ration between gold and silver bullion. Gold coin denominations are 8 escudo, 4 escudo, 2 escudo and 1 escudo."

Source: Mel Fisher's Treasure


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