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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2014) Headlines (08/2014) Headlines (12/2014)   Vol. 48 October 2014 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the October 2014 edition of W&ET Magazine

FAMILY FINDS 300-YEAR-OLD SUNKEN TREASURE OFF FLORIDA’S EAST COAST

A Florida family scavenging for sunken treasure on a shipwreck has found the missing piece of a 300-year-old filigree necklace sacred to Spanish priests, officials said recently.

Eric Schmitt, a professional salvager, was scavenging with his parents when he found the crumpled, square-shaped ornament on a leisure trip to hunt for artifacts in the wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that sank in 1715 during a hurricane off central Florida’s east coast.

After the discovery last month, a team of Spanish historians realized the piece fit together with another artifact recovered 25 years ago. It formed an accessory called a pyx, worn on a chain around a high priest’s neck to carry the communion host. The dollar value is uncertain.

“It’s priceless, unique, one of a kind,” said Brent Brisben, operations manager for 1715 Fleet - Queens Jewels, which owns rights to the wreckage, located in 15-foot deep Atlantic Ocean waters.

Schmitt, who lives near Orlando, last year discovered about $300,000 worth of gold coins and chains from the same wreckage, Brisben said. Schmitt’s parents have hunted for sunken treasure as a hobby for a decade.

By law, the treasure will be placed into the custody of the U.S. District Court in South Florida, Brisben said. The state of Florida may take possession of up to 20 percent of the find. The rest will be split evenly between Brisben’s company and the Schmitt family.

From Reuters, submitted by Lisa Lommasson, Pebble Beach, CA.



LONE RANGER ACTOR’S OUTFIT SELLS FOR $195,000

The outfit Lone Ranger actor Clayton Moore wore when making appearances as the character after retiring from television has sold for $195,000 at a Texas auction.

Waco-based A & S Auction Co. said the outfit was sold recently.

Moore, who died in 1999, played the masked lawman on the ABC television series “The Lone Ranger” from 1949 to 1957.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.



PARIS POLICE WOUND THIEF WITH GOLD LOOT IN METRO

Police in the French capital said they shot and wounded a thief with about 100,000 euros in gold coins in a rare chase in the Paris Metro.

The thief had stolen an estimated $135,000 in gold coins from a shop after hitting the seller on the head with a crowbar.

The thief ducked into the entrance of the nearby Grands Boulevards Metro station after taking two shelves of gold coins from the specialty shop.

He fired at a team of police who pursued him, and officers fired back, wounding the suspect’s arm, police said.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.



SIGNED TICKET FROM LOU GEHRIG’S LAST GAME NETS $95,600

A ticket stub signed by Lou Gehrig on the day he retired from baseball sold for $95,600 at an auction recently, and the boxing gloves Muhammad Ali wore in the first of his three fights against Joe Frazier sold for $388,375.

The July 4, 1939, ticket and the 1971 Fight of the Century gloves were among the highlights from Heritage Auctions’ sale at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland.

Gehrig’s 1924 rookie year contract sold for $358,500. A 1927 New York Yankees signed baseball sold for $143,400, and Babe Ruth’s 702nd home run ball sold for $191,200.

The auction house said more than 60,000 tickets were sold to Gehrig’s last game, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Only two tickets are known to have survived. Of them, only the mezzanine box ticket had Gehrig’s autograph.

The ticket was owned, until the auction, by a collector who did not want to be identified.

Gehrig retired after being diagnosed with amyotropic lateral sclerosis, now known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In his farewell speech that day he said he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

From The Associated Press, submitted by Martin Maher, Langlois, OR.



SHIPWRECK’S GOLD INVENTORY RELEASED

Deep-sea explorers recovered millions of dollars in gold and silver and a slew of personal items that are a virtual time capsule of the California Gold Rush, according to newly unsealed court documents obtained by The Associated Press that provide the first detailed inventory of a treasure trove being resurrected from an 1857 shipwreck at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The recovery effort at the SS Central America shipwreck, about 200 miles off the South Carolina coast, began in April and is expected to continue throughout the summer.

The operation is being directed by a court-appointed receiver of an Ohio company that had been led by a treasure hunter-turned-fugitive named Tommy Thompson, who first found the Central America in 1988- a monumental achievement funded by a group of central Ohio investors who never saw a penny.

Immediately after finding the ship and recovering a fraction of its garden of gold, Thompson became embroiled in a decades-long legal battle over who had rights to the treasure and how it was being dispersed. None of the investors ever saw a return, despite the gold selling for about $50 million, though Thompson’s supporters say the vast majority went toward legal fees and loans.

In August 2012, after he failed to show up for several court hearings, a warrant was issued for Thompson’s arrest. He has been a federal fugitive ever since.

Meanwhile, the Central America and its gold sat untouched since 1991, the last time Thompson and his team were at the site.

The new recovery operation was made possible after the court-appointed receiver awarded a contract to Tampa, Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration to conduct the recovery in hopes of bringing up more treasure and paying back investors.

The inventories, unsealed by a federal judge in Virginia recently, show that Odyssey Marine has brought up 43 solid gold bars, 1,300 $20 double eagle gold coins, and thousands more gold and silver coins.

Bob Evans, an Ohio scientist who was on both the original and current expeditions, said in a statement “the variety and quality of the coins being recovered is just astonishing.”

He said the double eagles are just as “spectacular” as the ones recovered more than 25 years ago, but that the most recent recovery has resulted in a wider variety of coins.

“I have seen what I believe are several of the finest known examples,” Evans said. “The coins date from 1823 to 1857 and represent a wonderful diversity of denominations and mints, a time capsule of virtually all the coins that were used in 1857.”

It’s unclear how much more gold is left in the Central America and estimates have varied wildly, with some saying there could have been up to 21 tons on the ship when it sank.

Odyssey Marine could not immediately provide an estimate of what the gold that has been recovered so far is worth, but it’s easily in the millions, based on past sales of such items.

For instance, thousands of $10 and $20 gold coins sold by Odyssey Marine from the SS Republic, which sank off the southeastern U.S. in 1865, sold for an average of about $6,700 a coin.

That would mean the $10 and $20 gold coins recovered from the Central America so far could sell for up to $9 million, potentially more.

Gold bars vary in value depending on myriad factors. In 2000, Sotheby’s estimated that gold bars recovered from the Central America between 1988 and 1991, which weighed up to 54 pounds, were worth between $8,000 and $25,000 each.

The passenger items recovered from the Central America so far provide a window into the world of a California Gold Rush miner and other Americans who were on their way from The Golden State to New York when their ship sunk. Among them was a safe that contained two cotton pieces of clothing wrapped tightly around gold coins, nuggets, and dust, a pouch with 134 gold double eagles, a leather saddlebag with more nuggets, and a small packet filled with paper and sealed with twine.

Other items include wire-rimmed glasses, a gold puzzle ring, and the photographs of at least 60 passengers. The photos are called ambrotypes, a short-lived type of photography that used glass plates, and were left at the bottom of the ocean until Odyssey Marine can figure out how to safely recover them.

“Photographs of any mid-19th century Gold Rush miners are rare, and these ambrotypes are the only examples found on any 19th-century shipwreck worldwide,” according to a court report by Odyssey Marine.

The inventories document what Odyssey Marine recovered at the shipwreck from the beginning of the operation on April 15 through June 15. An inventory of operations from the past month should be filed soon.

The SS Central America was in operation for four years during the California Gold Rush. It sailed into a hurricane in 1857 and sank in one of the worst maritime disasters in American history; 425 people were killed and thousands of pounds of gold sank with it, contributing to an economic panic.

From The Associated Press, submitted by Warren Kimsey, Gastonia, NC, Jerry R. Hallett, Napa, CA, Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL, and Lisa Lommasson, Pebble Beach, CA.



LOST CIVIL WAR RING RETURNED TO SOLDIER’S KIN



A ring lost by a Union soldier from Pennsylvania during the Civil War has completed a long journey home.

The ring was worn by Levi Schlegel, who is believed to have lost it nearly 150 years ago at an encampment near Fredericksburg, VA.

Relic hunter John Blue found the ring at a construction site in 2005. Though it was engraved with Schlegel’s name and unit- “Co., G., 198th P.V.,” or Pennsylvania Volunteers- Blue wasn’t sure how to find Schlegel’s descendants, and kept the ring in a box for several years.

A genealogist ultimately helped Blue track down Schlegel’s family. Recently, Blue presented the ring to a distant cousin during a ceremony at Levi Schlegel’s grave in Reading.

“This is truly a hero’s journey,” said the cousin, Ernie Schlegel.

Another distant relative, James W. Schlegel of Reading, said he felt pride as he touched the ring.

“I think about all the time that passed since Levi and so many others fought for our freedom,” Schlegel, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, told the Reading Eagle. “As a veteran, I know the importance of fighting for freedom, and I’m proud to know the Schlegel family did its part.”

After the war, Levi Schlegel returned to Reading, where he worked as a carpenter. He died in 1932 at 91.

From the AP, submitted by Bruce Weis and Zoueva Grossmann.

WOMAN’S $882 MAIL MISTAKE HAS HAPPY ENDING

An upstate New York woman who put $882 in cash into a mailbox by mistake has gotten the money back, thanks to the U.S. Postal Service.

Susan Archambault tells The Post-Star of Glens Falls that she withdrew her daughter’s income tax refund last month and left the money in the bank envelope, taking it with her to her job at a local church.

Her daughter was supposed to stop by that day to get the money but didn’t show up. Hours after Archambault dropped a stack of business envelopes into a mailbox, she realized the envelope with her daughter’s money was at the bottom of the stack.

She called post office officials, who eventually found the money at a postal distribution center and mailed the cash back to her.

From the AP, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL



HIDDEN CASH CRAZE HITS NEW YORK’S CENTRAL PARK

Dozens of New Yorkers are finding $50 bills hidden by a California real estate investor who announces his cash drops on Twitter.

The Twitter account Hidden Cash said money was left in Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park recently.

The same Twitter account directed people last week to envelopes with $50 and $100 inside them in San Francisco and 36 cash-filled Angry Birds orbs in Hermosa Beach, California.

Bay Area real estate investor Jason Buzi went public as Hidden Cash in a CNN interview.

The New York envelopes each contain a $50 bill and a silver dollar.

Hidden Cash tweeted that the next giveaway is in Chicago.

From the AP, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.



SCIENTISTS: SHIP FOUND BURIED AT NEW YORK’S WORLD TRADE CENTER PREDATES AM

Researchers say a ship unearthed at the site of New York’s World Trade Center predates American independence.

Columbia University scientists say they’ve determined wood used in the ship’s frame came from a Philadelphia-area forest in 1773- three years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence and start of the Revolutionary War.

Researchers say they’ve tentatively identified the ship as a Philadelphia-built sloop, a ship designed by the Dutch to carry passengers and cargo over shallow, rocky water.

After sailing for two or three decades, pieces of the ship were used as landfill to extend lower Manhattan.

A 32-foot piece of the vessel was found four years ago about 20 feet under a street during construction of the new One World Trade Center.

From The Associated Press, submitted by Martin Maher, Langlois, OR.



BABE’S BOSTON CONTRACT FETCHES $1 MILLION AT AUCTION

Babe Ruth’s 1918 contract with the Boston Red Sox has sold for more than $1 million, along with other baseball memorabilia up for auction in Baltimore.

The contract was among about three dozen Ruth-related items up for auction at the Sports Legends Museum a day after the 100th anniversary of Ruth’s major league debut. Ruth was born in Baltimore.

From The Daytona Beach News-Journal, submitted by Zoueva Grossmann, Palm Coast, FL.





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