Family finds $300,000 in sunken gold

The amateur treasure hunters were searching the wreckage from a convoy of ships downed by a hurricane nearly 300 years ago.

By Kim Peterson Sep 3, 2013 3:41PM
File photo of a treasure chest overflowing with jewels (© Comstock/Getty Images)One treasure-hunting family hit the jackpot last weekend in Florida, uncovering some $300,000 worth of gold from a wreckage that dates back to 1715.

Rick and Lisa Schmitt and their two grown children discovered the gold chains and coins at a legendary wreck site off the coast of Florida, Reuters reports. Nearly 300 years ago, a hurricane took out a convoy of 11 ships sailing from Havana to Spain. Of the estimated $400 million in treasure on board, about $175 million has been recovered.

That means there's a lot of gold hiding in the depths.

A company named 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels LLC owns the rights to the wreckage, Reuters reports, and allows subcontractors like the Schmitt family to hunt around for treasure. The company says that more than 2 million silver coins and an untold amount of gold have yet to be recovered.

The family doesn't get to keep the entire find, however. The treasure first goes into the custody of federal court in south Florida, Reuters reports. The state can take as much as 20% to display in a museum, and the remainder will be split between the Schmitt family and the company that owns the wreckage.

This kind of adventure is the norm for this family of amateur treasure hunters. The son who is responsible for the find, Eric Schmitt, found a silver platter worth $25,000 in 2002, when he was a sophomore in high school, Reuters reports.

In 2010, one Florida woman found a 5.5-inch-tall statue of a gold bird while examining one area near the shipwreck. Even though one of the bird's wings is missing, the statue was appraised at $885,000, according to 1715 Fleet-Queens Jewels.

More on moneyNOW

26Comments
Sep 3, 2013 5:50PM
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Finders Keepers...That's the way it should be
Sep 3, 2013 5:09PM
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Good for them, looks like the government pirates are going to get to split the booty :)  at least 20% percent of it.
Sep 3, 2013 5:05PM
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Took my find out of the state of FL, they can kiss my butt!

Sep 3, 2013 4:06PM
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they didnt find that gold.  someone else made that happen
Sep 8, 2013 5:08AM
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how can a company own the treasure that is not found ??
Sep 3, 2013 5:06PM
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Everytime I go SCUBA diving in the Keys I always look for something shiney and to this day no luck.. Great find guys.. have fun finding more

Sep 8, 2013 5:09AM
Sep 3, 2013 5:15PM
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A few more details would have been nice
Sep 3, 2013 5:04PM
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Obama and his minion will also take a slice, 
Sep 8, 2013 11:38AM
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Not one company or person should have the rights to these treasures. That's just greed and nonsense.
Sep 8, 2013 4:52PM
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When a wreck is found it can be 'claimed' by the finder.  Lots of things enter into it, open ocean, territorial waters, flag of origin, whether it's a warship or commercial, even more.  I'm no lawyer or all that knowledgeable about marine salvage rights.  A warship or ship of state, no matter her cargo, is the sole property of the the country of flag.  A Spanish warship loaded with treasure belongs to Spain no matter where she lies, etc.  The claimant can authorize other exploration of the wreck.  In Florida, treasure from shipwrecks belongs to the finder except for a percentage that belongs to the state.  To my understanding, 20%.  Also, I believe the state has first pick of any treasure/artifacts recovered.  There's a lot more to it that that, but that's the gist of it.
Sep 8, 2013 10:36AM
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it used to be salvers rights of recovery but a few years back insurance company's slid a law through that no matter if the ship was abandon or the"captain didn't go down with the ship" Lloyds of london,or the Egyptian faro the sent the ship still has all claim even inside territorial waters,or on top of the rockyies,not much inventive to the old timers to even look,unless ""you don't"" report the find
Sep 8, 2013 11:28PM
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"Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate." Captain Jack Sparrow.
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