The Most Valuable Shipwrecks Ever Discovered

15. 1715 Treasure Fleet

With recent significant advancements in technology and the ability to target and find specific shipwrecks, a renewed interest has been amplified in the last decade. The earliest discovered remnants of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet were found in the 1960’s along Florida’s “Treasure Coast.” 11 of the 12 ship fleet were lost during a hurricane after departing Havana, Cuba, headed back to Spain. Fast forward to 2015 when Brent Brisben located $4.5 million of gold coins belonging to the fleet, thanks to his advanced metal detecting gear and marine salvaging capabilities.

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14. Queen Anne’s Revenge

The Queen Anne’s Revenge was most infamously known as the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard after he captured the ship from the French. While Blackbeard only used the ship for a short period of time, it was paramount in a number of his naval victories and significantly assisted in building up his treasure. Unlike the majority of the shipwrecks on this list, after the Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground off the coast of North Carolina, the crew was able to move the supplies and treasure to smaller vessels. The shipwreck was discovered in 1996 and it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The artifacts recovered are considered priceless historical pieces including the anchor, cannons and a trove of pieces with cultural significance.

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13. HMS Sussex

The HMS Sussex was an extremely exciting discovery by the professional treasure hunting organization, Odyssey Marine Exploration. It was discovered in 1999 by their flagship Odyssey Explorer pictured above. The wreck was discovered off the coast of Gibraltar at a depth of 821 meters. The English Royal Navy ship sank during a particularly bad storm in 1694 while carrying 10 tons of gold coins to curry favor with the Duke of Savoy. While the total value of the treasure is estimated to be around $500 million, only a small percentage has been recovered to date. Spain, England and the Odyssey Marine Exploration team have been in an ongoing legal battle for the remaining phase of excavation.

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12. RMS Titanic

While not the most valuable shipwreck on our list, the wreck of the Titanic is by far the most famous of all-time. In addition to being one of the most deadly maritime disasters, the Titanic also had some of the wealthiest people in world on board during its ominous maiden voyage. Most readers are well aware of how this “unsinkable” British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic in 1912, but the story of its discovery is much less known. Countless expeditions were mounted to find the wreck, but it wasn’t until 1985 that it was discovered by Robert Ballard at more than 12,000 feet below the surface. The artifacts recovered from the wreck are considered priceless and estimated to have gone for more than $200 million at auction.

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11. Salcombe Shipwreck

The Salcombe shipwrecks are very unique to our list in that multiple treasure-carrying vessels have been discovered in the same waters off Salcombe. Originally, a cannon was located in 1992 and further exploration of the wreck site in 1994 turned up gold coins, chains and jewelry dating back to the 16th century. The true identity of this shipwreck remains a mystery, but it contained the largest amount of Moroccan gold ever found in Europe. Then, in 2004, divers at a nearby site discovered artifacts from a 3,000 year old Bronze age vessel that contained swords, axes, tools and ornaments. The majority of these priceless artifacts have been acquired by the British Museum for a large undisclosed sum.

Image Source: The Portable Antiquities Scheme/Wikimedia Commons

10. Belitung Shipwreck

The Belitung shipwreck is definitely one of the most unique shipwrecks on our list. The discovery was made by accident, as a fisherman off of Belitung Island in Indonesia stumbled upon it. The site was then purchased by an Indonesian salvage company and the wreck was discovered to be a ship from 830 AD that was traveling from Africa back to China. They would go on to find the biggest single collection of Tang Dynasty artifacts. These consisted of gold cups, detailed ceramics, a silver flask and all types of period wares. In total, over 60,000 artifacts were recovered and are valued at more than $100 million.

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9. SS Central America

The “Ship of Gold” — more commonly known as the SS Central America — was an American sidewheel steamer that traveled between Central America and the East Coast of the United States. The ship took on water and sank during a hurricane in September of 1857 with 420 crew members and 30,000 pounds of gold. The sheer amount of gold lost in this tragedy was enough to shift American public confidence in the economy for a short period of time. The “Ship of Gold” was finally located off the coast of the Carolinas in 1988 by a group led by Tommy Gregory Thompson with the help of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Over $150 million in gold has been recovered to date, including an 80-pound gold ingot that was the most valuable single piece of currency in the world at the time of its discovery.

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8. Antikythera Treasure

The Antikythera treasure was the oldest wreck on this list, taking place in the second quarter of the first century BC. Found completely by accident by sponge divers in 1900 off the coast of the Greek island Antikythera, they found a bronze statue and other artifacts and reported the findings to the Greek Navy. From there, they were able to excavate an amazing horde of early artifacts, bronze statues, marble sculptures, silver coins and what is considered to be the earliest analog computer (known as the antikythera mechanism which is pictured above). While most of the artifacts are considered priceless, the total estimated value is well north of $200 million.

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7. S.S. Republic

Adding another notch to its belt in 2003, the Odyssey Marine Exploration team discovered the wreck of the SS Republic off the coast of Georgia. The SS Republic originally set off from New York in 1865 to New Orleans with passengers and large amounts of gold coins meant to be used as hard currency after the Civil War. During the evening of the ship’s fifth night at sea, a hurricane proved to be too much, but luckily, the passengers and crew were able to evacuate to lifeboats. The discovery of the wreck has led the Odyssey Marine team to recover 51,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts to date. The total treasure from the wreck is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

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6. Diamond Shipwreck

This unconfirmed shipwreck is thought to be that of the Bom Jesus that departed Lisbon in 1533 and sank off the coast of Namibia. It is nicknamed the diamond shipwreck because it was discovered in 2008 by a geologist working for De Beers. This wreck contained countless artifacts, gold coins, silver, tons of ingots, 50 elephant tusks, copper and weaponry. The full scale of the recovery has never been made public, but it’s considered one of the most valuable treasures ever found.

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