Two months ago, U.S. courts forced Odyssey Marine Exploration to hand over the so-called Black Swan treasure to the Spanish government. What will Spain do with it?
What will happen to the Black Swan Treasure?
Spain’s claim to the treasure was tenuous at best and completely lacking in proof. But as you might expect, international laws regarding shipwrecks are murky and highly tilted toward governments. Regardless, the Spanish government now owns the Black Swan treasure.
We tend to think this outcome, which was possibly influenced by secret back room bureaucratic dealings, will have extremely negative effects on the field of shipwreck salvage for years to come.
“Going forward, treasure hunters will have little to no incentive to report their findings to the world. The black market for antiquities will grow. The treasure hunting field will attract a greater number of reckless and unskilled individuals. Thus, salvage work will be done with more haste and less care.” ~ David Meyer, The Black Swan Heist
The Spanish Culture Ministry has taken possession of the treasure (and to add insult to injury, is suing for legal costs as well). The Spanish government claims it merely wants to divide up the treasure to be exhibited in multiple museums. But since Spain is deep in debt, it seems possible the government will sell some of the treasure instead and use the proceeds to pay its bills. While no hard evidence exists of an upcoming sale, there are some recent clues hinting at it. Here’s more on the Black Swan treasure from NumisMaster:
On Feb. 25 Jose Ignacio Wert, Spain’s education, culture and sports minister made no mention of value, simply saying, “The legacy of the Mercedes belongs to Spain.” It is likely Spain went to all the trouble of fighting for this waterlogged hoard in court due to its value, not due to the treasure simply being a legacy rightfully belonging to Spain.
But, wait a minute. This is treasure trove dredged from the ocean floor. What kind of collector value are we really looking at?
The first hint comes from a Feb. 27 Associated Press story. Within this story is the comment, “After two centuries under water, parts of the trove of coins are stuck together in big chunks, sometimes in the very shape of the chests or sacks they were originally stored in, said Milagros Buendia, part of the specialized team that went to Florida to get the booty.”
The AP story continues that “Spain will now set about classifying and restoring the 594,000 coins and other artifacts involved before it figures out how to display them for the public.”
The word “restoring” is the key, a word that likely goes over the head of the average potential buyer of such coins. This is part of the reverse psychology that has been applied many times when someone is publicizing a hoard of coins in preparation to selling them to the public. (There is no indication at this time that Spain will seek to sell the coins.)…