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Treasure Hunters Find Gold Coin Trove Off Florida

Courtesy Brent Brisben/1715 Queens Fleet Jewels(NEW YORK) -- In July of 1715, a fleet of 11 Spanish ships departed from Havana, Cuba. A hurricane struck on July 31, and all the ships sank. Fast forward 300 years, and 48 gold coins from the fleet have been discovered off the Florida coast.

Brent Brisben, who owns the shipwreck salvage company 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC, discovered the coins with a four-member crew as part of his excavation quest over the weekend.  A half hour into their quest, the crew was only 100 feet away from the shore when they discovered the coins.

“It’s something I will never forget,” Brisben told ABC News. “To be one of the first person to touch these things in over 300 years is amazing.”

Brisben’s company is responsible for salvaging items from the shipwrecks. He said six of the 11 ships have been discovered.

Brisben is estimating the value of the coins at $250,000, but says his archaeologist has to come in and provide the full value. He estimated that each coin is worth $4,000 to $5,000. The oldest one dates back to 1697, and the newest one 1714, he said.

Brisben plans to sell the coins to collectors. But he said Florida is entitled to 20 percent of the haul, and he needs to see what they want to take.

Mary Glowacki, the chief and state Archaeologist of the Florida Bureau for Archaeological Research, did not return calls for comment.

During the summer, Brisbenand his crew leave the docks at 6:30 a.m. and come back after sundown. He can only look for items in the summer, he explained, because the water has to be calm and flat, conditions which really only happen during the summer months. He spends the winter months conserving and documenting the artifacts.

In 2010, Brisben and his crew discovered a bronze cannon filled with 50 gold coins and 40 silver coins that were valued at half a million dollars. That same year, they found an “extremely rare” gold artifact appraised at $885,000 which the company sold to a private collector in San Francisco.

Brisben previously owned a real estate business, but has operated the salvage company since 2010. He also told ABC News his company is filming a reality show about treasure hunting.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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