SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — More than 40 rare silver coins, thick silver ingots, Colombian emeralds, and a candlestick that were aboard the shipwrecked Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, will come to auction Aug. 25. The $450 million haul, which includes 40 tons of silver, gold, precious gems and other artifacts, was discovered by treasure hunter Mel Fisher. The Atocha was lost in sea in 1622 during a hurricane 20 miles west of the Florida Keys. Fisher's nephew is consigning the artifacts.
This unique selection of historic items will hit the auction block on Thursday, August 25 as part of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s three-day auction, Aug. 25-27, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Consignor Al Sotzin, of Prescott Valley, remembers his uncle Mel Fisher’s adventures well.
“It was his dream to find a big treasure,” Sotzin said. “He and my aunt Deo owned a lucrative dive shop in California, and after building that business up, they sold it so they could move to Florida to pursue their dream.”
Adventure and Intrigue Drive Fisher
Originally, Fisher joined another treasure hunter to search for the shipwrecks of the 1715 Spanish Plate Fleet that were lost in a hurricane, but he shifted his focus to the Atocha in 1969.
Sotzin described his uncle as a risk-taker who loved adventure.
“He had his mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, but he was not an office guy. And despite his many challenges and nearly two decades searching the ocean floor, he was always optimistic,” Sotzin said.
Searching for the big treasure did not come without heartache. Fisher’s son – and Sotzin’s cousin - Dirk, his wife and another diver drowned on July 20, 1975 when their ship capsized while looking for the treasure.
Sotzin was just 13 years old, living with his family in Pennsylvania, when the tragedy occurred. “I
remember coming home from church and we got the news,” he said. “We were all devastated.
Ten years later – to the day of Dirk’s passing – on July 20, 1985, Fisher and his son, Kane, found the mother lode – 40 tons of silver and gold coins, thick silver ingots, and rare gems worth an estimated $450 million.
Sotzin was thrilled for his uncle Mel, and he was honored to receive some of the historic relics.
“Aunt Deo gave all of the nieces and nephews some of the treasures, and then when my mother passed, I received some more,” Sotzin, a Navy veteran, said, adding that he kept his share of the treasures in a cardboard box in his closet for more than 20 years.
Treasures Speak to Spirit of Collectors
Auctioneer and J. Levine owner Josh Levine said he expects a vigorous bidding war for Sotzin’s treasures.
“Mel Fisher embodied the spirit of collectors. After all, every collector wants to bid on that rare find,” Levine said. “Seasoned collectors know the story behind the Atocha, and when they see these scarce relics and the certificates of authenticity that go along with them, they will engage in a bidding battle that could set records.”
J. Levine’s three-day auction also features fine collectibles from multiple estates, including Asian furniture and art, a Helen Frankenthaler painting on tile that was exhibited in New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 1975, a Diego Giacometti bronze chair with figural animals, estate jewelry, Hot Wheels Redlines custom toys, political signatures and much more.
The high-end auction house is located at 10345 N. Scottsdale Rd., in Scottsdale, on the southeast corner of Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road. Doors open at 9 a.m. with the auction starting at 11 a.m. Pacific Time each day.
For more details or to register to bid, visit www.jlevines.com or call 480-496-2212.