"The Shipwreck that changed the World"
Denomination: 1/2 Reale
Reign: Carolus III
Weight: 1.3 grams
History: Sometimes called "The Shipwreck That Changed the World," the story of the ill-fated El Cazador really speaks volumes about early American History. In the 1770's, the Spanish controlled Louisiana Territory's economy was failing, and was heavily reliant on the arrival of Mexico-minted Spanish coins to help boost the economy. Charles III of Spain ordered Captain Gabriel de Campos y Pineda to sail the Spanish brig of war, El Cazador (The Hunter), to Veracruz, New Spain (present day Mexico), on October 20, 1783.
There, she was loaded with silver Spanish coins, mostly 8 Reales, the largest coin by size and weight that Spain had minted. On January 11, 1784, El Cazador set sail for New Orleans and was never heard from again. Some historians speculate that had El Cazador made it to New Orleans, and its treasure been able to bolster the economy, Spain might not have given the territory back to France in 1801. And, in turn, the United States would not have been able to acquire it for 15 million dollars in 1803 from the French.
Two hundred years later, about 50 miles South of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, a butterfish trawler, was fishing in 300 feet of water when its net snagged something on the bottom. It was August 2, 1993. Captain Jerry Murphy and his crew held their breath as they retrieved the net to examine it for damage. When they pulled the net up and dumped the contents on the deck, debris and black clumps fell out. Thinking they were rocks, some of the crew started kicking them through the scuppers and back into the abyss. Then someone yelled "COINS, COINS, COINS!!!" - and all fishing stopped