Investors Believe Treasure Find Rewards Their Faith
MIAMI (AP) _ James Lindsey’s $1,000 investment in the Key West search for the galleon Atocha was prompted by a 20-year fascination with pirates, treasure hunts and legends of the Spanish navy.
His faith in such endeavors could now bring him a small treasure of his own, worth 15 times his investment.
Lindsey, of Taylorville, Ill., is one of 500 shareholders out of a total of some 700 investors in Mel Fisher’s Treasure Salvors Inc. Fisher’s expedition paid off after 16 years with Saturday’s discovery of the treasure-laden Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The Atocha sank en route from Cuba to Spain in the Florida Straits during a hurricane in 1622.
Fisher has said investments will pay off at a rate of 15-1, but Lindsey said he’s not going to cash in the artifacts he’ll receive for his share.
″I’m going to keep it for the treasure itself,″ said Lindsey, a coal company supervisor. ″I’ve followed Mel Fisher for years. I knew he would find the treasure.″
For shareholders and percentage investors, Fisher’s find means a slice of gold and silver coins, bars and artifacts that earlier estimates valued as high as $330 million to $400 million.
In an interview published today in The New York Times, Fisher said, ″Those figures are kind of wild.
″None of it’s going to be sold anyway. At least, none of my share will be sold.″
He told the Times that an archaeological examination of the site is being prepared and the initial plan calls for careful removal of everything found.
The biggest piece of the payoff pie will go to Carl Paffendorf of Glen Cove, N.Y., Fisher said.
Paffendorf, president of Vanguard Ventures Inc., a limited partnership, sank at least $2.3 million of his clients’ money into Fisher’s salvage efforts over the past few years, said Deborah Conway, Vanguard’s director of investor relations.
″He’ll end up with more than me,″ said Fisher, 62. ″He’ll get 10 percent of the Atocha.″ Fisher himself will receive 5 percent of the yield from the 17th Century galleon found about 41 miles west of Key West.
Paffendorf’s clients stand to receive gold doubloons, pieces of eight, loaf-sized silver bars and emerald-studded artifacts for their investments.
Fisher also pointed out that his estimate of the treasure’s value is based on the treasure’s historical and market value, but not on the actual weight and price of the gold, silver and jewels.
The 500 non-percentage shareholders purchased their pieces of the expedition for $1,000 each, good for the year beginning Jan. 1.
At least another 100 investors made other arrangements with Fisher, in addition to about 75 regular investors, including members of Fisher’s staff, who originally put in between $12,000 and $300,000, said Judy Sojourner, Fisher’s executive secretary.
Fisher’s success with the Atocha has spurred a rush of eager investors ready to risk their money in his second treasure-hunting project: a search for the galleon San Roman, which sank off Florida’s Treasure Coast near Vero Beach in 1715.
Fisher has been on the trail of the San Roman for several years, pulling up coins and artifacts.
But during the two weeks before the Atocha was found, divers working a new part of the wreck site made discoveries - a gold cup, a gold-and-copper serpent-shaped bracelet and 61 gold coins - which could mean Fisher is closer to his target.
Meanwhile, Fisher’s attorney said Tuesday that the treasure hunter will ask a federal judge to keep the Atocha site off limits for at least two more years, the length of time Fisher believes complete salvage will require.
Dr. George Bass, of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University, told the Times, ″From what I’ve heard, it sounds like a spectacular find. It is a special thing to find an intact cargo that can give a picture of 17th century exploration in the New World.″