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Atocha coins to be displayed at Cape Historical Museum

February 11, 2011
By MEGHAN McCOY, mmccoy@breezenewspapers.com

A video presentation will be offered free of charge at the Cultural Park Theater for those who wish to learn about Mel Fisher's Atocha coins discovery, along with viewing the 388-year-old collection of coins at the Cape Coral Historical Museum.

A hurricane that hit near the Florida Keys on Sept. 6, 1622, left the Neustra Senora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon that carried gold and silver coins and bars, shipwrecked at the bottom of the ocean.

The collection featured at the Cape museum is made up of different sizes, shapes and values of coins, along with a few artifacts.

Article Photos

Breeze file photo

Lou Tilley holds one of the coins salvaged from the Atocha by treasure hunter Mel Fisher.

"It is a fascinating story," Paul Sanborn, president of the Cape Coral Historical Society, said about the fact that Cape Coral has such an old coin collection.

The presentation about the Atocha coins will begin at 10 a.m. on Feb. 12, with a viewing of the collection from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Cape Coral Historical Museum.

Museum Curator Anne Cull said the video presentation, which will start at 10 a.m., will last about 45 minutes to an hour explaining the history of the coins. After the video, she said everyone will then walk over to the museum to view the coins and tour the museum until 4 p.m.

"It should be very good," Cull said.

On Sunday, from 1-4 p.m., the Cape Coral Historical Museum will be open for individuals to view the Atocha coins and tour the museum.

Last April, the museum had the first showing of the coins, Sanborn said, which turned out to attract the largest number of people at the museum.

"We want to do it again this year while the tourists are here," he said about the "authentic coins."

"We had hundreds of people coming through the museum to look at the coins," Cull said.

Lou Tilley, 95, brought the coins to Cape Coral many years ago and decided to donate the collection to the Cape Coral Historical Society a few years ago.

Tilley, who was in the tugboat business in New Orleans, became involved in the treasure hunting of the Atocha because his Northwind and Southwind tug boats were up for sale.

"I was interested in selling my tugs," Tilley said this week.

He turned over his tug boats to Fisher for stock in his fledgling company - Treasure Salvors - until the treasure was sold. Tilley explained that his tug boats became very successful in moving the treasure because they could move a lot of sand.

Once Fisher found the treasure, Tilley said he was interested in making sure the items were taken through a chain of legal evidence to document everything that was found. That process took place at the first Cape Coral Bank after Connie Mack III agreed in "setting up a lab to clean the coins and maintain the legal chain of evidence."

"Each individual item had a certificate," he explained, to identify where it came from and how it was preserved.

Tilley said he wanted to "reserve the historical and monetary interest" of the treasure.

Sanborn said that he first saw the Atocha coins featured in the Cape Coral Bank when he was working there at the time.

Years later, Tilley decided to donate his stock of the treasure to the Historical Museum of Southwest Florida in Miami. The Cape Coral Historical Society also received a portion of the treasure a few years ago.

Tilley and his wife of 65 years, Madeleine, are planning to attend the event on Saturday.

The event is free Cull said, but if people want to make a donation to the museum they are welcome to.

Cultural Park Theater is located at 528 Cultural Park Blvd.

 
 
 

 

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