$6,546.00 Donation to St. Petersburg Museum
On September 15, 2023 Boggs Jewelers made a donation to a St. Petersburg Museum* of billon coins thought to be from Gasparilla’s Treasure found on the Peace River and sold to Boggs Jewelers in 2013. The value of the five billon coins donated to the Museum was $6,546.00.
Who is Gasparilla? From Wikipedia.org we find:
José Gaspar, also known by his nickname Gasparilla (supposedly lived c. 1756 – 1821), is an apocryphal Spanish pirate who terrorized the Gulf of Mexico from his base in southwest Florida during Florida’s second Spanish period (1783 to 1821). Though details about his early life, motivations, and piratical exploits differ in various tellings, they agree that the ‘Last of the Buccaneers’ was a remarkably active pirate who amassed a huge fortune by taking many prizes and ransoming many hostages during his long career and that he died by leaping from his ship rather than face capture by the U.S. Navy, leaving behind his still-hidden treasure.
While Gaspar is a popular figure in Florida folklore, there is no evidence that he actually existed. No contemporaneous mention of his life or exploits have been found in Spanish or American ship logs, court records, newspapers, or other archives, and no physical artifacts linked to Gaspar have been discovered in the area where he supposedly established his “pirate kingdom.” The earliest known written mention of José Gaspar was a short biography included in an early 1900s promotional brochure for the Gasparilla Inn on Gasparilla Island at Charlotte Harbor, the author of which freely admitted that the dramatic tale was a work of fiction “without a true fact in it”. Subsequent retellings of the Gaspar legend are based upon this fanciful account, including the accidental inclusion of José Gaspar in a 1923 book on real pirates that has caused ongoing confusion about his historical authenticity.
José Gaspar’s legend is celebrated in Tampa, Florida during the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival, which was first held in 1904.
Gasparilla’s treasure is said to be worth $30 million and stashed along the Peace River.
Who Was The Real Gasparilla?
According to an article published by The Arcadian in April of 2022, a woman named Chanoce Gomez Deal is a descendant of a man named Juan Gomez. Deal said, “Our family was always told that [Juan Gomez] was Gasparilla (José Gaspar). [He] made up the story of Gasparilla because he did a lot questionable stuff and he didn’t want to get charged for it.”
José Gaspar was reputed to have plundered the Gulf of Mexico’s waters at the turn of the 19th Century. One of the only written records of Gaspar was in a brochure for the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad Co. that operated in Boca Grande. According to Deal, “He just came up with the story of this famous pirate,” Deal said, “but he (Juan Gomez) was the actual person.”
How Boggs Came to Obtain Billon Coins
In 2013 an older gentleman appeared at Boggs Jewelers from Port Charlotte, FL, with a box of several hundred coins found by he and two other men. They were novice treasure hunters. They came to Boggs because a man named Vern told them Boggs was trustworthy and would give them an honest valuation for them. He told Boggs that they found the coins in an old wine cask on the Peace River. The coins were all green in color so they were thought to be mostly copper, some nickel and some silver. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he found the coins in the “Boggess Hole”, located in the Big Mound Key-Boggess Ridge Archeological District, a historic site near Placida, Florida. It is located southeast of Placida, on Big Mound Key.
The coins had dates ranging from 1450 to 1760, so Boggs had the coins tested by three different 3rd party metal and coin experts – one in Indiana, one in New Mexico and another in St. Petersburg. All three confirmed they were billon coins from those years. Billon refers to a coinage metal consisting essentially of silver, nickel and copper, with silver typically in the range 10-30%. All consistent with coins made by Bolivia and Spain during those years. Boggs decided to purchase 120 of the coins knowing they had value and could be made into jewelry.
Boggs stored the coins away and some were given as unique gifts to friends of Boggs until 2018. It was at that time, a Boggs employee, named Gene De Luigi, called a friend of his named, Brad, who was a diver with Mel Fisher, a treasure hunter who was searching for the Atocha. De Luigi showed him three of the coins. Brad confirmed the coins were rare billon coins, and were much more valuable as a collectable coin than the alloy metal they are made from. Shortly after, De Luigi was connected with Michael Gattuso of The Real Treasure Hunters.
Gattuso immediately knew what they were and purchased three coins from Boggs. Through Gattuso, Boggs learned the history of Gasparilla’s Treasure and made the connection with Chanoce Deal, who had an old Family Bible with a photo of Juan Gomez, and a map of where the treasure was buried – you can learn more about that story at this link: https://www.boggsjewelers.com/gasparillas-treasure/
You can purchase some of the coin jewelry on Boggs Jewelers website at: https://www.boggsjewelers.com/product-category/historic-coins/
If you don’t find what you want there, you can email Boggs by clicking here to inquire.
Donation of Billon Coins to St. Petersburg Museum*
Mark Boggs of Boggs Jewelers said, “We decided to donate some of the coins to a St. Petersburg Museum so that people can learn more about Gasparilla’s Treasure and the real story behind it.” On September 15, 2023 the coins were transferred to the Museum. (See video below)
*NOTE: The specific museum receiving the donation asked that we not use their name in any press release or promotional material until they have completed their archive intake procedures. They cited being bound by Florida’s antiquities laws, that they take the proper steps in accepting artifacts for their collection. And, that it would be some time before they would complete their intake process. For questions on this topic you can contact us by clicking here.