When Two Men Scanned A Florida Beach, They Found A Hoard Of Rare Treasure Buried Beneath The Sand

Waves crash onto the south Florida coastline, but the motion of the ocean won’t stop treasure hunters Jonah Martinez and Cole Smith. Instead, the intrepid pair hover their metal detectors over the beach, the early morning air whipping past them as they scan. Then they hear it: the beeping from their devices. They’ve found something… Yet, little did they know at the time, the metal detectorists had uncovered a trove of relics that could potentially pad their bank accounts with thousands of dollars.

Yes, it’s safe to say that the morning proved particularly fruitful for Martinez and Smith. And while Martinez had spent nearly a quarter-century searching for treasure in southern Florida, he’d never come across a haul quite like this. For this time, he didn’t just find one piece of treasure. In fact, he’d uncovered a boatload.

But Martinez is perhaps not your usual treasure hunter. After all, he says he has different plans for the many valuables he discovers while waving his metal detector over sections of the Florida coastline. Still, this particular haul shed light on a literal treasure trove enshrouded by the crashing waves and seas just beyond the state’s famous beaches.

Jonah Martinez is only a treasure hunter in his spare time, mind you. By way of employment, he collaborates with his clients to bring their custom car and motorcycle visions to life. And his friend Cole Smith spends his working hours as a scuba diving instructor. But both men share an adventurous out-of-work hobby: they search for treasure along the Florida coastline with the help of metal detectors.

Martinez, for one, had put nearly a quarter-century into his hobby by the spring of 2020. And during his time treasure hunting, he had found many notable relics of the past. In fact, he has built up a collection that includes pieces of porcelain, daggers, belt buckles, flatware, housewares and even clothes once worn by noblemen.

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Some of Martinez’s past finds had made headlines, too. For instance, in 2015 he had joined a crew of fellow treasure hunters who, as usual, explored a Floridian stretch of the Atlantic coastline. This time, though, the group happened upon a hoard of 300 gold coins, which had a value of $4.5 million at the time of their discovery.

Afterward, Martinez had spoken at a press conference about the crew’s incredible discovery. According to newspaper Florida Today, he re-told the story of the expedition with misty eyes, explaining that he had been the one to choose their fruitful treasure-hunting location. He said, “To find something like that, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

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At the same press conference – attended by approximately 100 people – Martinez described himself and his fellow treasure hunters as “hard-core metal detectorists.” He also reiterated that their missions were more about the adventure than the relics they found. He said, “The real treasure is the experience that we all share every summer. The stories, they’ll last forever.”

And that statement isn’t just lip service, either. Martinez usually makes a point of not selling the treasure he found; he doesn’t partake in his hobby for a profit. Instead, he says, he keeps most of the goods for his collection. Otherwise, he shares his finds with others or donates them to museums.

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The same went for Martinez’s later treasure-hunting jaunts, too. In summer 2017, for instance, he spoke to website TCPalm about that year’s exploits, which had yielded comparatively meager returns. The weather plays a huge role in helping the ocean’s hidden relics wash ashore, and Martinez and his fellow searchers had little luck on that front.

At that time, Martinez admitted, “It has been one of the worst summers weather-wise that we’ve ever experienced.” However, the metal-detector-toting explorer knew the tide would turn – literally and figuratively. He said, “We’re getting through it day by day, and we’re working in an area where we found items before, so we’re optimistic.”

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The change Martinez sought would come in 2020. So this time he and his friend Smith took their metal detectors and headed to Wabasso Beach, where cerulean waters hide countless age-old relics of the past. In fact, this area makes up part of Florida’s beachside border that’s known as the Treasure Coast.

The Treasure Coast spans across four Floridian counties: St Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach and Indian River, the last of which includes Wabasso Beach. And although this particular stretch of coastline has long been inhabited, it took decades for it to earn its nickname. John J. Schumann Jr. and Harry J. Schultz, who worked for the Vero Beach Press Journal newspaper, coined the name in 1961.

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And they had good reason for naming it the Treasure Coast in that year. In 1961, you see, people began to find age-old riches hidden in the waters just off of these Floridian counties. Soon enough, experts knew that these relics had arrived as a result of an ill-fated journey by the Spanish in the early 18th century.

Specifically, the Spanish had packed up a dozen ships in Havana, Cuba, with all of their New World riches. So they filled the vessels with gold, silver and sparkling jewels valued at 14 million pesos and sent them off to their home country, thousands of miles away.

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The entire fleet would never make it to its destination, though. The ships set sail on July 24, 1715, and, within a week, the sailors faced a nightmare at sea: a horrific hurricane that wrecked their vessels. Only one boat chartered by a French crew made it through the storm. The rest of the Spanish ships succumbed to the raging waters.

The 11 sunken ships took 700 sailors with them as well as all 14 million pesos worth of jewels and precious metals. The ill-fated journey is considered one of history’s worst disasters at sea. And evidence of it lingers along the Florida coastline, where pieces of the ships still remain.

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The ships seemed to have sunk near modern-day Vero Beach, which sits within Indian River County. And yet remnants of the vessels have turned up along a 40-mile range of coastline, from Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County, all the way down to Cape Canaveral in Brevard County – which isn’t even part of the self-styled Treasure Coast.

Of course, the name “Treasure Coast” has more to do with the riches themselves than the shards of shipwrecks that have been found since. It seems that the wrecks’ survivors had first tried to recover some of the lost treasure but to no avail. Then, perhaps surprisingly, these precious goods sat largely forgotten on the seafloor for two and a half centuries before they started to re-emerge.

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What about the French crew who survived the storm? Well, that single ship didn’t sink on the voyage from Havana got lucky. Its crew realized before it was too late that the seas would be treacherous that day. So they changed directions and washed ashore in Florida, where they set up camp and tried their best to survive the storm.

Then the admiral in charge, Don Francisco Salmon, sent some of his sailors inland in search of people to help them. Others went back out to sea to try and pluck the precious metals and jewels that the other ships had lost at sea, too. But the crew couldn’t manage it: the churning waters threatened to engulf them.

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They weren’t the only ones to fail to find the treasure, either. When the Spanish fleet sank, you see, it was a big news story. And ships from all over descended on the area as crews heard the stories of a massive fortune hidden in Atlantic waters. However, no one ever discovered it, and it seems that the rumor died down as time went on.

It would take another major storm for some of the Treasure Coast’s secrets to resurface, in fact. It all started in the 1950s, when hurricane winds whipped sand from the dunes lining the Sebastian Inlet. And as the sands shifted, they revealed hidden pieces of a shipwreck, which clued people into the fact that there might be more relics hidden in the area.

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A local named Kip Wagner then found an actual piece of treasure from one of the sunken ships. In fact, he uncovered a piece of eight – a silver coin also known as a Spanish dollar or peso. The first pieces of eight were minted at the end of the 15th century, and the currency remained in use in some parts of Asia and North America until the 19th century.

It soon became clear that Wagner’s piece of eight had come from the sunken ships. He then uncovered other treasures as well as relics of the crew that had survived the hurricane. Wagner subsequently founded a group known as the Real Eight Company, which sought out more of the treasures hidden along this stretch of Florida’s coastline.

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And that’s where Schumann and Schultz came in. These two members of the press decided to rebrand their local beaches as the Treasure Coast. It made sense, considering more and more treasure hunters had flocked to the area in the hope that they, too, could uncover the riches left to sink along with the 11 Spanish ships.

Calling the area Treasure Coast had even more of an impact, too. Soon enough, the beaches became a hotspot for scuba divers and beachcombers who wanted their chance to find some of the treasure. It continues to be a summer destination for adventurers in search of riches as well.

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In Martinez and Smith’s case, they were lucky: both men called Florida their home, which made it easier for them to search for treasure in and out of the tourist season. According to their Facebook profiles, the former lives in Port Saint Lucie, while his scuba-diving teacher friend has his base in Fort Lauderdale.

Martinez and Smith relied on metal detectors to point them to any treasure that might be lingering along the coast on February 28, 2020 – the day of their fateful expedition. The pair traversed Wabasso Beach in the early morning, undeterred by chilly temperatures or the unending crashing of waves that flooded their path.

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As the pair swept, the chirruping sounds of their devices alerted the men to potential finds. Martinez told TV channel CBS12, “Our metal detectors were catching target after target.” The men then plucked each discovery from obscurity, eventually finding they had found nearly two dozen relics of the famous Treasure Coast shipwreck.

Martinez confirmed to the news outlet, “We found 22 beautiful Spanish coins from the 1715 treasure shipwreck that were all hammer-struck.” With an evaluative method of his own, Smith seemed to verify the age-old currency’s time spent underwater. He said, “You can lick it and taste the saltwater.”

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Better yet, the coins came with a pretty hefty resale price tag. Smith and Martinez could have likely raked in between $5,000 and $6,000 for the 22 coins they found, in fact. However, Martinez reiterated that neither he nor his partner-in-discovery had adopted their hobby for the money.

If he wanted, though, he could profit from finding the more-than-300-year-old currency, as he had discovered the coins on a public beach. Instead, Martinez claimed, “This is our history out here. We are not trying to profit out here, we are just collecting pieces of history. That’s cool if you ask me.”

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Florida law stipulates that treasure hunters at sea have to have a permit before they can set off on the hunt for relics hidden in the state-owned coastal area. So anything found on state property tends to get split profit-wise between Florida and the treasure hunters. When Martinez and company found $4.5 million worth of treasure in 2015, for instance, the state could keep up to 20 percent of the proceeds from their haul.

In the 2020 case, though, Martinez and Smith got lucky. Although treasure in coastal waters falls under state jurisdiction, once those items wash up on the beaches – as they had in this case – they become part of the public domain. So the pair didn’t need any paperwork filed before their morning metal-detecting session – and none of their finds belong to the state.

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Still, as previously mentioned, those beachcombing sessions were apparently what it was all about for Martinez – not the price tag on the coins, nor who gets what when the search is over. To that end, he keeps working to improve his skills so he can find even more of what the Florida coast has to offer. He told USA Today, “I know how to read the beach, and I’m always trying to increase my odds of finding something.”

On top of that, Martinez promised to leave the 22 coins as they were when he found them; he wouldn’t polish or otherwise try to improve their appearance. It isn’t about aesthetics for him, after all. He told TCPalm, “It’s a passion. It’s the thrill of the hunt that I love.”

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Martinez also knew that his find, along with his past and future missions to uncover his local beaches’ hidden artifacts, would draw more attention to the area and its secrets. He told the New York Post, “Not everyone knows why it’s called the Treasure Coast. This is why.”

And, for the time being, Martinez hopes to be the one behind the headline-grabbing finds along Florida’s Treasure Coast. He told CBS12, “You don’t know what you’re going to find. We love to be the guys who find treasure that [was] lost at sea more than 300 years ago.”

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According to Martinez’s Facebook profile, he has plans to share some of his incredible finds with friends and fellow users of the social media site. He wrote about his coins, “It’s time to let go of my little [buddies]. Friends have been asking me for a while now about buying some nice coins.” So the treasure hunter has put a few on the market, after all, to share the history – and, quite literally, the wealth.

Metal detecting is not the only way to find treasure, of course. Forget the living room or even the bedroom: the kitchen is arguably the most important room in the house. After all, we make a lot of precious memories there, cooking, eating and sharing valuable time with our loved ones. On top of that, the kitchen may also be filled with meaningful hand-me-downs – prized crockery, say, or beautiful glasses from late relatives. And whether we realize it or not, we may be harboring old items in our pantries that could be worth an incredible amount of money.

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If you find something like this in your kitchen, then, you may have to make a big decision. Does the sentimental value of that particular piece outweigh the potential riches it could bring in? And if the answer to that question is “no” and you finally decide to sell, there’s very likely to be an eager buyer waiting to snap your coveted possession up.

Yes, there are collectors out there for practically anything of value – including kitchenware. And if you’re in need of some easy cash, it’s certainly worth digging about your shelves to see if you have any money-spinners just gathering dust.

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Some items in particular could be worth eye-watering sums in today’s market. Indeed, in January 2020, one such piece of crockery was listed at a stunning $20,000 on eBay. But what exactly should you be looking for when you clear out your kitchen? And why is it so collectible?

Throughout the years, most of us go on to accumulate a lot of belongings – wardrobes full of clothes, perhaps, or a whole library’s worth of books. But, of course, these often treasured possessions can eventually take up too much space if we overindulge. And if that happens, there may come a time when we need to make a big decision.

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As difficult as it may seem, a clear-out could be in order – especially if huge piles of stuff are threatening to take over the house. Naturally, then, when that moment arrives, we need to decide what we want to keep and what we can get rid of. And when looking over all the things that we’ve collected throughout the decades, we could find a few forgotten gems that have been hidden away.

The kitchen could be the room that harbors the most secrets in that regard, as old items can be unwittingly pushed to the back of cupboards. But don’t just take all of your old crockery to Goodwill. You see, you may have some pieces that – just by themselves – are worth a lot of money.

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Certain types of Ball mason jars could bring in a sizable amount, for example. And if you have any green-and-amber ones, you could be in luck, as these are particularly valuable. It’s believed, in fact, that the rarest mason jars could bring in at least $400 each.

But there’s another item in your kitchen that may be worth even more than that – particularly if you’re an avid cook. After all, if you love spending time whipping up meals, there’s a good chance that you’ll have plenty of tools with which to do so.

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Perhaps, then, you’ll have some cookie cutters in the kitchen. And, yes, these too can bring in plenty of cash if you’re willing to sell them to an avid collector. The coveted “Heart in Hand” cutter, for instance, is worth in excess of $1,000.

Other styles of cookie cutters, meanwhile, can fetch up to $500 per set. When having a clear-out of your cupboards, then, it may be an idea to keep hold of anything that you’ve previously used for baking. But these certainly aren’t the only hidden gems that could be residing in the kitchen.

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Stand mixers, too, have been known to bring in a good amount of money for sellers. If you have a KitchenAid example, for instance, it could sell for more than $100. And, naturally, if you have a product like that in your home, you should probably resist the urge to throw it away.

If you’re partial to a Cosmopolitan or Old Fashioned, on the other hand, then you may also be harboring a precious ornament. You see, vintage cocktail shakers are very popular with collectors – particularly ones with eyecatching designs.

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One shaker from 1936 is believed to be valued at nearly $4,000, for instance. And if you have a 1920s-era piece that has been crafted to look like a lighthouse, then you’re really in luck. That particular item is said to be worth close to $24,000 if it’s in good condition.

If you’re not a lover of cocktails, though, then there may be something else in your kitchen that’s worth a lot of money. After all, regardless of our respective eating habits, we all use cutlery when sitting down for meals at home. And, in most instances, the utensils themselves are made from sturdy metal.

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If you possess an antique silver set of knives, forks and spoons, however, then you may have some thinking to do. Yes, all the time spent polishing that cutlery may well pay off, as silverware of this type can attract plenty of big-money offers online.

As of January 2020, you see, one silverware collection on eBay is being listed at just under $2,000. Several other sets have high prices on the auction site, too, with their respective sellers asking from around $400 to nearly $1,000. You could make some serious cash, then, if you have excess silver cutlery in your kitchen.

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On top of all that, certain kettles are also quite valuable in today’s collectors’ market. Naturally, vintage pieces are particularly sought-after, and that’s good news for you if you’re looking to sell. That said, the price your kettle may fetch can depend on the type of material from which it’s been made.

Back in the 1800s, you see, kettles were mainly created from metals such as copper, cast iron and steel. And that makes them valuable; one “Swedish-style” copper example was said to be worth about $150 in April 2019. But that’s certainly not all.

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In addition, a Reed & Barton silver kettle from 1889 could fetch in just under $4,000. But even if you’re not squirreling away a more than century-old piece, you may still have something very special in your possession – something, in fact, that has the potential to bring in serious cash going forward.

Take old CorningWare dishes, for example. You may immediately recognize these, too, for their attractive painted designs. But while CorningWare’s aesthetics may be appealing, that’s not the only reason why these kitchen goods were so popular in the past.

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At the back-end of the 1950s, the Corning Glass Works business in New York came up with a new idea for a cooking product. Then, using a glass-ceramic material called Pyroceram, the company manufactured items that could withstand “thermal shock.” And if you’re wondering what that term means, it’s actually quite simple.

Thermal shock describes the moment when an item undergoes a radical shift in temperature – if you remove something from your freezer and immediately place it in the oven, for example. And if a piece of kitchenware experiences that process, it may risk cracking and shattering. With Pyroceram products, though, that wasn’t intended to be an issue.

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Indeed, CorningWare dishes could be moved from place to place without suffering any damage. For those who spent a lot of time in the kitchen, then, the items’ flexibility would’ve been very useful. But despite this, the glass-ceramic pots didn’t catch on straight away.

In fact, after CorningWare’s inception in 1958, it took another decade or so before consumers started to appreciate it. And from there, CorningWare dishes remained on the market for the next 30 years or so ahead of their discontinuation in 2000.

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The brand still had a presence on store shelves even after that, though, as stoneware items were produced under the CorningWare name at the turn of the century. Then, in 2008, the glass-ceramic products finally made a comeback. And even taking into consideration that eight-year gap, it’s believed that in excess of 750 million units of CorningWare have been created since the late 1950s.

All in all, then, there’s a good chance that you may still have some CorningWare in your kitchen cupboard. Given its adaptability, you could even still be using it for cooking tasks right now. But maybe you should hold off on putting your next casserole in that Pyroceram dish, as it could be worth a pretty penny.

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Specifically, people have been targeting CorningWare goods that display certain patterns. If you’ve got one that’s particularly prized, then, you should clean it up and consider selling. But why exactly has CorningWare suddenly become so valuable? Well, glass aficionado Dean Six has a potential explanation.

Six knows his stuff, too, as he’s the author of a 2014 book entitled Mid-Century Modern Glass in America. And the writer offered his opinion on the CorningWare craze while speaking with the Australian magazine That’s Life! in 2019.

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Six told the publication, “One piece of CorningWare, in a pattern not widely produced, sold on eBay recently for $7,000. It was a 1970s product that fizzled.” Then the expert turned his focus to the collectors themselves, sharing some insight into why they may want the dishes.

“Collecting is often what you remember [from your past],” Six explained. “Which is why [CorningWare] is big now, because [the] baby boomers are buying back what they grew up with. Boomers are decorating with these pieces in their homes.” But the $7,000 dish isn’t even the most expensive one on offer.

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What’s more, even CorningWare boasting the distinctive – and most instantly recognizable – Cornflower design can still generate plenty of cash. Understandably, though, some of the costliest pieces available come from the rarer ranges.

Products featuring the “Floral Bouquet” pattern, for example, were sold from just 1971 to 1975 before being discontinued. Similarly, the “Wildflower” set left shelves in 1984 after seven years on the market. And as a result of these ranges’ relative scarcity, pieces in those patterns could bring in around $10,000 each from avid collectors today.

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However, the numbers don’t peak there. One item, labeled as a “Vintage CorningWare Blue Cornflower Casserole Dish,” was priced at $12,000 on eBay in January 2020. And as we mentioned earlier, another CorningWare product was listed at $20,000 on the website in that same month.

There are various other CorningWare pieces on eBay with prices in the thousands, too. Of all those on offer, however, two in particular stand out for the eye-watering figures they may fetch. And the first of these is being sold from the city of Baraboo in Wisconsin.

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The set is described as a “RARE Vintage CorningWare 1960 to 1970 La Marjolaine Collectible.” And in the image accompanying the eBay listing, three dishes have been stacked on top of each other, with each featuring drawings of tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers.

In total, the seller has priced that particular collection at just under $25,000. But yet that’s not the priciest set to be found on eBay. As of March 2020, there’s another user who’s looking to offload their CorningWare products from Columbia, South Carolina – and the amount that they’re asking for the items is astounding.

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Specifically, the South Carolina seller has listed a CorningWare roast pan for cooking and a teapot that apparently serves six people. And both of these pieces are completely white, save for the distinctive blue floral pattern that marks out the Cornflower range.

So, how much are these items worth? Well, according to the person who has put them up for grabs on the auction site, a cool $32,000. And although there has yet been no taker for these particular pieces of CorningWare, such an incredible sum means it’s worth looking through your own cupboards – just in case.

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Yes, if you still own a CorningWare dish or even a teapot, there could be cause to celebrate – especially if these goods are in excellent condition. After all, just one example may help you pay for a nice getaway if you find a collector who’s willing to buy it.

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