The Legendary Spanish COB and Pillar Dollars... on the Dutch East India Company Shipwreck Rooswijk
On January 8, 1739, the 850 ton Rooswijk set sail from Trexel, Holland with the Dutch East India Company’s Christmas Fleet. This was to be her second voyage to the Dutch Indies (Indonesia) under Captain Dan Ronzieres. Her cargo was Mexican silver coins and a group of VOC silver bars specially minted in Amsterdam (mint mark A). Silver was the principal commodity used by the Dutch in their China trade.
One day out of port a North Sea gale caught the Christmas Fleet and Rooswijk was the unluckiest of the ships. She was driven onto Goodwin Sands, a treacherous set of shoals off the coast of Kent, and destroyed by the storm. Her wreck site could not be located by the Dutch, and nothing more was heard from Rooswijk for 266 years.
And then, one summer day in 2004, a Cambridgeshire carpenter was diving on Goodwin Sands. In the unusually calm waters he spied an old wooden wreck, complete with timbers and intact crates. In the crates, he found Mexican silver coins and VOC ingots! Throughout the rest of that summer and the next, he and an archaeological salvage team recovered and identified the treasure of Rooswijk. An Admiralty court ruled the treasure the property of the Dutch government, and in December 2005, the treasure was returned. The Dutch government awarded a small portion of the treasure to the salvors, however, and it is from this share that our precious treasure comes.
To date, only 20,000 silver coins, many of them in remarkably good condition, have been recovered. A mass of domestic articles and artifacts including boxes of muskets were also recovered. The coins discovered include the extremely rare Pillar Dollars of Mexico City. Of all the Spanish “Pieces of Eight,” or, more formally, Eight Reales, none is as famous as the crudely shaped “cob” coin of pirate lore! New World mints produced these irregular shaped, hand-hammered coins nicknamed “cobs” from the Spanish phrase, “cabo de barra” (end of the bar). You see, the Spanish king wasn’t worried about the shape of the coins, just their weight and purity of the silver - this way he knew just how much tax to collect!