The 15 Most Valuable Shipwreck Treasure Hauls Ever Recorded

American gold coins
© iStock.com/TonyBaggett

Written by Jennifer Geer

Published: April 21, 2024

Share on:

Advertisement


The lure of sunken treasure is captivating. The mystery of finding long-lost jewels, coins, and artifacts at the bottom of the ocean can be very alluring. Sunken ships also offer us a window into the past and a connection with the people, and the artifacts they left behind, from long ago.

There is also a big business behind treasure hunting in the open sea. Ocean explorers are often funded by investors in their hunt for valuable treasure. And when they get lucky and strike it big, the reward can be in the billions. It’s been estimated there are currently billions of dollars of sunken treasure sitting on the ocean floor today, just waiting to be discovered. 

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea and beyond, we’ve rounded up some of the most valuable shipwrecks that have been found as of today. Click the gallery above to see 15 of the most valuable shipwreck hauls ever recorded.

15. Igara

Diver (Terry Booth) on the wreck of the Igara

©Sce1313 at English Wikipedia / CC BY 3.0 - Original / License

  • Value: $25 million 
  • Year Found: 2005
  • Year Sunk: 1973
  • Location: East coast of Malaysia

The Igara was loaded with Brazilian iron ore when it sank off the coast of Malaysia.

14. 1715 Treasure Fleet

Historical marker designating the site of the Survivors' and Salvagers' Camp - 1715 Fleet and is located near 13180 North A1A, Orchid Island, Florida.

©Leonard J. DeFrancisci / CC BY-SA 3.0 - Original / License

  • Value: $50 million
  • Year Found: 1965 – present day
  • Year Sunk: 1715
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida

Decades later, hunters continue to find gold at the site of the 1715 Treasure Fleet.

13. SS City of Cairo

British India coin one rupee 1940, floral ornament, denomination at center, King George VI head left, colonial times, silver,

©Yaroslaff/Shutterstock.com

  • Value: $50 million
  • Year Found: 2011
  • Year Sunk: 1942
  • Location: Southern Atlantic Ocean

The British ship, SS City of Cairo, was sunk by a German torpedo during World War II as it carried 100 tons worth of silver rupees from India to Britain to help fund the war effort.

12. Belitung

Batu Belayar island in Belitung, Bangka Belitung Island, Indonesia

©LilyRosePhotos/Shutterstock.com

  • Value: $80 million
  • Year Found: 1998
  • Year Sunk: 9th Century AD
  • Location: Java Sea off the coast of the Belitung Island, Indonesia

This ancient shipwreck provided evidence that trading existed between the Middle East and China during the 9th century.

11. Antikythera

A fragment (fragment A) of the Antikythera mechanism.

©No machine-readable author provided. Marsyas assumed (based on copyright claims) / CC BY-SA 3.0 - Original / License

  • Value: $120 to $160 million
  • Year Found: 1900
  • Year Sunk: First-century B.C.E.
  • Location: Aegean Sea

The ancient Antikythera shipwreck’s most famous artifact recovered is the Antikythera mechanism, otherwise known as the world’s first computer.

10. SS Republic

SS Republic (1853)

©Clement Drew (1806-1889) / Public domain - Original / License

  • Value: $150 million
  • Year Found: 2003
  • Year Sunk: 1865
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Georgia

The paddle wheel steamship was carrying 20,000 gold coins when it sunk in a hurrican to help the recovery efforts after the Civil War.

9. Queen Anne’s Revenge

Model of the pirate ship Queen Anne's Revenge in the NC Museum of History.

©Qualiesin / CC BY-SA 4.0 - Original / License

  • Value: $142 million 
  • Year Found: 1996
  • Year Sunk: 1718
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina

The Queen Anne’s Revenge was the ship of the infamous pirate Blackbeard.

8. Titanic

©Denis---S/Shutterstock.com

  • Value: $190 – $200 million
  • Year Found: 1985
  • Year Sunk: 1912
  • Location: North Atlantic Ocean

The most famous of all shipwrecks, the Titanic was carrying 1,500 passengers and crew members, in addition to gold, diamonds, silver, and other expensive artifacts.

7. SS Gairsoppa (The British Treasury Ship)

Collectors pack in commemoration of the SS Gairsoppa.

©(Mick Baker)rooster / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED - Original / License

  • Value: $210 million
  • Year Found: 
  • Year Sunk: 1941
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland

The SS Gairsoppa sunk when hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat during World War II. It was carrying 110 tons of silver bars and 1,765 tons of tea.

6. SS Central America

A depiction of the sinking of the SS Central America

©J. Childs (engraver & publisher) / Public domain - Original / License

  • Value: $300 million
  • Year Found: 1988
  • Year Sunk: 1857
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Carolinas

The SS Central America, also known as the Ship of Gold, sank in a hurricane while carrying 15 tons of gold on its way to New York City.

5. Whydah Gally

Model of the Whydah Galley

©jjsala / CC BY 2.0

  • Value: $400 million
  • Year Found: 1984
  • Year Sunk: 1724
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod

The Whydah Gally was a pirate ship captained by the infamous pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy. While carrying a treasure trove of pirate’s booty, the ship went down during a severe nor’easter in New England.

4. Nuestra Señora de Atocha

Storm surge

©Maximillian cabinet/Shutterstock.com

  • Value: $400 million
  • Year Found: 1985
  • Year Sunk: 1622
  • Location: Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of the Florida Keys

The Nuestra Señora de Atocha was wrecked in a hurricane on the way from Cuba to Spain. The ship was carrying gold and emeralds.

3. Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes (Black Swan)

Sample of coins from the Mercedes treasure displayed at a Spanish museum in 2015

©Benjamín Núñez González / CC BY-SA 4.0 - Original / License

  • Value: $500 million
  • Year Found: 2007
  • Year Sunk: 1804
  • Location: Off the coast of Portugal

The Black Swan was a Spanish ship carrying gold and silver from South America. It was sunk in 1804 during a battle with the British.

2. Salcombe Shipwrecks

SALCOMBE and Kingsbridge Estuary from a drone, South Hams, Devon, England

©Maciej Olszewski/Shutterstock.com

  • Value: $800 million
  • Year Found: 1977
  • Year Sunk: 1000 B.C.
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean near Devon, United Kingdom

The Salcombe Shipwrecks are three wrecks with ships dating back to the Bronze Age.

1. San José

Action off Cartagena, May 28, 1708 Naval Combat off Cartagena, May 28, 1708. A British squadron attack the fleet of Spanish gold. A Spanish ship is captured, another forced to fail, and the San Jose carrying the bulk of the Spanish treasure is destroyed by the explosion of the Santa Bárbara.

©Samuel Scott / CC BY-SA 3.0 - Original / License

  • Value: $17 billion
  • Year Found: 2015
  • Year Sunk: 1708
  • Location: Caribbean Sea near Cartagena, Colombia

The San José shipwreck, discovered by the Colombian navy in 2015, was carrying a fortune in silver, gold, and emeralds.


Share this post on:
About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.