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Reijgersdaal, sunk in 1747 off South Africa

More popularly known in the U.S. as Reygersdahl, this typical East Indiaman was carrying eight chests of silver coins (nearly 30,000 coins) when she sank on October 25, 1747, between Robben and Dassen Islands. After four-and-a-half months at sea, the crew had anchored there to fetch rock rabbits (“dassies,” for which Dassen Island was named) and other fresh food to relieve massive illness on board the ship, on which some 125 had died and 83 were incapacitated out of 297 people; but in the face of a gale, the anchor-line snapped and the ship foundered on the rocks. Only 20 survived the sinking, and only one incomplete chest of coins was recovered. The area was deemed too dangerous to attempt contemporaneous salvage.

Beginning in 1979, modern salvage-divers on the wrecksite recovered thousands of coins (as many as 15,000 by the early 1980s, when protective legislation was enacted in South Africa), mostly in near pristine condition, which have been sold in various auctions and private offerings ever since. A great majority of the coins from this wreck are Mexican pillar dollars (in excellent condition), but it also yielded a few hundred New World silver cobs, including Guatemala cobs, which are rarely seen from shipwrecks.


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