Spanish galleon bar of gold stolen from Florida museum

21st August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Unidentified thieves stole a gold bar worth more than half a million dollars that had been retrieved from a sunken 17th century Spanish galleon, officials at a Key West museum said Friday.

The gold bar, which weighed 74.85 ounces, was on exhibited inside a glass case and could be touched by visitors at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

The museum houses one of the largest collections of treasure found mostly aboard Spanish galleons that sank off the southeastern coast of the United States.

The gold was stolen after the museum closed on Wednesday, the official told AFP.

"There are more valuable pieces in the museum... but this one was a very famous one because it was a piece that the public could touch and could put the hand in the display and feel the gold," said the official who asked not to be identified.

She said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police were investigating the robbery.

The gold was recovered from the "Santa Margarita," a Spanish galleon that sank in a 1622 hurricane and was discvovered in 1980 by Mel Fisher, a famous treasure hunter who founded the museum bearing his name.

In 1985, Fisher found the "Nuestra Senora de Atocha," another Spanish galleon that sank in the 17th century and yielded one of history's biggest treasures in gold, silver and precious stones.

The museum valued the stolen gold bar at 550,000 dollars. If sold only for its metal value, the bar it is worth some 92,000 dollars at gold's current rate.

© 2010 AFP

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