Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spanish Treasures on Padre Island

(Left: a Spanish 2-real silver coin found on Padre Island.)

Padre and South Padre Islands

When most of us think of Texas, we usually don't envision the Gulf of Mexico, miles upon miles of sandy beaches, and most importantly, Spanish treasure troves. But the Lone Star State delivers up all of these things, plus many more. Where? On Padre Island (and to a lesser extent on the beaches of its more commercially oriented cousin, South Padre Island).

Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

What's the difference between Padre Island and South Padre? If you want all the ins and outs ask a local, because I've never had the pleasure of traveling to Texas's Gulf Coast. But as far as I can determine Padre Island features a National Seashore where commercialization is limited if not non-existent while South Padre caters to surfers, tourists, and the thousands of college "Spring breakers" who swamp its beaches each year.

Persistent Legends of Spanish Treasure

Both Padre and South Padre Islands present the small-scale treasure hunter or coin/jewelry hunter with ample opportunities for success. Many Spanish silver and gold coins (these are fewer in number of course) have been recovered on Padre Island over the years. But there are persistent legends of Spanish treasure troves on Padre Island or immediately offshore, including:

Over 25 tons of precious metal in coin and bullion from a Spanish shipwreck off the coast (some coins from this wreck may have washed up on Padre's beaches over the years).

A cool million dollars in treasure from the wreck of the Capitana, another Spanish wreck off the coast.

200,000 in gold and silver from the Maria Theresa, a French wreck also resting off the coast of Padre.

A large treasure trove of Spanish gold and silver coins and bullion buried some miles inland from the northern tip of Padre.

These are only a few of the wrecks and potential treasures in the Padre Island area. Additionally, coin hunters can expect to find decent amounts of more modern jewelry and coins lost by tourists and beach goers scattered about on Padre.


There is one big fly in the ointment regarding the National Seashore beaches, however:

Metal detectors and treasure hunting or collecting anything other than seashells are strictly prohibited.

Makes you just want to cry, doesn't it?

South Padre Coins and Jewelry

If your treasure hunting pursuits are a bit more pedestrian and you favor recovering large amounts of modern coins and jewelry, then South Padre Island is made to order for you. Aside from the throngs of locals, regular tourists, and surfers, you have added bounty of the hordes of Spring breakers each year. Fueled by the spirit of fun, action, and craziness (not to mention alcohol and general stupidity) thousands of students and hangers on lose coins and jewelry at an astonishing rate all over South Padre Island beaches.

Any coin hunter worth his or her salt should be able to "clean up," particularly at certain times of the year. Additionally, the sandy nature of South Padre's beaches might be a good testing ground for a Merkitch Sifter (see my posts on the Merkitch Sifter in "Bedrock Dreams," Please note that Spanish coins are also found on South Padre, but not to the extent they are on Padre Island proper.

So there you go. I'd love to hear from someone working the Padre or South Padre Island beaches to get a clearer idea of treasure hunting there. Also, feel free to correct me if you perceive any errors in the writing of this post.

Good hunting!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Rule Number 1 for Treasure Hunters and Finders"

(c) J.R. 2009

Questions? E-mail me at