Trash or Treasure? Authorities Believe Gift Shop Baubles may Be Bogus

Law officers working for the Florida state attorney's office have raided the gift shop at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society Museum in Key West, apparently convinced that some of the gold and silver coins, bars, and jewelry being sold may not be genuine.

Fisher, a one-time chicken farmer, found a sunken Spanish galleon off the Florida coast in 1985 that was loaded with gold, silver, and jewels. He's since become America's best known treasure hunter, immortalized in the pages of National Geographic and on a $650 commemorative coin struck by the Franklin Mint. Roadside America regards Fisher's "Maritime Heritage" museum -- PCspeak for a Treasure and Booty museum -- as a linchpin of its Get Rich Quick tour, and as an enviable model of tax evasion.

The gift shop, visited by thousands of tourists each year on their way out of the museum, sells emeralds, rings, and gold coins for $13,000 or more apiece.

It's not known how many millions Fisher has amassed from his supposedly genuine salvaged souvenirs, which are also sold nationally through some of America's largest jewelry chains.

[04/26/1998]
Address:
200 Greene St., Key West, FL
Directions:
Follow US Hwy 1 south to Whitehead St. Turn right. Follow Whitehead St. to Greene St. You'll see the museum on the left.
Hours:
M-F 8:30-5, Sa-Su 9:30-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
305-294-2633
Admission:
Adults $15.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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