Gold Bar Worth $500,000 is Missing

Gold Bar Worth $500,000 is Missing



In 2010, two men walked into the Mel Fisher Museum in Key West and stole a nearly 400-year-old gold bar worth more than half a million dollars.  The crime garnered headlines across the country and employees of the museum were in shock. This is a tale of modern day piracy on an island long known for skirting the norms and weathering hurricanes.  Finally, in 2018 one of the pirates was caught while the other  soon endured a federal court. A small portion of the gold bar was recovered, according to court documents.

But the fate of the entire bar remains a mystery. “I still hope it’s sitting on someone’s desk as a paperweight and we’ll still end up getting that gold bar back but I don’t know but there is still hope,” said an individual linked to the case.




Mel Fisher and his treasure hunters discovered the gold bar on the ocean floor in 1980 about 25 miles off of Key West. This bar is part of the cargo lost while the Santa Margarita navigated the storm 1622. The ship was part of a fleet of 28 ships that had set sail from Havana on its way to Spain on September 4, 1622. A day later, a hurricane tore through the armada, sinking eight of the ships.


The Discovery of The Santa Margarita


When the discovery of the Santa Margarita unfolded, one of the recovered items enlisted Fisher’s fancy. A gold bar weighing nearly five pounds from a real shipwreck. Fisher decided to place the gold bar on display, constructing a special case in which visitors could reach in and hold the gold bar in their hand, even lift it up. But the designed of the case is to prevent anyone from taking it. At least that is what Mel thought about the design. Fisher wanted to give people that visited his museum an opportunity to touch a gold bar that had been on the sea floor for centuries. Lost and forgotten before Fisher started his venture, the bar mounted was a way for people to touch history.  The bar presented as an item to hold was a success!



That was, until August 2010, when these two men arrived just before closing time that day. One stood lookout, the other used some unknown device to break the case and remove the gold bar. The case, made out of thick “plexiglass or acrylic,” didn’t stop the thieves. I think it was for everybody that works here. I mean this was such an integral part of our museum and the experience of our visitors. And of course it’s just that sense of violation of how can they do this. It’s like why? Why!”


The theft sent Key West into a tail spin.


“A lot of rumors,” said Key West Mayor Craig Cates. “Was it an inside job? Where did these people come from? They have video of them how come they couldn’t catch them? How could they get out of town? Was it a boat? Private plane? Commercial car? We had no idea at the start.”



The Mayor said folks in town wanted to know what happened to the gold bar.



“We’re all worried the pirates melted down and sold just for the value of the gold which could bring $75,000,” he said. “But historic value is worth so much more. But who could buy it? Who would want to pay that much for it and know that it was stolen?”

Last year, police got a tip which led them to Richard Steven Johnson and Jarred Goldman.

Johnson confessed and pled guilty to federal charges earlier this year.

Everyone in town is hoping the trial will reveal what happened to the gold bar.

“It’s personal,” said Key West Police Chief Lee. “It’s personal for people at the museum, it’s personal for all the people at Mel Fishers, the treasure hunters and divers who risk their lives going down there to do this work. I think it’s personal for everyone. And we want that gold bar back. That’s our gold bar and we want it back.”


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