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Florida family finds at least $300K worth of sunken treasure

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Rick Schmitt
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Treasure hunter Rick Schmitt displays some of the gold coins his family found off the coast of Flori …

The Schmitt family spends quality time together doing what they love: hunting for treasure.

This weekend, their searching paid off.

Rick and Lisa Schmitt of Sanford, Florida, and their grown children, Hillary and Eric, found an estimated $300,000 worth of gold from an historic wreckage off the coast of Florida.

On Facebook, Rick Schmitt noted that the early estimate may have been low. The treasure is likely worth $500,000.

"What's really neat about them is they are a family, they spend family time together out there and the most amazing part about them is they always believed this day would come," Brent Brisben, whose company 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels LLC owns the rights to the wreckage, told Reuters.

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The Schmitts uncovered 64 feet of gold chains, five gold coins and a gold ring from the wreckage of a convoy of 11 Spanish ships en route to Havana that went down in a hurricane in 1715.

Florida's Treasure Coast was named after that deadly storm.

"To be the first person to touch an artifact in 300 years, is indescribable," Brisben said Monday. "They were there 150 years before the Civil War. It's truly remarkable to be able to bring that back."

They found the treasure about 150 yards offshore and only 15 yards down, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

According to the ships' manifests, about $400-million worth of treasure was on board. To date, about $175-million has been recovered.

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"This is like the end of a dream," Rick Schmitt, who owns Booty Salvage, a subcontractor of Brisben's company, told the Orlando Sentinel.

The state of Florida is legally permitted to take possession of up to 20 per cent of the Schmitts' treasure to display in a state museum. The remainder of the haul will be divided evenly between Brisben's company and the Schmitt family.

In 2002, when he was a high-school sophomore, Eric Schmitt found a silver platter worth about $25,000, Reuters reported.

Not every dive is a successful one, however. Last year, the treasure-seeking family found just one coin on Labour Day.

"The greatest treasure is time with the family," Lisa Schmitt told the Orlando Sentinel.

Rick Schmitt says the huge haul isn't going to slow them down.

"We're going to keep doing the same things we did," Schmitt told WPTV. "Just with a lot bigger smile."

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