FBI returns medallions plundered from 18th-century shipwreck

By Mitchell Martin - Art Info

The problem with stolen art is that once you start to sell it, word gets out. When the art involved is a hundred or more bronze religious medallions, each worth perhaps $1,000, eventually somebody will notice, call the FBI, and there go the profits.

Which is apparently what happened with a haul of bronze medallions that took a 237-year journey from Spain to Anguilla to Vermont and then back to the Caribbean.

Shortly after midnight on June 8, 1772, the Spanish vessel El Buen Consejo smashed into Anguilla in the Leeward Islands, stranding passengers and crew on a voyage to Mexico.

The ship and an accompanying vessel, El Prusiano, sank, with their cargoes.

The lost goods included thousands of bronze religious medallions carried by 50 Franciscan priests who were bound for the Philippines and meant to be used to win converts and for educational purposes.

On Tuesday, more than 100 of the medals were returned to the government of Anguilla by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI said it had assisted Anguillan authorities in recovering the medallions, which are considered to have “international archaeological significance.”

Under Anguillan law, such goods are not supposed to leave the country.


Spanish vessel FBI medallions El Buen Consejo Anguilla El Prusiano U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation