Mel Fisher was Prescott Valley consignor’s uncle – Rare coins, silver bars,
Colombian emeralds are from 1622 Spanish shipwreck near Florida Keys
Atocha Treasure photo
by Amanda Dickey
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (August 11, 2016) – More than 40 rare silver coins, thick silver ingots,
Colombian emeralds, and a candlestick that were part of the $450 million, 40 tons of silver, gold and
other artifacts found by treasure hunter Mel Fisher when he discovered the famous Spanish galleon
shipwreck, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, will hit the auction block on Thursday, August 25 as part of
J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s three-day auction, taking place Thursday through Saturday, August
25, 26 & 27 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Atocha, which carried a rich cargo of gold, silver and precious
gems, was lost in sea in 1622 during a hurricane 20 miles west of the Florida Keys.
Al Sotzin, of Prescott Valley, remembers his uncle Mel Fisher’s adventures well.
“It was his dream to find a big treasure,” Sotzin said. “He and my aunt Deo owned a lucrative dive
shop in California, and after building that business up, they sold it so they could move to Florida to
pursue their dream.”
At first, Fisher joined another treasure hunter to search for the shipwrecks of the 1715 Spanish Plate
Fleet that were lost in a hurricane, but he shifted his focus to the Atocha in 1969.
Sotzin described his uncle as a risk-taker who loved adventure.
“He had his mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, but he was not an office guy. And
despite his many challenges and nearly two decades searching the ocean floor, he was always
optimistic,” Sotzin said.
The search for the big treasure did not come without heartache. Fisher’s son – and Sotzin’s cousin –
Dirk, his wife and another diver drowned on July 20, 1975 when their ship capsized while looking for
Sotzin was just 13 years old, living with his family in Pennsylvania, when the tragedy occurred. “I
remember coming home from church and we got the news,” he said. “We were all devastated.
Ten years later – to the day of Dirk’s passing – on July 20, 1985, Fisher and his son, Kane, found the
mother lode – 40 tons of silver and gold coins, thick silver ingots, and rare gems worth an estimated
Sotzin was thrilled for his uncle Mel, and he was honored to receive some of the historic relics.
“Aunt Deo gave all of the nieces and nephews some of the treasures, and then when my mother
passed, I received some more,” Sotzin, a Navy veteran, said, adding that he kept his share of the
treasures in a cardboard box in his closet for more than 20 years.
Auctioneer and J. Levine owner Josh Levine said he expects a vigorous bidding war for Sotzin’s
“Mel Fisher embodied the spirit of collectors. After all, every collector wants to bid on that rare find,”
Levine said. “Seasoned collectors know the story behind the Atocha, and when they see these scarce
relics and the certificates of authenticity that go along with them, they will engage in a bidding battle
that could set records.”
J. Levine’s three-day auction also features fine collectibles from multiple estates, including Asian
furniture and art, a Helen Frankenthaler painting on tile that was exhibited in New York’s Guggenheim
Museum in 1975, a Diego Giacometti bronze chair with figural animals, estate jewelry, Hot Wheels
Redlines custom toys, political signatures and much more.
The high-end auction house is located at 10345 N. Scottsdale Rd., in Scottsdale, on the southeast
corner of Shea Boulevard and Scottsdale Road. Doors open at 9 a.m. with the auction starting at 11
a.m. Pacific Time each day.
For more details or to register to bid, visit www.jlevines.com or call (480) 496-2212.
Sue Kern-Fleischer, PublicizeThis!, (602) 810-1404
Josh Levine, J. Levine Auction & Appraisal, (480) 496-2212