Gold Bar Physical Object

Accession Number
Alternate object names
Gold Ingot;Gold;Ingot;Bar
Creation Date
circa 1620
A small gold ingot from the wreck of the 1622 galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. The flat bar was once part of a longer piece, but a cut mark at one end shows it was separated from another part. This bar bears a number of tax stamps, as well as the Roman numeral XX••, indicating the gold was assayed at 20 karats. Dimensions: 22.3 cm L x 2.7 cm W x 1.1 cm H x 709.9 grams.


1.1 cm H x 2.7 cm W x 22.3 cm L , Item (Overall)

709.9 g Weight

22.3 x 2.7 x 1.1 cm Weight: 709.9 grams (Previous registrar weight: 711.00 grams. Weight difference probably caused by expert taking sample for purity).

Exhibition Label
Case/ Object Caption (2023):

Gold Bars
Gold (Peru, c.1620)
Gifts of Jamestown Inc., Mel and Dolores Fisher, Museum Acquisition Fund
1985.007.0001a, 1986.003.0004, 1986.008.0048, 1986.008.0078, 2004.006.0001

Gold bars were being carried aboard the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, the Santa Margarita, and the Buen Jesus, as well as other ships in the fleet. These are called “finger bars” because the assayer would simply draw his finger through wet sand and then pour molten gold into the shallow trough he had made.

Gold was subject to tax and most of the bars bear crescent-shaped stamps that indicate that the king had been paid his 20% levy. However, smuggling was an issue. Those bars with no tax marks are likely to have been contraband. Sidestepping the royal tax was too tempting for some to avoid!
Previous Exhibition Label (Removed 2022):

Gold Bullion 20.5 – 23.75 Karats
Recovered from the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, Santa Margarita & Buen Jesus
Gift of Jamestown Treasure Salvors, Inc. & acquired through donation.

Ingots are marked with a variety of stamps, including circular tax stamps, mintmarks, Roman numerals to signify the purity of the gold in karats, and Arabic numerals denoting their weight. Marks are located in several areas on the ingots so that when they were cut to a desired weight the pieces would still bear some portion of the official stamps. According to their manifests, the Atocha carried 125 gold ingots, discs and bits, and the Santa Margarita had 34 pieces. Over 220 ingots have been recovered from these ships to date, suggesting at least 60 pieces were contraband. Smuggled ingots bear no tax stamps only Roman and Arabic numerals. There are two in this case. Can you find them?