Wednesday 7 May 2014

Treasure Hunting Is the World's Worst Investment

Peter B. Campbell and Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, 'Treasure Hunting Is the World's Worst Investment', Bloomberg View May 7, 2014
Dreams of undersea riches make treasure hunting a seductive investment. As professional underwater archaeologists, we don’t normally comment on the commercial salvage of historical shipwrecks. But in this case, our expert opinion is: Don’t waste your money. The fact is, no major treasure-hunting venture has ever been profitable for investors, according to a series of academic studies. And from an archaeological point of view, there are compelling scientific and legal reasons that investments in treasure hunting won’t pay off
High operating expenses ultimately make treasure hunting unprofitable, and the actual results of such ventures often fail to meet investors' expectations. As an example of this, the authors point out that investors are typically drawn to salvage ventures by the estimates published by Treasure hunting firms of the potential value of what will be recovered. They show that the analysis of the amounts raised by the eventual sales of the recovered artefacts shows such projections are always inflated and never realized. they cite the example of the Atocha, a 17th-century Spanish galleon that sank off the Florida Keys. the finder, Mel Fisher, estimated that the cargo would be worth $400 million. In the event, the sales of recovered artefacts have a total value of between $13 million to $24 million. In other words, they reach no more than 6
percent of the original estimate. Other ventures have met similar problems: Over the years, Odyssey has projected a total of $3 billion for its various projects, but to date it has recovered only 2 percent of that amount. [...] There are other problems with monetizing shipwrecks. Although coins can be worth many times their melt value, collector prices can drop quickly. One coin is rare, but 50,000 are a flooded market. Of the 51,600 coins Odyssey recovered from one wreck, 25,000 remain unsold a decade later.
Vignette: Treasure hunting fantasy world.

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