A Potted History of Dollar Cove – treasure beneath the waves!

Everyone loves the idea of discovering buried treasure! And there is one beach in Cornwall where the possibility of that dream becoming a reality is considered greater than most. And what if you didn’t even have to dig? What if the treasure washed up right at your feet? Dollar Cove has its name for a reason you see.


Also known as Jangye Ryn the cove came by its more recent name because of the silver dollars that have been found washed up on the beach over the years. However, the wreck from which those coins is thought to have come is a bit of a mystery. The vast number of wrecks around the Cornish coast means that there are quite a few candidates.

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In 1669 the Spanish ship the San Salvador came to grief in heavy seas not far from Dollar Cove. She, however was carrying timber from the Baltic to Le Havre and so despite the rumours is unlikely to be the so called ‘Dollar Wreck’. The nearby wreck of the Vriday which sank in 1743 has been suggested as another candidate. But she was a Dutch vessel thought to have been transporting mostly wool.

The ship most likely to be the ‘Dollar Wreck’ is in fact a little known Spanish brig, Rio Nova. The Rio Nova was a wooden sailing ship, en route from Valencia and Malaga to London carrying fruit and . . . coin. Lots of coin.

Nineteen thousands dollars of coin

She went down sometime in December 1802 (the exact date is unclear) but the inquest into the events was reported in the Sherborne Mercury on the 17th January 1803.

On the 30th ult. a Coroner’s inquest was taken on the bodies of W Thomas Broad and John Dowse, belonging to the brig RIO NOVE wrecked in the parish of Madron the day before. As soon as the vessel struck, the crew jumped overboard, and out of the nine men…three were drowned of which the above two only were found, the others have not been heard of. The vessel was coming from Malaga with dollars, gold and silver plate and fruit. Out of 19,000 dollars on board about 12,000 has been saved. The vessel went to pieces as soon as she struck.’

Both of the recovered men were buried in Penzance on New Years Eve, 1802. And of course, after the circumstances of the tragedy (and the cargo of the ship) became common knowledge people were drawn to the beach in the hope of finding a little of the lost treasure. They still are today.


So lets do the maths.

19,000 dollars minus 12,000 dollars leaves 7000 still to be recovered!

Further reading

The Longest Grave in the UK – Veryan, Cornwall

A History of St Loy Cove, Penwith

Cornwall’s Storm finds – Shipwrecks, Flotsam, Jetsam and Contraband

Silas Finn & Amram Hooper – Smuggling at Portwrinkle

Walking Opportunities:

Gunwalloe Coves walk

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5 thoughts on “A Potted History of Dollar Cove – treasure beneath the waves!

  1. The original official records I found stated 17,500 coins on the Rio Nova. One storm in the late 1800s saw 484 wash ashore. There have been many wash ashore for over 200 years, probably only a few dozen left, if any.

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