A Letter from the Founder of Atocha.com and Forecastle
Bill Pearson (That's me) was born in Key West in 1947. From as early as I can
remember I spent a great deal of time in and around the water. By the time I was
eight I was catching and cooking lobster and fish. My best friend and I got a
surplus Navy life raft, patched the holes, and went off on an adventure when we
were eight. We spent the entire summer swimming and diving all the way around
the island, finding tons of "treasure" and thousands of Coke bottles which we
cleaned and redeemed for two cents apiece. Made a fortune.
Over the years I started collecting coins as well, having been given
8 silver dollars by my grandmother for my eighth birthday. Boy, a lot happened
when I was eight. In addition, my uncle was a hard hat diver for the Navy. He
came down and spent about a year searching for artifacts in and around Fort
Taylor and the habor. Many of the wonderful things that he found were put in
the musuem in Charleston, SC. Many of the items that he didn't use made there
way to my garage. I had cannon balls, pottery, and many other artifacts that
dated back over a 100 years at the time. Well, I didn't know anything about
preserving them back then, so much of it rusted and fell apart over the years,
until it was thrown away.
Also about the same time a small group of us kids got to go swim in one of
the few private pools in Key West. It was owned by somebody named Hemingway.
We all knew that Mr. Hemingway was famous, but all that meant to a little kid
was that "Everyone in Key West knows him." When he was in town he would come
sit in the pool occasionally and tell us stories about the outside world. They
were interesting. Since I have always been interested in Cuba, Spain, and the
Old World, I suppose that some of this may have come from listening to him tell
of his travels. I sold my first treasure coin, a pillar dollar in 1965. It sold
for $10, a princely sum in those days.
I left Key West in 1967, going to the University of Florida (Go Gators!). After
graduating I went out in to the corporate world, becoming a manager for Red
Lobster in my mid twenties. When my dad passed away I went home to help my mom.
A year or so later I bought out a small cut-coin jewelry store in Key West called
the Money Gnomes. We made jewelry out of all types of coins. One of the first
persons that I hired, Woody Harris, had worked in the treasure business in Key
West. He brought in some of his personal treasure coins from the Atocha to the
shop. It was easy for me to see that this was something I could sell that I
enjoyed, had a lot of knowledge about and something would keep up my interest.
Therefore, I started acquiring Atocha coins, mounting them in gold, and putting
them in the showcase.
One of my very first customers was an internationally famous designer who has
his own line of clothes, colognes and the like. I thought that if I could please
his tastes, then I could compete with anyone. During that time I had many famous
customers, and thousands of not-so-famous but equally as interesting friends
that I made along the way. Most of the people that came to Conch Coin in Key
West left as friends. They came back year after year, and I was always glad
to see them.
I live between Daytona Beach and Orlando now (with the rest of the true Key
Westers-Conchs) after deciding to sell my stores in Key West. I show jewelry
by appointment at a local bank, do shows around the country or at Nascar events,
sell a ton of wholesale in Key West and make our inventory available on the
world wide web. In fact, you will find treasure coins which I have sold in many
shops in Key West!
I established my first web pages in 1996. As I can recall, I was one of the
first on Ebay selling Atocha and other materials in 1998. I have two boats that
work the Spanish wrecks off the Florida coast. Our group was even featured in
January 2003 on the Travel Channel for a gold box, rosary and some wonderful
rings which were found on the beach that came from the 1715 Fleet.
It has been a great life so far. I have been told that I have always lived
like I was retired. How else would you have lived if you were born and raised
in Margaritaville before it WAS Margaritaville. I like what I do. I like who
I've met, and I treat others like I want to be treated. It sounds corny, but
once you have met and done business with me you usually come back.
Thank you for the time, and I hope you enjoy our site!