pirate treasure

What Did Pirates Do with Their Treasure?

Ever wondered what pirates did with their treasure? Read this article to find out more.

You probably think of lots of gold, diamonds and a life of luxury when pirates are mentioned. You imagine a life of dark secrets, deadly conspiracies, and hidden treasures at some point. You also wonder what they did with the pillage and how they spent their wealth. This article will give you a clear insight into what pirates did with their treasure. Are you ready to find out more? Read on and discover now.

Did pirates really bury their treasure

Did pirates really bury their treasure?

Many stories abound of pirates burying their treasure but are they true? Read along to find out more.

Historical accounts and most written records prove that this assertion is quite far from the truth. Notable instances of buried treasure troves are painfully few. Records confirm that most pirates generally squandered their loot on shore and returned to hunt for new victims when the taps ran dry. They lived for the moment and enjoyed a good time with their ill-gotten wealth in pirate havens.

Their purses were drained by

  • Gambling
  • Women
  • Wine
  • Merrymaking – Song, and dance

Despite the glamorous picture many of us have of the lives of pirates, most of them lived and died as paupers. However, a few confirmed accounts of hidden pirate do treasure exist. Continue reading below to find out.

English pillager Francis Drake and Captain Kidd are among the most notable pirates who hid their treasure. Books and movies have since been produced about Captain Kidd and his hidden treasure.

Drake is said to have hidden several tons of gold and silver along the coast of Panama to safeguard it from recapture in 1573 after a successful raid on a Spanish mule train. His guards guarded the site but he returned swiftly and retrieved the pillage. Nothing much is known of the treasure afterward.

Captain William Kid too buried his treasure on Gardiner’s Island in New York. He was arrested in Boston and hanged in London. Unfortunate for him, the authorities were able to track and confiscate most of his treasure.

How Much Treasure Did The Pirates Have

How Much Treasure Did The Pirates Have?

Pirates sought gold, silver, gems, and precious coins. They also preferred expensive silk and jewels. If they missed any of these on a mission, they simply grabbed the cargo and resold it at pirate havens in the Caribbean islands.

They mostly lived off the plunder. They divided the plunder observing a strict code of hierarchy. The question remains, with all the allure of glamour and a good life, how much were pirates worth?

Continue reading to find out.

Here Is The List Of The Wealth Portfolio Of A Few Notable Pirates:

1.William Thompson-$200 million- treasure of Lima – 1820

The famous treasure of Lima assumed to be buried in Costa Rica at the Cocos Island is estimated at $200 million using today’s market economy rates. The treasure comprises gold, silver, and jewels.

Thompson disappeared in thin air from authorities while supposedly leading them to where he had hidden his loot. His crew was killed when they were captured but he kept his life on the surety he would lead his captors to the treasures hideout. He was never found and the treasure has been a hot cake for expeditions by countless treasure hunters.

2.Henry Every – $95 million

In 1620, Henry Every pulled one of the most successful heists in the history of piracy. He walked away with a record-breaking prize that took many years to match.

He pillaged cargo worth $95 million today from Ganij-i-Sawai in 1695. The ship’s owner was the Mughal emperor. Every and his crew disappeared forever. He paid each of them a lifetime’s worth of wages and retired never to be heard off or seen again.

3.Captain Thomas Tew – Over $800,000

Each member of Tew’s crew walked away with a precious loot of over $3,918 today when they captured a merchant ship on its way back to Bombay (Present-day Mumbai). The total heist is estimated at $800,000 currently.

4.Edward England-over $4 million

England captured a Portuguese ship in the Macrene Islands near Madagascar in 1720. He found it loaded with a valuable cargo that included diamonds estimated at $3-$4 million today.

5.John Taylor – $250 million

John Taylor and his partner Olivier la Bouche commanding The Cassandra and The Victory respectively, captured the Portuguese ship Nostra Senhora de Cabo at Réunion Island. They took hold of a cargo that consisted of diamonds, gold, and other valuables worth $653,050. The cargo itself came to a staggering $489,844. The value of the treasure is worth over $250 million today.

Taylor holds the record for the biggest ever single heist prize by a pirate.

6.Captain Kidd- Over $2.5 million

Captain Kidd pulled an outstanding heist in 1698 in the Indian Ocean. He seized the Quedah Merchant off the coast of India with a cargo of silk, calico, opium, iron, and sugar. The opium alone sold for $13,060 which would be close to $2.5 million in the market today. Kidd was however captured in the United States of America and extradited to Britain where he was executed by hanging in London by the authorities as mentioned earlier in this article.

7.Edward Teach – $3266

Teach represents the fortune of most pirates. Despite his two years of an illustrious career as a feared pirate, he was found to be worth nothing much. When his haven was raided by the Royal Navy after his death, they only found 25 hogsheads of sugar, 11 tierces [casks] and 145 bags of cocoa, a barrel of indigo, and a bale of cotton. The seized items together with his ship sold for a paltry $3266 in current market rates.

He is proof that the glamorous lives of pirates, the opulence, and massive wealth are a mirage. The reality for most people who engaged in piracy was grim. The greatest number of them never made any notable fortune apart from the few lucky ones during the Golden era mentioned here.

You want to find out how pirates divided the treasure after a raid? Keep reading

How Do Pirates Divide Their Treasure

How Do Pirates Divide Their Treasure?

Take note that Henry Every paid each member of his crew the equivalent of a lifetime’s wages before retiring immediately after.

Division of treasure followed a meticulous structure based on:

1.The Hierarchy

Sharing of loot observed a strict hierarchy. Pirates shared the cash proceeds from the sales of seized items based on hierarchy. It is also important to note that the quartermaster kept the store for the pirates and hoarded the loot until it was of a sizeable amount that could earn a worthy income at the market.

  • The quartermaster and captain got two shares.
  • Officers got one and a half.
  • Skilled seamen took home one and a quarter of the share.


Pirates were shockingly democratic and human to each other during the golden era. The injured were compensated with an extra amount above the share. This was done before the actual share was divided based on the hierarchy mentioned above.



Loss of a right arm

600 pesos

Loss of a left arm

500 pesos

Loss of a right leg

500 pesos

Loss of a left leg

400 pesos

Loss of an eye

100 pesos

Loss of a finger

100 pesos

Table: Compensation for Injury

Who Did Pirates Sell Their Loot To?

The proceeds from piracy could not be sold to legitimate businessmen. The authorities had made it hard for them to transact. Pirates, therefore, created piracy havens where they had unscrupulous businessmen who bought and sold things for them at a throw-away price.

The dirty businessmen then sold the loot to legitimate businessmen at a higher price though the pirates never minded or questioned.

Some of the havens were in the Caribbean islands and with anti-piracy measures tightened, the trade soon died and the posts disappeared. Ironically, pirates also sold their wares to corrupt and friendly government officials. Most of them were Spanish. The misjudgment of friendliness is what cost Captain Kidd his life and fortune when he docked in New York.

Some items were also sold at makeshift public auctions on the shore in pirate havens.

It is accurate to conclude that as much as pirates are said to have hidden their treasure, the largest number of pirates squandered what they made. They partied harder than they worked and lived for the moment. That also explains where the money they made went.

Pirates Jewelry

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