What Type of Treasure Did Pirates Collect? 

September 15, 2023

What comes to mind when you envision pirate treasure? We are willing to bet you are picturing a wooden treasure chest filled to the brim with all sorts of booty like jewels, gems, gold, and coins galore. While this is somewhat true, there is more to what pirates collect on their journeys across the seas.

Before we take a closer look at the treasure that pirates hope to amass, let’s take a moment to review what pirates do and how this plays into what was considered a treasure.  

Backstory on What Pirates Do

Pirates traditionally traveled waters that were close to trade routes in order to have access to ships transporting goods from one place to another. Their ships commonly carried larger crews than traditional ships so that they could easily outnumber their victims. 

Pirates ships also traditionally carried extra weapons like swords, cannons and gunpowder. This meant that there was less room to store food and drink that these surly sailors desired. 

The ultimate goal of the fiercest pirates was to overtake and plunder ships that were transporting goods. They would fly Jolly Roger flags alerting trade ships to stop and surrender before they met a gruesome fate. Often this meant that many ships surrendered and handed over high value goods quickly. 

What “Booty” Did Pirates Desire? 

While, yes, it is correct to assume that pirates loved amassing their wealth by plundering ships that were carrying gold, silver, and jewels, they also knew the value of other commodities. For instance, when pirates were running low on food items and liquor, they were more than happy to commandeer barrels of wine, brandy and the ever-abundant rum! They also were always on the search for food. 

In addition to all these items, pirates also knew that it wasn’t all about the precious metals. It was also important for them to collect critical sailing items like sails, anchors and other equipment needed on their ships. 

The necessities of life were also important to many pirates. Medicines and ingredients to survive the harsh lifestyle were critical to keeping his or her crew healthy. 

As world travelers, pirates also discovered that some items are more valuable when they are rare or in demand in some regions. This would cause them to seek treasures that many of us would consider mundane like cloth, animal hides, lumber, spices, sugar, dyes, cocoa, tobacco, and cotton. 

So, as you see, pirates may always have been on the lookout for the big payout of gems, jewels, and precious metals, but they also knew the value of common trade items and where to sell them. 

To learn more about pirates visit Real Pirates in Salem, Massachusetts and see actual pirate treasure and how modern-day scientists are recovering this treasure.