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Meet Modern Day Pirate JR Bissell, the World’s Youngest Ancient Treasure Aficionado

“I am a free prince, and I have as much authority to make war on the whole world as he who has a hundred sail of ships at sea and an army of 100,000 men in the field,” once said Samuel ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy, one of the fiercest pirates to ever roam the Seven Seas, on his right to plunder. The Golden Age of Piracy has since long faded from view and taken the epoch’s swashbuckling bravado with it, firmly fixing it in history as a bygone era. That is, until now, as one young Californian is hoisting up a proverbial black flag as a modern-day marauder of his own making: meet JR Bissell, the 30-year-old buried treasure expert living up to Bellamy’s words and waging a vocational war on his industry’s much-older counterparts.

As the founder of the world’s premier digital source of ancient artifacts, Pirate Gold Coins, Bissell lives a life akin to his buccaneering predecessors. While hosting his own personal loot pile of treasure varying from shipwrecked jewelry and coins all the way to dinosaur fossils and Egyptian hieroglyphics, Bissell dresses in opposition to his trove of riches, opting to wear tattered vans and ripped up tanks more aligned with his pirate’s heart. Off days from Bissell’s grind are spent holed up in a Pacific Beach alleyway, tattooing his friends or skateboarding around the area in search of the perfect $3 burrito — an existence of humility and revelry much like a 21st century version of Bellamy and his crew.

Life is not simply all fun and games for Bissell, however, as the plucky entrepreneur knows precisely when’s the time to hustle and when’s the time to play. Bissell’s weekdays are spent working non-stop from early in the morning to late at night, sourcing new inventory and scooping up treasure in his own metaphorical raids via international auctions online. As a true ‘free prince,’ Bissell handles the entirety of his business from web work to photography himself in partnership with his father, without introducing outsider influence to muddy the waters.

In his quest for industry dominance, Bissell has set himself leaps and bounds ahead of his competitors through innovative marketing techniques harnessing the powers of social media. As the youngest to ever make a mark on the trade, sitting exceptionally at more than half the age of his industry peers, Bissell has made a killing by posting photos mixing old treasures alongside modern luxuries, such as dangling one-of-a-kind shipwrecked jewelry in front of souped-up Aston Martin coupe and more. The strategy has paid off for Bissell, with his pictures going viral and creating a demand for ancient loot among a new, younger generation.

“I’m changing the public’s perspective on pirate treasure: it’s not a luxury item, it’s an asset class,” says Bissell. “Through the test of time, rarities always last. Value continues to appreciate with time and it’s a solid investment; you will be really happy in five years when you’re looking at your portfolio.”

Bissell has continued to modernize the sale of these riches of yesteryear, tapping into the current craze of Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to entice in a new type of collector. NFTs purchased from Pirate Gold Coins will be backed by the actual treasure itself, which Bissell will keep safe and secure in his vaults until the buyer decides to burn the token in exchange for the real-life artifact at their discretion.

The industry innovator has likewise delved into the realm of painting coins, another first in the treasure business, with a number of Bissell’s buzzy art pieces having already gone to auction and racked up bids well into the four-figure range. Now, rather than just keeping their assets hidden away in a safe, collectors can proudly display their holdings on the wall with one of Bissel’s unique and beautiful paintings instead.

A perfect contrast of humility and swagger, rags and riches, raw talent and intense dedication, JR Bissell is the closest thing the world has seen to a pirate in hundreds and hundreds of years, having single-handedly changing the course of the ancient treasure market forever through his cutting-edge moves — with plenty more set in store to come.

LA Weekly