Could the Goonies have legally kept One-Eyed Willie's treasure?

For you millennials who don’t know what Goonies are, look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goonies

So, about that little bag of gems Mikey took from the HMS Inferno - were they legally his to keep? Or were they the property of someone else? If so, who? From what I’ve seen, this is a case of a presumably British pirate ship full of stolen property derelicted on what is now American territory which I’m assuming is now owned by the City of Astoria in the State of Oregon (for the sake of simplicity, let’s say the HMS Inferno came to rest in a cave owned by the City of Astoria, although this is not canon). After the passage of 350 years, I’m assuming a statute of limitations would apply to make any legal claims by the descendants of the original owners moot. Is that correct?

Now…who owns the gems, legally? Is it finder’s keepers or what?

Since this involves a fictional legal case, let’s move it to IMHO.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

This’ll obviously vary by jurisdiction, but I think most places that use the old English common law or a descendant of it have “treasure trove” laws. The general principle is that the treasure must be sufficiently old, and the finder must have been on the property for legitimate reasons and engaged in legitimate activity when they found it. I’d guess that the events in The Goonies would qualify.

Well, we know the jurisdiction: Oregon. In the Astoria area.

The first question is who owns the “land” the ship was on.

Oregon long ago claimed all land along the coast up to 16’ above low tide.

The ship was (magically preserved) in water connected enough to the ocean that when some rocks disappeared (why the falling rocks didn’t block the exit is another matter) it sailed straight out into the ocean. So it was definitely within the vertical limits set by the state. The question is the horizontal matter. Was the cavern “on the coast” for legal purposes. I don’t think so.

Oregon otherwise owns a lot of the coast. So perhaps the whole cavern was under state land anyway. But … maybe not.

The geography of the movie is, well, all over the map.

What should be a 2.5-3 hour bike ride to Canon Beach instead barely spans the length of a Cindy Lauper song.

The abandoned restaurant where they first enter the caves is in Ecola State Park, which extends inland and up and down the coast for a while. But at one point they’re underneath a (nonexistent) private country club, and under a wishing well later (city park perhaps?).

And of course, the Goonies exit the cave and wind up in Bodega Bay in California. (In the story they’re still on a beach near Astoria.)

In my head-sequel, legal issues like this and ownership set up a new quest. Maybe Mr. Perkins and the country club are fighting the state over who owns the ship, and a secret society that’s been maintaining the traps all this time factors in.

I think they only showed parts of the ride in the movie; there was no intent to document every last moment of it.

That’s just a movie. I don’t think it was meant to be an actual representation of the Astoria area. It’s a movie, not a tour guide. That makes it “good enough, for me it’s good enough, it’s good enough for me, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeaaaaah” (I bet I have that song stuck in your head now :D)

I just read that the treasure was stolen from the English Crown. Perhaps the lovely and gracious HM Queen Elizabeth II would want her property back? Perhaps HM would donate enough of the treasure to save the Goon Docks, then keep the rest for herself? I can see her doing just that.

Example: looters of this Spanish galleon were ordered to hand over all the rich stuff back to the Spanish government. But it was originally sunk by the British, never pirated.