Wednesday, May 2, 2012

What are Pieces of eight

doubloons are also known as pieces of eight
Pieces of Eight – the Spanish Silver Dollar -The First Global Currency

Pieces of Eight or Spanish Silver dollars were originally part of Spanish currency. However, this monetary unit was spread rapidly around the world because of the huge Spanish empire first established in the 15th century and because of the wealth of South American silver mines that made Spain so rich.

By the mid 1500s, the piece of eight was also being called the Spanish silver dollar because it compared in value to the German silver coin, the Thaler.
Spain’s currency unit was based on coinage called the Real, which had been introduced in Spain in the 1300s. The famous piece of eight or peso de ocho was worth eight Reales and had an 8 stamped on the reverse of the coin.

Once the Spanish had discovered the valuable metal deposits of South America, they started to mint their coins in the New World. The silver was mined in the Spanish South American Empire in Mexico Lima and Bolivia.

Much of the silver used for the silver dollar, was extracted from the silver mountain of Potosi in Bolivia using thousands of Native American Indians and African slave labour in appalling conditions. You can identify coinage made in South America rather than Spain because it carries an image of the Pillars of Hercules.

hallmarks guide

The Spanish silver dollar was the most valuable of the silver coins and weighed about 1 oz. In 1566, the more valuable gold escudo was introduced, worth 16 Reales. The gold escudo was often called a doubloon – a slang word for any coin meaning double the value of another. 

Spanish Silver dollars can be seen as the World’s first Global currency. They were used in Spain and the far-flung reaches of the Spanish Empire and were accepted everywhere else as well. They were seen by most people as being most stable currency in the world because there were simply so many of them and because this currency was the one most used for trade.

Millions of dollars were minted over the centuries and they were the most widely used coinage of the American colonial period.

The golden age of piracy – between the 1650s to the 1730s did much spread this Spanish currency around and early trade in America was often carried out using silver dollars gained in illicit trading in the West Indies and because of a lack of British coinage.

When the Americans started minting their own coinage in 1792, the Spanish dollars remained more popular because of their higher silver content. They were still in use in America late into the 19th century where their value was equal to that of a US dollar.