Pirates' Treasure - a Piece of Eight

Objects from this contributor

Pirates' Treasure - a Piece of Eight

A "piece of eight" - this is apparently from Mexico but the year is not clearly marked. My late husband was a treasure hunter and this was something he picked up in the Caribbean in the 1950s. Pieces of eight are historical Spanish dollar coins minted in the Americas from the late 15th century through the 19th century. Made of silver, they were in nearly worldwide circulation by the late 19th century and were legal currency in the United States until 1857. The Spanish dollar coin was worth eight reales and could be physically cut into eight pieces, or "bits," to make change -- hence the colloquial name "pieces of eight." The dollar coin could also be cut into quarters, and "two bits" became American slang for a quarter dollar, or 25 cents. The American dollar used today was based on the Spanish dollar. Pieces of eight have long been associated with pirates, because they were a common target for the outlaws, as large amounts were regularly shipped from the American colonies to Spain. It invokes imaginings of pirates, swashbucklers, treasure hunters and a romantic bygone age.

Comments are closed for this object


  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 21:22 on 23 September 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Thrilled that this subject is to be covered tomorrow and very much looking forward to hearing more about it.

    Complain about this comment

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline




Find out more

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.