What Is a “Piece of Eight” Coin?

What Is a “Piece of Eight” Coin?

The “Piece of Eight”, also known as the Spanish dollar or peso de ocho, was initially produced after a monetary revolution in 1497. The coin was named because it was originally worth eight Spanish reales.

The eight-coin piece has a rich historical significance.

In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, the “Piece of Eight” was a widely used silver coin throughout the Spanish empire and its colonies.

It was minted in Spain during the Age of Exploration. As a result, it became one of the first globally recognized currencies. The coin’s wide use helped trade between continents. This had a lasting effect on trade and culture.

Origins And History Of The Piece Of Eight

The piece of eight was first minted in the late 15th century. It was a silver coin known for its high silver content and reliability as a medium of exchange.

As one of the earliest global currencies, it circulated not only in Spain and its colonies but also in Europe, Asia, and North America. This was because Spain had many colonies. Another reason it was used everywhere might be because it was always the same in size and shape.

However, the piece of eight is really important in history. It is often associated with pirates and the golden age of piracy. People talk about it a lot in stories, and it was used a ton in trading across the Atlantic Ocean.

Characteristics Of The Piece Of Eight

The piece of eight coins became popular because of their distinct characteristics and unique features. People have always been interested in them. Studies have done a lot of research to know more about these coins. Some important things about the piece of eight are how much silver they had, what they looked like, and how much they were worth.

Silver Content And Weight

The coin usually had a lot of silver in it, about 93% pure. The coin was usually minted in .930 fine silver. It was about 38 millimeters wide.

Because it always weighed the same and was pure, people trusted it a lot. People also used smaller pieces of it for everyday buying and selling.

Coin’s Design And Features

The piece of eight had a distinctive design. One side showed the Spanish coat of arms, while the other side had a picture of the Spanish king or queen.

The front, or obverse, of the coin, displayed the coat of arms of Spain. The coat of arms had symbols like a crown and castles. This stood for different parts of Spain. The lions represent the kingdoms of Castile and León.

On the reverse side, the likeness of the reigning Spanish monarch was often portrayed. This symbol showcases their profile or bust. This site could also include inscriptions indicating the monarch’s name and title.


The coin was worth eight Spanish reales and was often physically cut into eight pieces. Each piece, a “bit,” was equivalent to fractions of the full coin’s value. People used smaller pieces of the coin to give change when buying things every day. This is where the term “pieces of eight” originates.

Legacy of the Piece of Eight

The Piece of Eight’s legacy extends far beyond its time. It significantly impacted how money works in many countries, like the United States.

The iconic U.S. dollar sign “$” is believed to have originated from the “Ps” abbreviation for pesos. This can be traced back to the piece of eight.

Even now, the Piece of Eight represents a lot about sailing, exploring, and trading. You can see it a lot in stories, pictures, and movies, showing exciting adventures and finding new things.

Today, people really like the piece of eight, and collectors want to collect it. Many examples of this coin are kept safe and shown in museums and people’s collections all over the world.

Many museums and schools include pieces of eight in their exhibits about sailing history. This shows how countries and money were taken over. These artifacts are essential for teaching people about how they affected trade all over the world.

Some people even use these coins in jewelry! They find them from old ships that sank in the sea. These special pieces make the jewelry they’re in even more interesting and cool.

How This Coin Is Related To The Shipwreck?

Pieces of eight coins are closely linked to shipwrecks because they were used a lot in sea trading. Many sunken ships have been found with these coins onboard. 

When ships sank, they often carried valuable cargo, like pieces of eight coins. These coins were commonly used as money for trading between different places worldwide.

One famous example is the Atocha, a Spanish treasure ship. The ship sank near Florida in 1622 during a hurricane. It was loaded with treasures from the New World, including silver bars, gold coins, jewels, and thousands of pieces of eight. In 1985, Mel Fisher and his team discovered the Atocha and its treasure. There was a huge amount of pieces of eight coins.

Over time, treasure hunters and scientists have found many sunken ships with lots of pieces of eight coins on them. When pieces of eight coins are found on shipwrecks, they’re usually kept safe. Many are shown in museums or owned by people who collect them. 

These discoveries make people excited. These coins help us learn about the routes ships used to trade, how they did business at sea, and what life was like for sailors and traders long ago. Also, the coins are ancient and have a lot of history behind them. The same is true of the stories of the sunken ships.


The piece of eight’s story continues today, from its link to pirates to how it affected how money works now. It’s still important as a symbol of exploring and trading. All these make it a valued part of sailing history.

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