Pieces of eightPieces of eight
was a slang term for Spanish
or Mexican silver
dollars. These dollar coins were actually physically cut into eight bits or sometimes four quarters to make smaller change. Long tied to the lore of piracy
, it was one of the widest circulating coins of its time. This was thanks, at least partially, to the large silver deposits that were found in Mexico. As these coins were manufactured and transported back to Spain (to pay for wars and various other things) they made a tempting target for pirates. Some pirates were among the richest people in the world.
Pieces of eight circulated widely in the United States until the mid nineteenth century, and were very important to the economy of the colonial period.
Mints in Spain and Mexico minted millions of these coins over a long period.
In fiction, pirates' parrots are commonly represented as being trained to cry out, "Pieces of eight!"