Skip to main content
Select Source:

Pieces of Eight

PIECES OF EIGHT

PIECES OF EIGHT, Spanish silver coins of eight reals (eight bits), first authorized in 1497. Also known as pesos and Spanish dollars, they were minted in enormous quantities and soon became recognized as a reliable medium of exchange in the European colonies of North America. Subsidiary coins—four reals (half dollar, four bits) and two reals (quarter dollar, two bits)—were also minted. In 1728, Spain began coinage of the milled dollar to replace the piece of eight. The Coinage Act of 1792 made the dollar the new nation's official currency and fixed it at approximately the same weight of silver as the Spanish peso.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brock, Leslie V. The Currency of the American Colonies, 1700– 1764: A Study in Colonial Finance and Imperial Relations. New York: Arno Press, 1975.

McCusker, John J. Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600–1775. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

WalterPrichard/a. r.

See alsoCurrency and Coinage ; Doubloon ; Money ; Proclamation Money ; Spanish and Spanish American Influence .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pieces of Eight." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pieces of Eight." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pieces-eight

"Pieces of Eight." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pieces-eight

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Pieces of Eight

PIECES OF EIGHT


Pieces of eight were Spanish silver coins (pesos) that circulated along with other hard currency in the American colonies. Since the settlements in the New World were all possessions of their mother countries (England, Spain, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands), they did not have monetary systems of their own. England forbade its American colonies to issue money. Colonists used whatever foreign currency they could get their hands on. Pieces of eight (from Spain), reals (from Spain and Portugal), and shillings (from England) were in circulation; the pieces of eight were most common. The Spanish silver coin was so named because it was worth eight reals and at one time had an eight stamped on it. To make change, the coin was cut up to resemble pieces of a pie. Two pieces, or "two bits," of the silver coin made up a quarter, which is why Americans still may refer to a quarter (of a dollar) as two bits.

In 1652 the Massachusetts Bay Company became the first colony to mint its own coins, since because of the English Civil War there was no monarch on the throne of England. The issue of coinage by colonists was strictly prohibited by England, but the Puritans of Massachusetts continued to make their own coins for some thirty years thereafter, stamping the year 1652 on them as a way to circumvent the law.

There were frequent money shortages in the colonies, which usually ran a trade deficit with Europe: the colonies supplied raw goods to Europe, but finished goods, including manufactured items were mostly imported, resulting in an imbalance of trade. Coinage scarce, most colonists conducted trade as barter, exchanging goods and services for the same. The monetary situation on the North American mainland remained tenuous even after the American Revolution (17751783). It was not stabilized until after 1785 when Congress established the dollar as the official currency of the new United States.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pieces of Eight." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pieces of Eight." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pieces-eight

"Pieces of Eight." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pieces-eight

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

piece of eight

piece of eight a Spanish dollar, equivalent to 8 reals, and marked with the figure 8. The phrase is notably associated with Robert Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883); Long John Silver's parrot constantly repeats ‘Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!’ as a reminder of the pirates' treasure.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"piece of eight." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"piece of eight." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/piece-eight

"piece of eight." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/piece-eight

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

piece of eight

piece of eight • n. hist. a Spanish dollar, equivalent to 8 reals.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"piece of eight." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"piece of eight." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/piece-eight-0

"piece of eight." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/piece-eight-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.