Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Have you ever heard the term “pieces of eight”? What are they?

When I was young, I watched reruns of the original Mickey Mouse Club. As part of the shows, they had episodes of a mystery drama. I remember two things about it, the kids in the story were searching for treasure, and the song for the serial story ended in a deep voice singing “pieces of eight”.

What about “two-bits, four-bits, six-bits, a dollar”? I remember this cheer from high school. “Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits, a dollar, all for [insert school name], stand up and holler.”

“Pieces of eight” and “two-bits-four-bits-etc” refer to the same thing. Well, not the cheer.

Way back when, this started with the Spanish milled silver dollar.

England prohibited the early American colonies from minting coins. The settlers were left with bartering, using foreign coins, and trading with local currency such as wampum (cylindrical beads made from quahog shells used as money).

The American colonies, having no minted money of their own, used currency from many other countries.

The Spanish milled dollar was, by far, the most commonly circulated coin in the United States and considered legal tender until the Coinage Act of 1857.

It’s edges were “milled”, or patterned, to prevent people from shaving silver from the edges unnoticed. Coins were valued by their weight rather than “face value” as they are today.

But what’s a person to do when they wanted to buy something that costs less than a dollar?

Since the Spanish dollar was valued by weight, it was often divide into eight pieces called “reals” or “bits”.

So, this milled dollar was also known as a “Piece of Eight.”

Thus, “two bits” meant a quarter of a dollar. So, by dividing a coin like the milled dollar, a person could spend part of the coin in one place and another part elsewhere.

The coin would be divided in half and be a half dollar . . .

. . . in quarters for a quarter of a dollar . . .

. . . and eighths for one real or one bit. 

Pieces of Eight were the world’s first global currency.

Though contemporary U.S. Currency is based on the silver Spanish Milled Dollar, when the young United States began minting their own currency, they went to the decimal system and divided the dollar into one hundred.

The eight-bit Spanish dollar is not the same as a doubloon, which is what we generally associate with pirates. The doubloon, also minted by Spain, is a 32-reals/bits gold coin. Four Spanish milled silver dollars would be worth the same as one doubloon. So, if someone refers to a doubloon as “pieces of eight”, that would be incorrect.

The pictures of my coins in this post are reproductions made of pewter, but they have a similar weight and appearance of the original Spanish Miller Dollar.

I love playing with my replica Spanish Milled Dollars and pieces of eight. How would you like to have a pocket full of these sharp edges?

For more information on the background of money in recent history (1500s & forward), this site has some interesting information and can be a jumping off point for further research.

THE WIDOW'S PLIGHT ~ A sweet historical romance that will tug at your heart. This is book 1 in the Quilting Circle series.
Washington State, 1893
     When Lily Lexington Bremmer arrives in Kamola with her young son, she’s reluctant to join the social center of her new community, the quilting circle, but the friendly ladies pull her in. She begins piecing a sunshine and shadows quilt because it mirrors her life. She has a secret that lurks in the shadows and hopes it doesn’t come out into the light. Dark places in her past are best forgotten, but her new life is full of sunshine. Will her secrets cast shadows on her bright future?
     Widower Edric Hammond and his father are doing their best to raise his two young daughters. He meets Lily and her son when they arrive in town and helps her find a job and a place to live. Lily resists Edric’s charms at first but finds herself falling in love with this kind, gentle man and his two darling daughters. Lily has stolen his heart with her first warm smile, but he’s cautious about bringing another woman into his girls’ lives due to the harshness of their own mother.
     Can Edric forgive Lily her past to take hold of a promising chance at love?

THE WIDOW'S PLIGHT is now available at a low, pre-order price. This book releases in ebook on July 1, and will be out in paperback by mid-June.

#ChristianRomance #HistoricalRomance #Romance

MARY DAVIS is a bestselling, award-winning novelist of over two dozen titles in both historical and contemporary themes. She has five titles releasing in 2018; "Holly & Ivy" in A Bouquet of Brides Collection in January, Courting Her Amish Heart in March, The Widow’s Plight in July, Courting Her Secret Heart September, & “Zola’s Cross-Country Adventure” in MISSAdventure Brides Collection in December. She is a member of ACFW and active in critique groups.

Mary lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of over thirty-three years and two cats. She has three adult children and one incredibly adorable grandchild. Find her online at:
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