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Pirate coins could have included currency from any country, all depending on where the pirates chose to plunder. Some coin examples of the 17th and 18th centuries, the time period most associated with piracy, were the piece of eight, doubloon, guinea, shilling, sixpence, pence, halfpence and farthing.
The piece of eight was a Spanish coin composed of silver that was the standard currency used for trading with and among the American colonies. By the end of the 18th century, it was considered legal tender practically everywhere. Many archaic and modern coins were based on the size and appearance of pieces of eight, including the U.S. Silver Dollar.
Pieces of eight were minted in Mexico or Seville, Spain. They were appreciated because of their uniform size and the amount of silver they contained. They were considered legal tender in the United States until 1857, although the value assigned to an individual coin varied considerably from state to state.
During the colonial days and for many years after the Revolutionary War, the British monetary system was used in the United States. A British pound was equivalent to a 1 pound weight of silver and also to the gold coin called a guinea, which in turn was worth 20 shillings. One silver shilling was worth 12 pence. Merchants recorded prices based on pounds, shillings and pence.
Around the end of the 18th century, pirate coins that were pieces of eight were each worth 4 shillings, 3 pence in England, but each coin was worth more in the United States. In the state of New York, for example, each piece of eight was worth 8 shillings. In Virginia, the value was 6 shillings, 8 pence.
In terms of modern currency, each shilling would be worth around $58, because of the value of the silver. An actual 18th century English shilling could be worth substantially more to a coin collector. Even at the value of $58 per shilling, a piece of eight would be worth as much as $465 in terms of modern U.S. dollars.
Doubloons were worth four times the value of a piece of eight. Other gold Spanish coins were worth even more. The denominations issued by Spain in the 1800s were worth as much as 4 doubloons, 16 pieces of eight, in modern terms as much as $7440. True pirate coins were very valuable.
The pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries would sometimes take the ship they had captured, sometimes burn it or sometimes let the crew return to it. Gold And Silver If the captured ship was laden with goods, the pirates would take those and use them or sell them. If a treasury trade ship was captured, the plunder would be almost entirely gold and silver money.
Being a part of the pirate’s crew could be profitable for a sailor, especially when compared to what a crew-member would earn in the Royal navy. A seaman in the Royal Navy received only 19 shillings per month and was not paid until the end of his tour of duty.
A regular crew member on a successful pirate’s ship usually got a share of any coins and other plunder. In one reported case, each crew member received a share of 3000 pounds, worth around $3 million U.S. dollars in terms of what could be bought with that amount of money in those days.
Today, we see many replicas of the old doubloons and pieces of eight. Kids enjoy the plastic replicas when they are pretending to be pirates. Candies are fashioned to resemble them. Some of the originals are on display in museums. You can safely say that pirate coins will be with us for a long time.
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