Pedro • Link
Pieces of Eight…Morgan’s raid on Portobelo.
(Summary from Pope’s Biography of Morgan)
When Morgan returned to Jamaica he brought 250,000 pieces of eight and other merchandise. Pieces of eight were legal currency in Jamaica and valued at 5 shillings.
Each seaman received £60 and the King’s share was £600. (The King’s share was kept to repair the fortifications at Port Royal).
250,000 equalled £62,500, and because of the changes in value since 1668, to understand the value it is best to compare other values and costs.
It compares favourably with the value of London’s entire export to “all” the Plantations being £107,000.
Three times the customs paid in 1676-7 by Barbados, Nevis, Antigua, Montserrat, St.Kitts and Anguilla being £20,700.
It was almost exactly a tenth of the year's exports from the Plantations to England being £605,000.
dirk • Link
"...in 1644 one piece of eight was valued in England at four shillings and sixpence"
This is why they're called "pieces" of eight...
You can still buy them today...
The origin of the name
"The peso had a nominal value of eight reales ("royals"). The coins were often physically cut into eight 'bits,' or sometimes four quarters, to make smaller change. This is the origin of the colloquial name 'pieces of eight' for the coin, and of 'quarter' and 'two bits' for twenty-five cents in the United States." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieces_of_eight
dirk • Link
On the exchange rate problem with reference to the "pieces of eight" -- and why the lower exchange rate should be preferred -- see the diary entry for 11 May 1663, and annotations:
It's true that sometimes the eight reale coin was sometimes broken up, and weight determined the value of the piece,however they were also minted and in some cases hand pounded (cobs)into coins of a specifis denomination I.E 1/2 reale 1 reale,2 reale,4 reale etc. Coins that were produced in places where there was'nt a mint, were hand made by certified representitives of the King and had a stamp of the kings coinage coat of arms,these were made under strict government control and anyone caught trying to counterfeit these coins was beheaded!
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.