The World’s First Reserve Currency – The Silver Pieces of Eight

The Silver Eight Real or Real de a Ocho was a trusted international currency for centuries.

Before the Gold Standard there was a Silver Standard.

From the late 16th century through the 19th Century the Real de a Ocho was accepted in international trade

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Facts about the Real or Pieces of Eight

Pieces of 8 front and back

A 1821 example of a “Pillar Dollar” named because of the from the pillars that appear on the reverse.

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  • Gold and silver found in the Americas in the early 1500’s.
  • La Casa de Moneda de México, the official mint of Mexico was founded in 1535 – the first mint in the Americas.
  • La Casa de Moneda de México minted coins from locally mined and silver gold.
  • Spanish Conquistadors made silver finds and appropriated the silver for Spain.
  • The sending of so much silver back to Spain caused Hyperinflation (increase in the money supply).
  • A high quality piece of eight or Spanish Dollar began to be produced around 1600 and weighed 0.883125 troy ounces and was made of 93% fine silver.
  • The Piece of Eight was use in commerce in the “New World”, Spain and for international trade because it was a trusted standard unit of account.
  • The Piece of Eight was trusted not because of the promise of a government but because of the standard weight and silver purity.
  • The Piece of Eight was considered Legal Tender in the United States until 1857, despite the U.S. having a functioning mint since 1792.
  • The Piece of Eight was accepted in international trade well into the mid to late 1800’s.

“Two bits” is a quarter of a piece of eight.

The Descendant of the Real de a Ocho

Mexican libertad silver coins obverse

Left: Mexican Silver Libertad 1996-present obverse design;Right:1982-1995 obverse design. Click to buy from Golden Eagle Coin

Mexican libertad silver coins reverse

Left Mexican Silver Libertad 1996-present reverse design;Right:1982-1995 reverse design. Click to buy from Golden Eagle Coin.

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