Silver Piece of Eight Coin
Silver Piece of Eight CoinSilver Piece of Eight Coin

Silver Piece of Eight Coin

Item #: 121011
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$350.00
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Recovered from a 1761 shipwreck off the coast of Nova Scotia. Certificate of Authenticity included, with description of the shipwreck.

These were the most commonly-used large silver coins in America throughout most of Jefferson’s lifetime. Precursor of the U.S. silver dollar. These coins were the reason we ended up using dollars, not pounds and shillings. These coins were the reason stocks traded in eighths for about 200 years.

The Spanish made so many of these coins from their silver mines in the New World that they became the standard currency around the world. In the 1700’s, before most countries had paper money, reliable standard silver coins were highly desired to help grease the accelerating cogs of world commerce. An earlier, cruder type was the classic pirate coin. But these “pillar dollars”, made 1732 to 1772, are generally considered the most beautiful type. This is the first coin listed in the “Red Book”, long the most popular price/guide book of U.S. coins.

Jefferson was an important advocate of using these coins as a basis to start a decimal coinage based on dollars divided into 100 cents. Sometimes the coins were cut into eight pieces to make change, hence “two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar”.

All of these coins will have a clear date, and most lettering and designs will be visible. Some parts will have fine seawater corrosion. Toning is sometimes splotchy and variable.

These are original coins, not reproductions.

Approx. 1 1/2" diameter.
On Nov. 15, 1761, L’Auguste de Bordeaux sank off the coast of Nova Scotia after fighting a losing battle with a winter storm. L’Auguste was transporting 121 French aristocrats and officers exiled from their Canadian homes to France at the end of the Seven Years War between France and Britain. Those on the ship had to bring their belongings as “moveable wealth” in the form of gold and silver coins. AUGUSTE was a merchant ship, a French privateer captured by the British. She was hired after the British conquest on the Plains of Abraham to deport soldiers and officials from Quebec back to France. Her passengers ranged from high-ranking and wealthy officials to lower-ranked non-commissioned officers. Allegedly being returned home, most were born in Quebec and had never seen France. AUGUSTE is an example of a savings hoard, which are diverse, high quality coins saved over many years, in this case the life savings of the wealthy officials being exiled from New France.

For the next 200 years, the Auguste wreck eluded treasure hunters, but in 1977, it was found in shallow waters along the Aspay Bay and was partially salvaged under government supervision. In 2000 a new group of salvors and investors, known as Auguste Expedition LLC, obtained a government permit to conduct further salvage of the wreck. The team began its recovery expedition in the summer of 2001 which continued over the next few summers, they conducted several more searches of the wreck site and recovered thousands of coins and historic artifacts.

Jefferson & the U.S. Coin System

Thomas Jefferson had long recognized the need for a more rational coinage in America. Hoping to simplify a colonial system in which numerous foreign coins circulated at a variety of exchange rates, Jefferson in 1776 began suggesting that decimal reckoning could order this chaos. . In 1784, after his "Notes on the establishment of a Money Unit," he recommended a system with the advantages of convenience, simplicity, and familiarity. The Spanish dollar was convenient in size, its decimal division would make computation simple, and its multiples and subdivisions would accord with already well-known coins. "Even mathematical heads," he admitted, "feel the relief of an easier substituted for a more difficult process." Jefferson's lucid arguments overwhelmed rival plans and the United States soon became the first nation in history to adopt a decimal coinage system.

Jefferson later oversaw the minting of coins as Secretary of State and continued his efforts for monetary uniformity as president. “Coinage is peculiarly an attribute of sovereignty,” he once stated. Jefferson understood that an orderly system of currency would not only facilitate local exchange, but would also help cement the new union of states and act as a system of national identity. Like the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s coin system endures to this day.

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Gift Wrap Information
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We will wrap your gift in our silver gift paper, trimmed with a red ribbon and bow, and include a hand written gift message. The charge is $6.95 per item.

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