SPANISH TRADE DOLLAR

by Wayne Bednersh


This coin, known as the Spanish (Hispanic) trade dollar or as a Piece of Eight, is a silver coin of 38mm diameter and worth 8 Reales.
It was widely used throughout the Spanish Empire including the USA (colonial until 1857), Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Chile, Guatemala etc.
and was designed to compete with the Austrian Thaler

Carolus IIII (or IV) reigned from 1788 to 1808 and is featured on the  front of the coin. 

The back of these coins has a crowned shield and two large pillars on either side.

This coin was the MODEL for the U.S. (silver) dollar and was legal tender in the USA until 1857

 An 8 reales silver  coin was roughly equivalent to one month’s pay for a sailor in the 1800’s.

These coins were often cut and divided into smaller pieces. The term "2 bits" was a quarter size piece of this coin.

We now use this term to refer to a quarter. 4 bits refers to half a dollar


spanish trade dollar spoon

The coin on this spoon  is dated 1805, but this series of coins was minted for several  years


The stem on this spoon is cast and soldered to the back of the coin. The stem design is not clear and I am unsure of the intended effect.
I suspect that another coin was melted and  used to make the silver stem because the stem metal and coin metal are the same.
There are no markings to determine origination.
Near the top is a small figure which appears to be holding something.  I am unsure of the symbolism--it might be a mirror or representing the world and was originally gilt (but most has worn off).


carollus spoon back



CAROLUS IIII DEI GRATIA 1806 "Charles IV by the Grace of God, 1806." Right profile of Charles IIII in soldier's dress with laurel wreath.


The Back  is known as the pillars of Hercules

Per Greek mythology, One of Hercules 12 tasks was to fetch some cattle from a land far to the west. This area is now widely believed to be the Strait of Gibraltar with its mountains on either side of the strait






Return to coin spoon index

Return to Exhibits index