Pieces of Eight

by Lianne Walker

Wonder Podcast

Season 2 Episode 4

Pieces of eight


Bookcover of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island


In Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure IslandLong John Silver’s parrot, Captain Flint would say

“with great rapidity, Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight! till you wondered that it was not out of breath, or till John threw his handkerchief over the cage. ” as the novel tells us.

This classic story has captivated generations of adults and children alike. It has also linked the coins (and parrots) to fictional depictions of pirates, to this day.

So, whilst great pirate stories have forever linked “pieces of eight” with their owners and their seafaring bounty where does the term come from and what were they for?

That is a tale of wonder.




It’s not just thanks to Captain Flint that pieces of eight are a true wonder, for the Real de a Ocho, the Spanish Piece of Eight, was the first truly global currency.


This silver coin, with its high purity, also later known as the Spanish Dollar (so called because of its likeness to the Dutch “leeuwendaalder”  or German “Thaler”)  became famous not just because it was recognised the world over as a true currency or because of its link to pirates but because of the wealth it brought to the Spanish nation.

A Piece of Eight

Copyright: Public Domain



The sources I mentioned in the show are listed below

BBC History of the World

Unesco World Heritage

Latin American History

Story of Capitalism – The Guardian

British Library sources – Treaty of Torsedillas



The beautiful background music is by a wonderful musician, Daniel Bordovsky, who works under the name Borrtex. You can find more about him at his website here.



Thanks for Listening!

Have a great day.

Be sure to subscribe, rate and review the show at Apple PodcastsStitcher  and TuneIn

Until next time!

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