The Vergulde Draeck

C.R. Boxer describes how one of the Dutch Indiamen carrying pieces of eight to the East Indies was fatally wrecked off the western coast of Australia in 1656.

The connexion between the discovery and exploitation of the silver mines in Mexico and Peru by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century and the so-called price revolution in Europe has been studied by many historians. The demand for Spanish-American silver was virtually world-wide, and nowhere was it stronger than in the Far East, particularly in the form of the silver peso of eight rials or 272 maravedis, called variously peso fuerte, duro, real de a ocho in Spanish, and rial-of-eight or piece-of-eight in English.

Coined mainly at the mints established at Mexico City in 1536 and at Potosi in High Peru (now Bolivia) in 1572, the piece-of-eight (or ‘Mexican dollar’ or ‘Spanish dollar’) quickly became the most widely used form of currency in international trade, and eventually the prototype of the United States silver dollar and of similar coins in many other countries.

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