Kent Archaeological Review extract

A Piece of Eight from Dover.
by Peter Keller.

A coin handed to the writer for identification revealed itself upon cleaning to be a Spanish silver 8 Reales piece, popularly known as 'a piece of eight'.

The silver real, in the Castilian series, is of Ferdinand V of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, (1479-1516) whose marriage unified Spain. The OBVERSE shows their shield of arms -- quartered shield bearing the arms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Sicily: with the arms of Granada below. The inscription reads FERNANDUS ET ISABEL. The REVERSE bears Ferdinand's symbol, the yoke and that of Isabella, a bundle of arrows.

DRAWING: Coin, drawn by Peter Keller.

Drawn by Peter Keller.

The silver real was current in those parts of Spain not conquered by the Moors; first struck at Seville and Burgos by Pedro III King of Castile (1350- 1368), and was called NUMMUS REALIS, 'Money of the King'. From this the name 'Real' was abbreviated. It was one eighth of the peso (the Spanish equivalent for our word dollar) and was one half cuartos. These coins were in multiples of 2,4 and 8 and as high as 50 reales in silver and 100 in gold. The coin continued in use in Spain up to the time of the revolution of 1869-70, being succeeded by the peseta. It was extensively struck in Mexico, the Central American Republics and in many countries in South America.See Footnote [1]

It is interesting to note that when the East India Company was chartered in 1600 it struck a silver crown, half-crown, shilling and sixpence for use in India. These were also known as eight reales, two reales and real.

By all accounts this particular coin was one of several found during road working operations in Town Wall Street, Dover some three years ago! It is just possible that this too came from the 'sands of time' on Dover's beach, (KAR 48, page 182). The coin is now in the possession of the finder, Mr T McCulloch.

Footnote 1.

Dictionary of Numismatic Names, Albert R Frey. Return to the paragraph.
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