The Exchange : The History of Pirate Coins

The History of Pirate Coins


Thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, pirates today are seen as cool, rum drinking, peg legged, romantic scoundrels. In reality, pirates were free men and women who lived lives of autonomy and adventure. They directed their ships where they wished and stayed at tropical islands for as long as they wanted.

In a world of rules and regulations, pirates sought independence and freedom from the powers that be. The Golden Age of Piracy reigned between 1650 to 1725, when rules that regulated the life of ordinary people were much stricter than the ones we face today. Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, there was only one way out of a peasant's life of starvation. The dream of unimaginable wealth and freedom was found in a life of piracy.

While the list of notorious pirates would be a long one at that, some of the best known pirates were Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Edward Lowe, Calico Jack and Bartholomew Roberts. These infamous men have given us many symbols that can be recognized world wide, including the Jolly Roger flag, the eye-patch and pirate coins.

About the Pirate Culture

Contrary to popular belief, joining a pirate crew was more like a liberation for the average sailor. In many ways, a pirate ship was a thriving democracy. The captain was elected by the crew and could be relived from duty for poor performance. If relived, the captain might be lowered in status to first mate or placed in a small boat with simple provisions to find his way to shore. A pirate crew was truly a multi-cultural society, as the seamen were a mix of English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese. Blacks were also welcomed aboard as freemen. To many, who were oppressed under the conditions of warships, living on a pirate ship was just and democratic. 

The Economics of Piracy

Goldand Silver Escudo DoubloonThe rise of piracy began when countries such as England and Spain began placing restrictions on their colonies in regards to trading with other nations. The English were considered to be the strictest. As a result, the colonies resented these restrictions and were willing to smuggle goods. Because pirates stole their goods at no cost, they could sell these goods at cheap costs. In many colonial cities, pirates were encouraged into port and buying pirate goods was welcomed in colonial society. In return, merchants also made money by selling pirates goods. There has been evidence that there had been coinage carried by pirates. One rather famed pirate coin was the "pirate piece of eight," which is the famous Spanish colonial Pillar Dollar. However, the majority of pirates traded with gold and silver coins from Spanish and Dutch descent.

Great American Coin Company's Gold Escudo Doubloon Replica coin

Port Royal - Richest City in the World

During the late 1600s, Port Royal was considered to be the pirate headquarters. Located in Jamaica, which was originally colonized by the Spanish in 1509, it had little attention. Many pirates found Port Royal as the ideal base from which to attack Spanish treasure ships. The governor of Jamaica openly welcomed pirates, as many received letters of marque authorizing them to attack the Spanish. By 1658, Port Royal was filled with brothels, gambling halls and taverns. At the time, there was so much plunder and gold in Port Royal that it was considered one of the largest and richest cities in the New World. However, all of this quickly came to an end in 1692, when a devastating earthquake hit Port Royal and much of the city sank into the ocean.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. He loves collecting pirate coins. When he's not writing, he's working on building his collection. Connect with him on

Written by Gary Dyner at 00:00

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January 1, 2014 05:57


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