Monday, May 9, 2011

History of Noble Metals. Part Two: Spanish Doubloon.

This coin has a rich history indeed. It was used as official currency in the period between the beginning of 16th and the middle of 19th century in Spain, and all of it’s colonies. Given the fact that it was made almost out of pure gold, it had a real value in countries where it wasn’t even a legal tender.
Today, it is most readily associated with pirates that sailed and plundered trading ships off the coasts of both Americas and west Europe. Since it was a Spanish coin, it often found its way into treasure booty of English pirate buccaneers. 
I will give an example here  how salvage divers, led by underwater explorer Barry Clifford - recovered 4,131 pieces of eight, and undisclosed amount of doubloons in the wreck of “Black Sam” Bellamy’s pirate galley Whydah, just off the shore of Cape Cod. It is interesting also to mention that Whydah was originally built to sail as a heavily-armed trading and transport ship for use in the Atlantic slave trade. It was supposed to carry goods from England to Africa and trade them for slaves, then sail to Caribbean to trade slaves for precious metals, medical ingredients, sugar and indigo, and finally ,sail back to England with all this cargo on board. 
At the time, slave trader Whydah was navigating somewhere between island of Cuba and Hispaniola, when Black Sam first spotted it. There was a 3 day long chase, in which Bellamy's 2 ships, (a 26 cannon galley named Sultana and 10 gun converted sloop Marianne), finally caught up to the Whydah and made it's captain surrender it without resistance. Sam Bellamy short after made Whydah his flagship - and it remained so all the way to the end of his pirate escapades.

Life sized replica of the pirate ship "Whydah".
Based on salvaged clothes and gear - look of the pirate sailors on board Whydah.

One doubloon had a worth of 16 pieces of eight at the time when Whydah sank in 1717.
Doubloon was minted and stamped into a coin from 22 karat - almost pure - gold, and hence it was ordinarily referred to as a “gold piece”.
Spanish gold doubloon.

It draws it’s name from Spanish word dobl√≥n, meaning "double" - it was worth 2 pistole, which was worth 2 escudo. One escudo was worth 16 reale, and 8 reale was also called a dollar, peso, or duro.
Most coins of that era were circular, but, initially they were hand stamped and therefore irregular in shape. The weight of the gold in coin is what mattered the most. If they weighed too much after the minting, small bits were cut off around the edges to make them roughly, (in case of the doubloon), 6.77 grams, or 0.218 ounces heavy.

50 comments:

  1. Ah yes, the classic doubloon. I've always had an interest in different currencies (for whatever reason), so posts like this make me happy. Love the style of those pirates, too. Yar!

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  2. Its funny, but we don't really have a physical currency nowadays. Currency evolution to a higher plain of none physical existence?

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  3. Interesting ARrrr-ticle. I crack me up :3

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  4. I love reading about things like this. We think of our ancestors as primitive, but they managed incredible things with their technology.

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  5. wow i read things here that i had absolutely no idea! :o great article, man!

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  6. Reading this got me pumped up to play Sid Myers Pirates! Also On Stranger Tides

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  7. quite interesting, cool blog post!

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  8. I was always interested in stuff like this as a child. I always hoped I'd find something similar in my backyard. My parents took away my shovel.

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  9. This put me in a Piratey mood.

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  10. Benji Radman said...
    Interesting ARrrr-ticle.

    HAHAHA that got me! also I have to admit, dubloons just remind me of waaaay back when i used to play neopets :P

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  11. i am goin to be a pirate for helloween! arrrrrr :D

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  12. really enjoying your blog. following.

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  13. Wow, imagine the intensity of a war at sea like that...

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  14. arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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  15. Very awesome! I also love that replica pirate ship. AHOY MATIES!
    I wish i could get my hands on some dubloons.

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  16. Awesome, pirates! I wouldn't mind finding some treasure. :b

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  17. I love pirates, therefore I love doubloons.

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  18. Really interesting read, the 16th-18th centuries are my favourite time period in history

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  19. It's interesting how a non-note monetary system works: thanks for the cool post!

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  20. Oh, how I love when rare metals were simply used as currency because they were rare. At least they have a purpose in modern society, like as conductors and the like.

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  21. Great pics of the Pirates, Corsairs or Buccaneers you got there bro. Nice info

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  22. Old coins always fascinated me, especially as a small child, nice article.

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  23. Wow, I never new the doubloon had such a history. I especially like the part of cutting off pieces to make it the right weight, and that it lasted as a consistent monetary system for so long. It would definitely be more interesting is similar things were still in use today rather then our crappy federal reserve notes.

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  24. Great article on pirates and gold doubloons! I love how classic they look. The misshapen coin just adds character.

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  25. I wonder how much a doubloon is worth now.

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  26. Problem solved. All I have to do is find a few.

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  27. When ever I hear "Doubloon" I think of Spongebob.

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  28. love the post! the pictures kind of reminded me of the goonies.

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  29. I want one! Dude I wish money was still made out of precious metals </3. FAIL new money system. It all goes back to 1944 when the currency was allowed to float.

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  30. I'm gonna go scuba diving soon to find me some doubloons! arghhh :D

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  31. I love reading stuff like this. Following...

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  32. Very informative read dude!

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  33. Awesome article, never knew much about this before ;D

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  34. Arrr, pirate story... and some interesting info too.

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  35. Makes me thinking of all those sunken ships and treasure hunters

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  36. Thanks for the educational article.

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  37. So god damn interesting. I was kinda surprised to see they actually were dressed like that. I can imagine being on a freaking pirate ship, then tieing a red scarf around your neck for fashion purposes would get you a solid beating by your very manly crewmates pretty quickly!



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  38. I dont like history, but this is quite interresting

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  39. Incredible post, very informative. Please post more!

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  40. lol that little pirate looks a lot like "el chavo del 8"

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