Pieces of Eight
After the introduction of the Guldengroschen in Austria in 1486, the concept of a large silver coin with high purity (sometimes known as "specie" coinage) eventually spread throughout the rest of Europe. Monetary reform in Spain brought about the introduction of an 8-reales coin in 1497.
In the following centuries, and into the 19th century, the coin was minted with several different designs at various mints in Spain and in the new world, having gained wide acceptance beyond Spain's borders. The main new world mints for Spanish dollars were at Potosí, Lima, and Mexico City, and silver dollars minted at these mints could be distinguished from the ones minted in Spain, by virtue of the Pillars of Hercules design on the reverse. In the 19th century, the coin's denomination was changed to 20 reales (based on 20 reales de vellón) and finally 2 escudos.
Spain's adoption of the peseta and its joining the Latin Monetary Union meant the effective end for the last vestiges of the Spanish dollar in Spain itself. However, the 5-pesetas coin was slightly smaller and lighter but was also of high purity (90%) silver.
Following independence in 1821, Mexican coinage of silver reales and gold escudos followed that of Spanish lines until decimalization and the introduction of the peso. The Mexican 8-reales coin (eventually becoming a 1-peso coin) continued to be a popular international trading coin throughout the 19th century.After 1918, the peso was reduced in size and fineness, with further reductions in the 1940s and 1950s. However, 2- (1921), 5- (1947) and 10- (1955) peso coins were minted during the same period, similar in size and fineness to the old peso.
Ireland and British colonies
The term cob, for a piece of eight or a Spanish-American dollar, was used in Ireland and the British colonies during the period when Spanish-American gold and silver coins were irregularly shaped and crudely struck.
The widow's mites in the Bible stories refer to coins issued by the Jewish king Alexander Janneus, who ruled from 103 to 76 B.C. During that time, he commissioned the minting of two coins, the lepton and the prutah. In common use at the time, these are the coins that are believed to have been added by the widow to the treasury as Jesus looked on. He is said to have commented on her contribution, saying that wealthier people had contributed much but she had given more they they because she had little and had given all she had. In the King James version of the Bible, the coins were referred to as "mites," meaning of little value. Thus, today they are known as widow's mites.
The lepton and the prutah were both cast from bronze and the lepton was the lowest denomination available. At the time, the worth of coins was based on weight rather than an assigned value. Because of the way the coins were cast, their weight varied widely from coin to coin, though one lepton was roughly half of one prutah. The coins were very small, sometimes only as big around as a pencil eraser.
Both the prutah and the lepton are marked on one side with an eight-rayed star surrounded by a circle or a wheel. The star side of the prutah was inscribed with "Yehonatan the King." Both coins were marked on the other side with an anchor and "King Alexander," written in Greek. The star or wheel is thought to symbolize heaven, while the anchor may have been used to signify naval strength.
How They Were Made
Widow's mites were crudely made, at best. A long strip of bronze was placed between two dies, which did the embossing work. The strip was quickly pulled through the dies while being struck with a hammer. No attention was paid to placement or centering of the dies and the coins were cut from the strip as soon as it was hammered. This led to many irregularities, including the fact that the embossed pattern was nearly always out of place, on one if not both sides. In addition, the coins were rarely round and were more likely to be misshapen circles or even rectangular.
Mites are mentioned at least three times in the Bible: Mark 12:41-44, Luke 12:58-59 and Luke 21:1-4. Both Mark 12 and Luke 12 specifically mention a widow contributing two mites to the official treasury, while Luke 21 simply uses the term "mite" to denote payment.
"As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in her two mites. "Truly I tell you," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)
Read more: History of the Widow's Mite Coin | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_6612012_history-widow_s-mite-coin.html#ixzz1PNjQYtir
Alexander The Great
Alexander became ruler of Macedonia in 336 BC after the murder of his father Philip II. Ancient Macedonia was situated in the northeastern area of modern day Greece. Macedonia had grown strong under Philip II. Even though Alexander was only 20, he launched a massive military expedition against the Persian Empire. The area of contention between the Persians and the Greeks was Asia Minor (modern day Turkey – the Turks had not arrived yet). Most of the coastal cites of Asia Minor were inhabitated by Greek-speaking people, but they were ruled by the Persian Empire. Alexander invaded Asia Minor to liberate the Greeks and drive out the Persians. Alexander’s armies swept down into Egypt and then circled back, taking territory the whole way to borders of India. Alexander’s armies defeated every army for 13 years. While traveling back home through Babylon, Alexander died at the age of 33 in 323 BC. The coins minted under his name from 336 to 323 BC are referred to as lifetime issues and command a high price today.
The two dominant coins of Alexander were the drachm (drachma) and the tetradrachm (tetra = 4). The drachm is about 18 mm wide and weighs about 4.2 grams of silver (size of a penny). The tetradrachm size varies according to when and where it was minted but ranges from 25-40 mm wide and weighs 17.2 grams of silver (larger than a quarter). Alexander coins were considered sound money as the receiver knew that the coin was of a certain weight of silver. The value of the coin principally came from what it was made of, not who issued the coin. The weights of the coins were regulated by city officials called magistrates. It is often their official symbols and monograms that we find on the coins. Ancient forgers used to coat copper coins with silver and try to pass them off as pure silver coins. It is not uncommon to find an ancient banker’s mark or a test cut in ancient coins. By piercing the coin, the person could tell if the silver ran through the coin. The Alexander coinage was principally used to pay soldiers, tribute (levies & taxes), and later protection money to the barbarians. It was not for the purpose of establishing the free flow of commerce. Coins were also made of gold and bronze, but we will principally deal with the silver issues here. When Alexander was alive, there were about 26 mints producing his coinage. After his death, Greek rulers and cities throughout the former Alexandrian Empire produced Alexander coinage at 52 mints at its peak. In all about 91 different mints produced Alexander coinage over the 250 years. The last Alexanders were minted at Mesembria around 65 B.C.
The Alexander coin has Herakles (or Hercules as the Romans called him) on the front (obverse). On the back (reverse) was the supreme god, Zeus, who was the father of Herakles. Zeus sits on his throne holding a scepter and eagle. Although some people have argued the image of Herakles was Alexander himself, there is no convincing evidence of this and the face of Herakles is different in different regions. Herakles was the greatest hero of the Greeks. Born of the Greek god Zeus and made mortal, Herakles attained divine status by accomplishing 12 great tasks on Earth known as the 12 Labors of Herakles. The idea of a man becoming a god obviously was an attractive image for Alexander. The headdress that appears on the head of Herakles is the lion skin of the fierce Nemean lion that was killed by Herakles during his first labor.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe. What is a sixpence?
A sixpence was a coin used in the British Empire beginning in 1551. One sixpence represented six pennies. The last year of use of the sixpence coin was 1967.
How did the sixpence tradition begin?
In the middle ages, the people were very superstitious. They believed that much of their life was controlled by evil spirits. Anything they could do to ward off those spirits was wise. They felt that those evil spirits were particularly active during rites of passage, such as weddings, so it was important to use good luck charms to keep the bride and groom safe on their wedding day. Any type of talisman from a horseshoe to a lucky coin was considered a good omen.
During the early 1600's it was customary for the Lord of the Manor to give his bride a piece of silver as a wedding gift. This was symbolically represented by a sixpence coin. It later became a tradition to include a sixpence in the dowry that was given by the bride's family to the groom.
That tradition of the sixpence as a symbol of good luck continues today. Some families have passed down the same sixpence through the generations to continue the hope for good luck to future brides.