piece of eight
A piece of eight was a Spanish silver coin (peso) that was used in the American colonies, along with other forms of currency. "Piece of eight" was the name given to the coin because it was worth eight reals (Spanish coins). The English government did not allow any of its colonies to issue their own money, so colonists used whatever coins they could from the mother countries (England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands). Pieces of eight were the most common coins available, though reals from Portugal and Spain and shillings (British coins) from England were also in circulation. When someone needed to make change, he or she cut the real into eight pie-section-like pieces. Most colonists, however, did not use coin money; instead they bartered (traded) for goods and services.