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Cut Off the Bar

October 9th, 2015 by Piper Smith

Cob coins made their way into American Colonies. They were of a crude design. They came in denominations of 4, 2, and 1 reales. “Cob” comes from a Spanish phrase cabo de barra; meaning cut from a bar. They were sliced off Silver bars trimmed to weight then struck using crude dies.

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The one ounce silver coin was eight reales. This “piece of eight” could be fractioned into halves (four reales) or quarters (two reales) much as we do with modern dollars. The modern stock market also operates in eighths of the dollar.

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You’ll notice that the Cob coins are all different shapes. When cut, they did not waste time to make them all match. Like today, there were dishonest people who soon tried to make counterfeits by getting a similar shape out of materials and stamping it with the same “logo”. To put an end to that, the pieces of eight were all shaped to a perfect circle and that became the new currency.

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