The EL CAZADOR
SHIPWRECK THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
The piece of eight is an historic coin and the coin is the most thought of coin from the pirate era. This coin is also from a famous and probably histories most significant shipwreck.
In the 1700s the main unit of money was the real. Spain’s Thaler Coin was a large coin that was worth 8 reales. Legal tender in the USA up until 1857 stocks traded in reales and the new 8 real coin became the standard unit of currency. Stocks on the New York stock exchange continued to trade in 1/8ts until 1997.
In 1792 the USA made their own coins changing the “tha” to “do” and creating the dollar which we use today.
These Piece of Eight coins were then called “Mexican Dollars” and were preferred currency in the United States over American dollars because of the higher purity silver.
The coin weighed exactly one peso in weight and were nicknamed “Pesos” – later the word peso came to mean a type of money.
In Britain the coins were called “Pieces of eight” because it was worth 8 reales..
The pilers of Hercules with a curve was eventually changed to become our well known $ sign.
The Spanish colony of Louisiana was in big financial trouble. It was ridden with large large quantities of almost worthless paper money. To make matters worse, after the US revolution a few years earlier locals were getting revolutionary thoughts of their own. Spain’s plan was to bring in a large quantity of silver to redeem all the paper currency at face value to shore up the economy and show the locals that they were better off continuing to be a Spanish colony.
King Carlos III ordered his most trusted captain, Gabriel de Campos to set sail from Colombia with four hundred and fifty thousands Pesos of Silver, bring it to the new Mexican Mint (First actual Spanish Mint in the new world), and mint them into coins. Then he was to bring them to New Orleans to redeem them for all of the circulating paper money at face value.
On Jan 11th/1784 Gabriel de Campos left Vera Cruz, Mexico in the flagship of the Spanish Navy, the “Brig of War”, EL CAZADOR (“The hunter” in English) with 450,000 freshly minted pieces of eight. Soon, Spain’s colony of Louisiana would be all economically fixed up.
After leaving port on January 11th the El Cazador was never herd from again. It vanished without a trace. An extensive search was undertaken but in June it was officially listed as lost at sea and presumably sunk with all hands on board.
This loss started a series of events that led Spain to give Louisiana back to France and shortly thereafter Napoleon sold it to the United States for three cents an acre – more than doubling the size of the United States. This allowed the United States to then extend its reach westward rather than giving Mexico free reign to claim the West Coast of North America for itself unimpeded.
No shipwreck has ever affected history as much as the El Cazador.
On Aug 2nd, 1993, a Fishing trawler named the MISTAKE, fifty miles from New Orleans caught its nets on something in 300 feet of water. Up came coins. After more than two centuries, the El Cazador was found. The world is a lot different today because a top ocean going ship – the flagship of the Spanish navy, two centuries ago never made it an extra fifty miles.
Historical coin from an Historical shipwreck.