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Gold Doubloons

After pieces of eight, the most famous treasure coins are probably gold doublooons (sometimes incorrectly spelt "dubloon"). They appear in numerous tales of sunken treasure and pirate hoards. Replica dubloons are popular accessories for swashbuckling costumes.

What Is A Doubloon?

The doubloon was a Spanish coin used from the mid 16th to mid 19th centuries. It was stamped from gold and hence is commonly referred to as a "gold piece". It weighed just under one ounce and was made from 22 karat (almost pure) gold.

Although the doubloon was a Spanish coin it was widely used in the West Indies and South America. Being made from almost pure gold it also had value in any other country even where it wasn't legal tender. Since much of the piracy that took place was between English and Spanish privateers, Spanish gold doubloons often formed English pirate booty.

Value

The name doubloon has been applied to various denominations of gold coin over the centuries, however the most common usage is probably that of an 8 escudo piece. The escudo was in turn worth 16 silver reales, making one gold doubloon equivalent to 128 silver reales. One doubloon was also worth 16 full pieces of eight.

Although coins from this era were roughly circular they were initially hand stamped and therefore irregular in shape. What mattered was the weight of gold in the coin - if it weighed too much after minting then small bits would be cut off from around the edges. Coins manufactured by this method are often referred to as cob coinage as opposed to the later "milled" coinage.

Many doubloons were minted over the centuries and are still for sale from dealers today, there are many places to buy online. Those with a provenance that connects them to a famous wreck or historic event are obviously of more value to collectors and often fetch a higher price.

The Brasher Doubloon

The term Brasher Doubloon refers to a rare coin minted not in Spain but in America. Ephraim Brasher worked as a gold and silversmith in New York and in 1787 turned his hand to producing his own gold coins. At the time the states could issue their own coinage and Brasher had already tried unsuccessfully to win the franchise for producing New York State's copper coins. The Brasher Doubloon showed the American eagle on one side and the sun rising over a mountain on the other. Some six of these still exist.

The coin was at the centre of Raymond Chandler's story The High Window which was made into the 1947 movie The Brasher Doubloon.