c. 1770 Revolutionary War Period Silver “Bit”, Cut from a Spanish Colonial 8 Reales, stated to have been found at Yorktown, Virginia, Extremely Fine.A very rare original piece of Spanish Milled Silver coinage which, according to the consignor, was excavated at Yorktown, Virginia and recovered from private property with the full permission of the owners. This item was found in a known camp of the 85th Regiment of Infantry circa 1781 (see page 275-276, Insignia of Independence, Troiani and Kochan). In order to make small purchases, many people cut the 8 Reales into eight pieces, each known as a “Bit”. This is where the old jingle, “Two Bits, Four Bits, Six Bits, a Dollar” came from. The “Bit” was worth the equivalent of 12-1/2 cents and, like the full-sized 8 Reales, the “Bits” were readily accepted. This example is not dated yet clearly shows the head of the Spanish king on one side and the top of a Crown on the other.
This is the true hard currency of the United States during the Revolutionary War! Spanish Colonial 8 Reales were roughly the size of a later U.S. Silver Dollar and were regularly used and recognized in the British Colonies. An 8 Reales was the equivalent of a day’s pay back in the Rev War days, so they were useful only for large purchases.