The So-Called “Pirate Coins”: From Myth to Reality

By Emma Pratte

with Dr. Jérôme Jambu (Université de Lille)

In the collective imagination, pirates are inseparable from their treasure chests filled with coins. They have inspired extraordinary stories in literature and cinema, serve as the subject of research for passionate adventurers, and even influence the numismatic market. The origins of the “pirate coin” myth come from particular monetary practices attested to by contemporary testimonies and archival documents. Recent archaeological discoveries, although rare, have shed further light on historical practices of piracy. Numismatics also makes it possible to compare and modulate these different contributions and, in conjunction with other sources, offer an important resource that helps to define, beyond legend, “pirate coins” in the modern period.