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pieces of eight
In January of 1651, the Act of Assembly passed an Act which provided that no debts contracted in Virginia were to be settled in money sterling were to be plead in a court of law. The only exception allowed by this regulation was when the debt to be paid in coin had been incurred in the purchase of horses, mares and sheep. Coins in the colony were a mixture of dutch, spanish and english coins and were hard to come by. This is why scales were in common practice, to obtain exact weights. Also, for generations people dealt in metals which were cumbersome to carry and required burying or storing in some way. You can trace people having their coins inside of guarded rooms all the way back to the bible. The colonists had their own measurements of the value of bullion. Captain John Upton was one of the first general master of the mint and the Virginia Assembly assigned a fixed values of the piece of eight.