We know from the way it’s said, that quarters are a quarter of a dollar. But where is this term coming from? A little history of money in the U.S. will help.
“The Spanish Dollar quickly became the most popular coin in North America. It is even thought by some that if Washington did throw a coin across the Potomac, it was likely to have been America’s First Silver Dollar. Every day commerce was lubricated by this remarkable coin, and the terminology which developed by using it became so deeply embedded in American culture that it remains with us to this day. Pieces of Eight Because America’s First Silver Dollar was often cut into eight pie shaped ‘bits’ in order to make change, the intact coin became known as a ‘Piece of Eight.’ Since the entire Piece of Eight had a value of 8 Reales, each bit was valued at one eighth of the total. Two bits equaled a quarter, four bits a half dollar and six bits three quarters of
a dollar. Did you ever spend two bits?—Then you were living the legacy of America’s First Silver Dollar! To put the value of America’s First Silver Dollar into perspective, an average worker during the colonial era earned about 2 bits a week!”