Did Pirates Always Sail for Gold?

Pirates, contrary to what’s been depicted in the media, rarely raided random ships spied along the coast. Instead, they targeted prospects using a coordinated approach involving the attainment of pertinent information by spying on conversations in ale houses and other venues. Piracy commenced long prior to the discovery of the New World, after which pirates commonly raided ships transporting gold, silver and other riches from the New World back to Spain.

What’s a Pirate?

Pirate Gold

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A pirate is a sailor who steals goods from other ships. Whether gold, silver, commodities or other goods, a pirate is defined as any seaman who overtakes another vessel in efforts to get whatever valuable possessions might be aboard. When ships were out at sea, especially before modern technology enabled the constant monitoring of incoming threats, they were vulnerable to incoming attackers capable of overtaking their seamen.

Is Piracy Legal?


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Traditional pirates – those we hear about from folklore and other popular stories – often had agreements with their native countries to share any treasures stolen in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Today, nations have come together with a mutual view making piracy a punishable crime.

Why Become a Pirate?

Become a Pirate

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So why would one choose to become a pirate? For some, life on their home vessels was simply so miserable that they opted to become pirates for a better life. Others were taken in by the appeal of the adventure or the voyage, such as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Carribbean. Still others set out as pirates solely to attain riches, in the form of gold, silver or other valuable jewels and metals.

Pirates Date Back 3,000+ Years

Pirate Gold History

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The word “pirate” was first documented in 140 B.C. by a Roman historian named Polybius. The recognition of gold as a symbol of esteem and decoration began in 4,000 B.C. In 2,500 B.C. gold jewelry was first buried in the Egyptian Tomb of Djer, king of the First Egyptian Dynasty, adding to the value of this commodity. By 1,500 B.C. gold had become the “recognized medium of exchange” between Egypt and other countries.

Piracy Was Not a Glamorous Life

Pirate Gold Treasure

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Despite the promise of gold, silver and other treasures, pirates often lived in misery. Many were captured at sea or sentenced to death. Even as a member of a pirate ship, one was not guaranteed vast fortunes. The captain of the ship was in charge of dispersing goods (otherwise known as loot), meaning he often retained the majority while offering the deck hands a pittance. Pirates determined to have done something wrong or unworthy faced punishments up to or including death.

Piracy Doesn’t Always End in Death

Piracy Facts

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Despite legendary myths that pirates set out to seek and destroy their enemies, or their unknown targets, pirates rarely killed their targets. A pirate’s primary claim to fame was to steal the fortunes and goods of unsuspecting travelers. However, pirates were known to take prisoners in coastal towns, demanding money for their safe release.

While the life of a pirate was less than glamorous, many seamen opted for this lifestyle as an alternative to those they led previously, holding on to the promise of vast fortunes and undeniable freedom. While they didn’t always set out in search of gold, the goal was always to obtain items of high value from other sea vessels transporting goods across the open sea.

How Gold Is Smuggled Across Borders: Weird, Gross & Interesting Facts

Everybody loves gold, but the governments of the world feel the need to clamp down on the movement of gold from country to country. The United States used to be on what was referred to as the “gold standard.” That meant that all American currency had to be backed up by gold. When the bottom fell out of the international economies during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the United States got off of the gold standard and changed the way American currency was valued.

The Gold Hoarding of 1933

Gold Hoarding

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In 1933, the United States tried to strengthen its currency in the international market by hoarding gold. The government confiscated almost all of the gold from American citizens and stockpiled it. However, the gold hoarding didn’t work and it took World War II to get the United States out of the depression.

Clothes Smuggling

Smuggle Gold in Clothes

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In the African countries where gold is mined, people smuggle gold out of the country to avoid paying high government tariffs and taxes. Some of the more common places where smugglers hide their gold is by hiding it in their under garments such as socks and bras.

Sneaky Sheep

Gold Sheep

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Sometimes the most effective gold smuggling methods use things that you see every day. In the 1970’s, it was illegal for the people of Iraq to own gold. Just because it was illegal does not mean that people stopped buying gold. Resourceful smugglers would attach small gold bars to the sheep that were constantly being herded across the border between Syria and Iraq to get deliveries to their clients.

The Smuggler’s Network

Gold Network

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When gold smugglers need to convert their product to cash, they will often set up a complicated network of contacts. For example, in the old Soviet Union, there were some pieces of currency that were made of gold, but only the government was legally allowed to own gold. Smugglers used to bring gold into a neighboring country and then mint that gold into Soviet currency. Then the smugglers would sell the currency to Soviet citizens for United States dollars.

Better Than Food

Gold Food

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Here is an interesting fact to consider. In the 1970’s, it was illegal for the people of India to own gold. Thanks to enterprising smugglers, it was common for the average Indian family to have a small supply of gold on hand. Buying gold from smugglers is expensive, and this was in the years before the United States started outsourcing jobs to India, which created prosperity for many people. In the 1970’s, some Indian families decided to choose gold over food when it came to an important purchase.

Gold is a precious metal that people just cannot seem to get enough of. In the countries where it is illegal to own gold, you can rest assured that there is a network of smugglers set up to supply the demand of gold that the legal ban has created.

5 Nations Where Gold Teeth Still Reign Supreme

Gold teeth caps have been around for a very long time, but they became part of American popular culture in the 1980’s when rapper Flavor Flav had gold caps put on his teeth.

Many cultures have been using gold teeth as status symbols for a very long time. While the tradition has faded in parts of the world, the idea of flashing a truly wealthy smile still exists for some people.

United States

United States Gold

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The gold teeth aficionados in the United States have taken the concept to new heights by including precious stones such as diamonds, and other precious metals. The slang term for a full set of gold teeth encrusted with gems is “grillz,” and it is a very popular part of hip hop culture.


Tajikistan Gold

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The Republic of Tajikistan shares a border with Afghanistan and was a republic of the Soviet Union. As with most Soviet republics, times were tough when the Soviet Union fell. One of the things that started to catch on once Tajikistan got its independence was open displays of wealth. As with the United States, gold teeth became a status symbol in Tajikistan and it has remained a status symbol to this day.


Bolivia Gold

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Bolivia is a country that has thousands of years of tradition and it is also a country where people love to show off their wealth. One of the status symbols that has developed over the years in Bolivia is gold teeth. In many parts of the country, the tradition also includes intricate designs on the teeth that represent either family history or some association to the region where the person lives.

Russian Federation

Russian Federation Gold

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In Russia, there is a mix of cultural influences that come from the different countries that both border the Russian Federation and make up the Russian Federation as well. One of the oldest Asian traditions that has influenced Russia and is still practiced today is wearing gold teeth. It is sometimes done as a status symbol, or it could be part of an old family tradition.


Mexico Gold

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Latin American countries have been flashing gold teeth for centuries, but few Latin American cultures have more prominent smiles that the Mayan descendents that live in Mexico. The ancient Mayans wore gold teeth as a sign of status or standing the community. In the modern world, the Mayan descendents wear gold teeth as a sign of their heritage.

The former Soviet Union broke off in to several little countries that are still wild about gold teeth. If you look around and other Latin American societies, you will find people who flash the gold incisors. Gold teeth are just catching on in the United States, but the idea has been around for a very long time.