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Jack’s Piece of Eight, & Other Beads and Coins

Although I haven’t yet purchased my wig (soon, very soon) I have collected a few of Jack’s trinkets to tie into it once it arrives.  Jack has numerous beads and coins dangling from his hair, one of the most prominent being his “piece of eight”, which is featured heavily in At World’s End.

Though not really a piece of eight (actual coins used during the Golden Age of Piracy that were often cut into eight pieces to make change), Jack’s is so called because it once belonged to one of the original 9 pirate lords of the Brethren Court.  When they first convened they didn’t have any actual pieces of eight on them and thus made due with what they had in there pockets at the time.

In reality the coin used in the movie is a Burmese 5 pya coin from the mid 20th century, and the beads are African trade beads.  Several vendors have offered versions of Jack’s piece of eight over the years, including a cheap plastic version from the now defunct Master Replicas.  These can still be found on eBay and Amazon.  I originally purchased one of these back in 2006, but when I finally decided to assemble a complete Jack Sparrow costume I knew I wanted something a bit more accurate.

(Master Replicas version)

The piece of eight I really wanted was from Swag Arts (I mentioned their kohl eye make-up in my last post), but for quite some time they were listed as Out of Stock on the website.  So being a bit impatient, and wanting to add something to my costume list, I asked the Jack’s over on facebook if any of them knew of a decent alternative.  One of them offered to make me one, and I took him up on his it.  What I received was quite passable, and given the lack of good pieces of eight available I was quite satisfied (a lot of attention has been shifted to Jack’s new “zombie finger” dangle worn in On Stranger Tides, so replicas of the original have become harder to find).

But, as luck would have it, shortly after the above piece of eight arrived Swag Arts relisted their pieces of eight, and I just couldn’t resist snagging up the one I’d really wanted all along.  Even it wasn’t 100% authentic, but for the money it was the best one I’ve seen.  The green and white beads looked closer to the Curse of the Black Pearl version, and the brown bead didn’t quite have the accurate barrel shape, but it was still a fantastic looking piece of eight, and most people would never notice.

As is usually the case with a maddening hobby like costuming though, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and eventually started perusing eBay to see if I might come upon some more accurate beads.  It wasn’t long before I found some brown barrel beads that were spot on, and a set of green padre beads that looked pretty darn close.  For good measure I also changed out the white bead with one from a set of beads I had lying around from the craft store that was a closer match size wise.  In addition to changing the beads I also switched out the small metal ring that holds the coin on with one that was a bit smaller, and repainted the white pips on the red skunk bead.  With all that done my piece of eight is now just about as screen accurate as I can get it!

Knowing that I will finally have my wig very soon I also picked up what is often called Jack’s African trade bead strand, or skunk bead strand.  This came from Swag Arts as well.  Jack has this string of beads tied to a dreadlock next to his right cheek.

Jack also has a couple more 5 pya coins tied into his wig, so I snagged a set from a vender on Etsy back a few months ago.

By “On Stranger Tides” Jack’s wig has changed quite a bit and now features several additional beads and coins, including one set made out of a couple of Chinese coins and often referred to as his “hidden Mickey” coin set (due to it’s resemblance to Mickey Mouse’s head and ears), and a pair of skull beads carved out of bone.  Back several months ago there was a seller on eBay offering these and I purchased a set even though I’m going for a “Dead Man’s Chest/At World’s End” look rather than “On Stranger Tides.”  I just like the look of them (I’ve got a bracelet made out of similar bone skull beads I wear all the time) so I think I might tie them in to my wig somewhere as a small personal touch.

I can’t believe it’s already been 2 years since I made the commitment to finally assemble a complete Captain Jack outfit, and I certainly never would have guessed that it would take quite so long to do it.  But if all goes well I might just have a complete outfit by the end of 2014!

Now I just need to hurry up and get that bloody wig…

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Cursed Aztec Gold

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My first item of 2013 has arrived, and it’s something I’ve wanted for almost 10 years now: the cursed Aztec gold medallion from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

While technically not a part of Captain Jack’s costume, it is still an iconic prop and one that is instantly recognized by all who see it.  The one I recently acquired may just be the most accurate pirate medallion out there, but it certainly wasn’t my first.  In 2008 while attending the Texas Renaissance Festival I picked up a cheap but passable coin for like $5.  It isn’t made of gold and has a huge loop at the top for a necklace to go through.  It was also a bit too “shiny”, but I recently fixed that with some acrylic paint (one of my favorite things to use for weathering props).  For the past 4 years it has sat inside a treasure chest with other assorted doubloons, but after my new gold coin arrived I decided the old one would make a great keychain, so now I carry it with me all the time.

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Years ago I also bought my kid sister the Master Replicas Elizabeth Swann necklace, but I never purchase one for myself because the “gold” finish quickly wore off of hers and left the necklace and medallion looking like copper instead of gold.  She eventually gave it too a friend.  Then last year we found a 24 karat gold plated version of the necklace on eBay from a seller in China, and my sister now has one of them and is quite happy with it.  I also aged it with some acrylic paint to make the designs stand out more, but it is a decent enough copy of the pirate medallion necklace.

But the version of the coin I’ve wanted for years was the Master Replicas Cursed Aztec Gold Coin Set.  It features two 24 karat gold plated versions of the famous medallion: one with the skull and Aztec calendar design on the front and a maze-like pattern on the back (like most versions of the coin that are available), and the other with the skull and calendar design on both sides.

And now I finally have it!

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The detail on the coins is fantastic, and they came in a collectible box with a Certificate of Authenticity.  Master Replicas went out of business years ago, and as such this set hasn’t been available for a long time so they are incredibly hard to come by.  I stumbled upon mine by luck on eBay.  A seller had it listed as part of a lot that included 4 Master Replicas .45 scale lightsabers, and I won the auction for just $45!  After it arrived I put the lightsabers up on eBay as individual auctions, so once they sold I had the pirate coins and even turned a profit!

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I am truly convinced that these are the best versions of the Aztec gold coins that have ever been available, and I’ve been searching the internet for them for a very long time.  I even had a minor fiasco a few years ago when I found them on a website and placed an order, only they never arrived and the merchant told me they’d been out of stock for years.  Then the merchant tried to refuse me a refund by claiming it was my own fault for ordering a discontinued product from their website.  Luckily I had placed the order via Paypal so I was eventually able to file a claim and get my money back.  I later found out that the merchant had a lot of bad reviews.  It turned out that many other customers had had similar problems placing orders from them only to find their items never arrived. and having little luck getting responses when they would message the seller to  check on their orders.  Unfortunately I no longer remember the name of the website, so I can only hope they’ve since gone out of business and are no longer mistreating customers.

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Anyway, I am absolutely thrilled to finally have my hands on these amazing props, and they are proudly displayed on a shelf in my room.  There was a time when Master Replicas was a leader in movie prop replicas, and this is quite possibly one of the greatest items they ever produced.  I definitely won’t be letting these go.

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I may only now be getting off to a slow start with my costuming adventures for 2013, but I still have several items to share with you that I acquired toward the end of 2012.  Some, like the ones below, are relatively small and insignificant, and yet they are still an integral part in making a completed Jack Sparrow costume come to life.

One of these is Jack’s trophy lace, a long strip of lace that Jack has worn tied around his left wrist since “Dead Man’s Chest.”  We find out in “On Stranger Tides” that Jack took this memento from Angelica while to two were on the island of La Martinique.  This would be an easy enough piece of the costume to make myself as a strip from any old off-white lace would do, but I took the lazy way out and bought mine from a seller on eBay.  It still needs to be weathered, but it looks pretty good.

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The reason I decided to buy this particular bit of lace on eBay was because the seller had it listed with another small item: Jack’s black spot wrap from “Dead Man’s Chest”.  In the movie Jack grabs a bit of old cloth to wrap around his left hand after Bootstrap Bill places the dreaded black spot upon Jack’s palm.

I’m not really blown away by this particular piece, it really should be longer and was definitely a case of something looking much better in the photo, but once I dirty it up a bit and weather it it’ll work fine.  After all. it’s not a necessary piece for the costume, and really I purchased it more for the trophy lace than for the black spot wrap.  In the end I feel like I helped out a fellow Captain Jack by buying from him, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

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Now I really need to get busy and make more stuff to list on eBay and Etsy because I’m ready to start adding the bigger, more expensive pieces to my Jack Sparrow costume, and that takes money.  Lots and lots of money.  Costuming definitely isn’t a cheap hobby, but it sure is a lot of fun.

So I’m curious:  what fun creative ways have you come up with for making extra money to spend on your costume?

Leave your answers in the comments section below, and I will see you all next time!