The Spanish dollar, also known as the piece of eight (Spanish: Real de a ocho), is a silver coin, of approximately 38 mm diameter, worth eight Spanish reales, that was minted in the Spanish Empire following a monetary reform in 1497.
The Spanish dollar was widely used by many countries as the first international/world currency because of its uniformity in standard and milling characteristics. Some countries countersigned the Spanish dollar so it could be used as their local currency.
The Spanish dollar was the coin upon which the original United States dollar was based, and it remained legal tender in the United States until the Coinage Act of 1857. Because it was widely used in Europe, the Americas, and the Far East, it became the first world currency by the late 18th century. Aside from the U.S. dollar, several other currencies, such as the Canadian dollar, the Japanese yen, the Chinese yuan, the Philippine peso, and several currencies in the rest of the Americas, were initially based on the Spanish dollar and other 8-real coins. Diverse theories link the origin of the "$" symbol to the columns and stripes that appear on one side of the Spanish dollar.
The term peso was used in Spanish to refer to this denomination, and it became the basis for many of the currencies in the former Spanish colonies, including the Argentine, Bolivian, Chilean, Colombian, Costa Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Ecuadorian, Guatemalan, Honduran, Mexican, Nicaraguan, Paraguayan, Philippine, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Uruguayan, and Venezuelan pesos. Of these, "peso" remains the name of the official currency in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Philippines, and Uruguay.
Millions of Spanish dollars were minted over the course of several centuries. They were among the most widely circulating coins of the colonial period in the Americas, and were still in use in North America and in South-East Asia in the 19th century.
In the 16th century, Count Hieronymus Schlick of Bohemia began minting a coin known as a Joachimsthaler (from German thal, modern spelling Tal, "valley", cognate with "dale" in English), named for Joachimsthal, the valley in the Ore Mountains where the silver was mined (St. Joachim's Valley, then part of the Kingdom of Bohemia within the Holy Roman Empire, now Jáchymov, part of the Czech Republic). Joachimstaler was later shortened to taler, a word that eventually found its way into Norwegian, Danish and Swedish as daler, Russian as талер (táler), Czech and Slovene as tolar, Polish as talar, Dutch as daalder, Amharic as ታላሪ (talari), Hungarian as tallér, Italian as tallero, Greek as τάληρο (taliro), Spanish tálero and English as dollar.
The Joachimsthaler weighed 451 Troy grains (29.2 g) of silver. So successful were these coins that similar thalers were minted in Burgundy and France. The Burgundian Cross Thaler depicted the Cross of Burgundy and was prevalent in the Burgundian Netherlands that were revolting against the Spanish king and Duke of Burgundy Philip II. After 1575, the Dutch revolting provinces replaced the currency with a daalder depicting a lion, hence its Dutch name leeuwendaalder.
Specifically to facilitate export trade, the leeuwendaalder was authorized to contain 427.16 grains of .750 fine silver, lighter than the large denomination coins then in circulation. Clearly it was more advantageous for a Dutch merchant to pay a foreign debt in leeuwendaalders rather than in other heavier, more costly coins. Thus, the leeuwendaalder or lion dollar became the coin of choice for foreign trade. It became popular in the Middle East, and colonies in the east and west.
They also circulated throughout the English colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries. From New Netherland (New York) the lion dollar spread to all thirteen colonies in the west. English speakers began to apply the word "dollar" also to the Spanish peso or "piece of eight" by 1581, which was also widely used in the British North American colonies at the time of the American Revolution, hence adopted as the name and weight of the US monetary unit in the late 18th century.
After the introduction of the Guldengroschen in Austria in 1486, the concept of a large silver coin with high purity (sometimes known as "specie" coinage) eventually spread throughout the rest of Europe. Monetary reform in Spain brought about the introduction of an 8-real coin in 1497. In 1537 the Spanish escudo gold coin was introduced, which was worth 16 reales. The later Gold Doubloon was worth 32 reales or 2 escudos. It is this divisibility into 8 which caused the silver coins to be named "pieces of eight".
In the following centuries, the coin was minted with several different designs at various mints in Spain and the New World, having gained wide acceptance beyond Spain's borders. Thanks to the vast silver deposits that were found mainly in Potosí in modern-day Bolivia and to a lesser extent in Mexico (for example, at Taxco & Zacatecas), and to silver from Spain's possessions throughout the Americas, mints in Mexico and Peru also began to strike the coin. The main New World mints for Spanish dollars were at Potosí, Lima, and Mexico City (with minor mints at Bogotá, Popayán, Guatemala City, and Santiago), and silver dollars from these mints could be distinguished from those minted in Spain by the Pillars of Hercules design on the reverse. In the 19th century, the coin's denomination was changed to 20 reales (based on 20 reales de vellón) and finally 2 escudos.
Spain's adoption of the peseta in 1869 and its joining the Latin Monetary Union meant the effective end of the last vestiges of the Spanish dollar in Spain itself. However, the 5-peseta coin (or duro) was slightly smaller and lighter but was also of high purity (90%) silver.
In the 1990s, commemorative 2000-peseta coins were minted, similar in size and weight to the 8 reales and also with high fineness.
Following independence in 1821, Mexican coinage of silver reales and gold escudos followed that of Spanish lines until decimalization and the introduction of the peso. The Mexican 8-reales coin (eventually becoming a 1-peso coin) continued to be a popular international trading coin throughout the 19th century.
After 1918, the peso was reduced in size and fineness, with further reductions in the 1940s and 1950s. However, 2- (1921), 5- (1947) and 10- (1955) peso coins were minted during the same period with sizes and fineness similar to the old peso.
The term cob was used in Ireland and the British colonies to mean a piece of eight or a Spanish-American dollar, because Spanish-American gold and silver coins were irregularly shaped and crudely struck during this period.
After the colony of New South Wales was founded in Australia in 1788, it ran into the problem of a lack of coinage, particularly since trading vessels took coins out of the colony in exchange for their cargo. In 1813, Governor Lachlan Macquarie made creative use of £10,000 in Spanish dollars sent by the British government. To make it difficult to take the coins out of the colony, and to double their number, the centres of the coins were punched out. The punched centre, known as the "dump", was valued at 15 pence, and the outer rim, known as the "holey dollar", was worth five shillings. This was indicated by over-stamping the two new coins. The obverse of the holey dollar was stamped the words "New South Wales" and the date, 1813, and the reverse with the words "five shillings". The obverse of the dump was stamped with a crown, the words "New South Wales" and the date, 1813, and the reverse with the words "fifteen pence". The mutilated coins became the first official currency produced specifically for circulation in Australia. The expedient was relatively short lived. The British Parliament passed the Sterling Silver Money Act in 1825, which made British coins the only recognised form of currency and ended any legitimate use of the holey dollar and dump in the Australian colonies.
By far the leading specie coin circulating in America was the Spanish silver dollar, defined as consisting of 387 grains of pure silver. The dollar was divided into "pieces of eight," or "bits," each consisting of one-eighth of a dollar. Spanish dollars came into the North American colonies through lucrative trade with the West Indies. The Spanish silver dollar had been the world's outstanding coin since the early 16th century, and was spread partially by dint of the vast silver output of the Spanish colonies in Latin America. More important, however, was that the Spanish dollar, from the 16th to the 19th century, was relatively the most stable and least debased coin in the Western world. 
A dollar nominally weighed
In contrast, the Coinage Act of 1792 specified that the U.S. dollar would contain 371 4⁄16 grain (24.1 g) pure or 416 grain (27.0 g) standard silver. This specification was based on the average weight of a random selection of worn Spanish dollars which Alexander Hamilton ordered to be weighed at the Treasury.
The coins had a nominal value of eight reales ("royals").
Before the American Revolution, owing to British mercantilist policies, there was a chronic shortage of British currency in Britain's colonies. Trade was often conducted with Spanish dollars that had been obtained through illicit trade with the West Indies. Spanish coinage was legal tender in the United States until the Coinage Act of 1857 discontinued the practice. The pricing of equities on U.S. stock exchanges in 1⁄8-dollar denominations persisted until the New York Stock Exchange converted first to pricing in sixteenths of a dollar on 24 June 1997, and shortly after that, to decimal pricing.
Long tied to the lore of piracy, "pieces of eight" were manufactured in the Americas and transported in bulk back to Spain, making them a very tempting target for seagoing pirates. The Manila galleons transported Mexican silver to Manila in the Spanish Philippines, where it would be exchanged for Philippine and Chinese goods, since silver was the only foreign commodity China would accept. In Oriental trade, Spanish dollars were often stamped with Chinese characters known as "chop marks" which indicated that particular coin had been assayed by a well-known merchant and determined to be genuine. The specifications of the Spanish dollar became a standard for trade in the Far East, with later Western powers issuing trade dollars, and colonial currencies such as the Hong Kong dollar, to the same specifications.
The first Chinese yuan coins had the same specification as a Spanish dollar, leading to a continuing equivalence in some respects between the names "yuan" and "dollar" in the Chinese language.
In modern pop culture and fiction, "Pieces of Eight" are most often associated with the popular notion of pirates.
The pound (symbol £ or C£) was the unit of account for currency of the Canadas until 1858. It was subdivided into 20 shillings (s), each of 12 pence (d). In Lower Canada, the sou was used, worth 1⁄2 penny. Although the pounds, shillings, and pence accounting system had its origins in the British pound sterling, the Canadian pound was never formally linked to the British currency.Catalan peseta
The peseta was a unit of currency in Catalonia until 1850, when the whole of Spain decimalized. It was also a name used throughout Spain for an amount of 4 reales de vellón.
In Catalonia, the peseta was subdivided into 6 sueldos, each of 4 quartos (also spelled cuartos), 8 ochavos or 12 dineros. Five pesetas were equal to one duro, which was itself equal to the Spanish 8 reales de plata fuerte (Spanish dollar). In the new, decimal currency, the peseta was worth 4 reales.
The name peseta reappeared in 1868 for the new Spanish currency. Its value was equivalent to that of the earlier peseta.Columnarios
Columnarios are silver coins that were minted by Spain from 1732 to 1773 throughout its new colonies in present-day Latin America. While the majority of columnarios were struck in Mexico, smaller mints existed in Guatemala; Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; Potosí, Bolivia; and Colombia. The base denomination is an 8 reales coin (aka Piece of eight or Spanish dollar). Other minor denominations included 4 reales, 2 reales, 1 real, and 1/2 real. The 8 reales coin is the predecessor to the American dollar. Before the United States Mint was in production, columnarios circulated, along with other coinage, in the US colonies, as legal tender until the middle of the 19th century.
Prior to the columnario, Spanish coins were hammer struck. These rather crude looking coins were called cobs. Clipping was a problem with cobs as it was easy to shave small amounts of silver from their edges, and although this action was punishable by death, it was still a widespread occurrence. The columnario, unlike the odd-shaped cob, is a round coin with milled edges which makes clipping detectable and less likely to occur.
The design of the columnario consists on the reverse of two worlds — representing the new world and old world — with a royal crown above. Below are the waves of the sea that separate the worlds and on the left and right are columns (hence the name "columnarios") representing the Pillars of Hercules adorned with crowns and wrapped with a banner spelling "PLUS ULTRA", meaning "more beyond". The reverse also has the letters "VTRAQUE VNUM", referring to the Old and New Worlds, "Both are One", and the date at the bottom, with mint marks on both sides.
The obverse features the crown's name followed by "D G HISPAN ET IND REX", meaning, "By the Grace of God, King of Spain and the Indies." The assayer's mark is on the left and the denomination on the right of a large Spanish shield which is adorned with a royal crown atop. Various florets, rosettes, stops, and other features are used to separate features.
The edge has a repeating laurel leaf design which is very difficult to counterfeit and is often used for authentication purposes.
Currently, the Mexican 8 reales columnario is worth US$200 or more, depending on condition. Specimens from other mints fetch much higher values due to their rarity.Connecticut pound
The pound was the currency of Connecticut until 1793. Initially, the British pound circulated along with foreign currencies. This was supplemented by local paper money from 1709. Although the local currency was denominated in pounds, shillings and pence, it was worth less than sterling, with 1 Connecticut shilling = 9 pence sterling. This rated the Spanish dollar at 6 Connecticut shillings (compared to 4 shillings 6 pence sterling). The first issue of notes is known as the "Old Tenor" issue.
Due to over issue, the value of the Old Tenor notes fell relative to silver coins. In 1740, a second series of paper money was introduced, known as the "New Tenor" issue. These were worth 3½ times as much as the same denomination of Old Tenor notes. A further issue of 1755, known as "Lawful Money", replaced the Old and New Tenor issues at the rates of 1 Lawful Money shilling = 2.1 New Tenor shillings = 7.33 Old Tenor shillings.
The State of Connecticut issued Continental currency denominated in both £sd and Spanish dollars, with 1 Spanish dollar = 6 shillings. The Continental currency was replaced by the U.S. dollar at the rate of 1000 Continental dollars = 1 U.S. dollar.Dollar
Dollar (often represented by the dollar sign $) is the name of more than 20 currencies, including those of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Liberia, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States. The U.S. dollar is also the official currency of the Caribbean Netherlands, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Zimbabwe. One dollar is generally divided into 100 cents.Dollar sign
The dollar or peso sign ($ or ) is a symbol used to indicate the units of various currencies around the world, including the peso and the US dollar. The symbol can interchangeably have one or two vertical strokes. In common usage, the sign appears to the left of the amount specified, as in $1 (read: one dollar).Guyanese dollar
The Guyanese dollar (currency sign: $, G$ and GY$; ISO: GYD) has been the unit of account in Guyana (formerly British Guiana) since 29 January 1839. Originally it was intended as a transitional unit to facilitate the changeover from the Dutch guilder system of currency to the British pound sterling system. The Spanish dollar was already prevalent throughout the West Indies in general, and from 1839, the Spanish dollar unit operated in British Guiana in conjunction with British sterling coins at a standard conversion rate of one dollar for every four shillings and twopence. In 1951 the British sterling coinage was replaced with a new decimal coinage which was simultaneously introduced through all the British territories in the Eastern Caribbean. When sterling began to depreciate in the early 1970s, a switch to a US dollar peg became increasingly attractive as an anti-inflationary measure and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority (of which Guyana was a member) made the switch in October 1975. The Guyanese dollar is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively G$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies.Holey dollar
Holey dollar is the name given to coins used in the early history of two British settlements: Prince Edward Island (now part of Canada) and New South Wales (now part of Australia). The middle was punched out of Spanish dollars, creating two parts: a small coin, known as a "dump" in Australia, and a "holey dollar". This coin was one of the first coins struck in Australia.Mauritian dollar
In 1820, in response to a request from the British colony of Mauritius, the imperial government in London struck silver coins in the denominations of 1⁄4, 1⁄8, and 1⁄16 dollars. The dollar unit in question was equivalent to the Spanish dollar and these fractional coins were known as 'Anchor Dollars' because of the anchor that appeared on them. More of these anchor dollars were struck in 1822 and not only for Mauritius but also for the British West Indies. In addition to this, a 1⁄2 dollar anchor coin was struck for Mauritius. A year or two later, copper dollar fractions were struck for Mauritius, the British West Indies, and Sierra Leone.
The dollar was the currency of Mauritius until 1877. Initially, it was made up of Spanish dollars, with paper money and new coins being issued in the 1820s (see Anchor coinage). The dollar was initially pegged at a value of 2 Indian rupees, then at 4 shillings sterling. In 1822, coins for 25 and 50 sous were issued due to the continued use of the French colonial livre.
The dollar circulated alongside sterling and the Indian rupee. An unofficial exchange rate of 2 rupees to the dollar was used, although this overvalued the rupee for a time.
In 1877, the Mauritian rupee was introduced. It replaced the dollar at a rate of 2 rupees = 1 dollar.New Brunswick pound
The pound was the currency of New Brunswick until 1860. It was subdivided into 20 shillings, each of 12 pence, with the dollar (initially the Spanish dollar) circulating at a value of 5 shillings (the Halifax rating).Palembang pitis
The Palembang pitis was a currency issued by the Palembang Sultanate from the year 1659 under the reign of Sultan Abdulrrahman Khaifatul Mukminin Sayidul Imam until the sultanate was dissolved by the Dutch in 1823 and the territory was fully integrated into the Dutch East Indies.
Official issues had to be approved by the sultan of Palembang, Most pitis had an inscription like al Sultan fi balad Palembang sanat [date] (the sultan of Palembang year [date]) written in Malay but none actually featured the name of the ruling sultan meaning that pitis coins can only be dated using the Islamic calendar (which began in 622 AD with Mohammad’s Hijra using "AH" ["Anno Hegirae"/"After Hijra"] dates). However in many cases the production was outsourced to the local Chinese population, who did not use Arabic script but Traditional Chinese characters and also used Chinese production technology to manufacture pitis coins. Generally speaking most Palembang pitis were made from tin alloyed with lead (except for a single bronze issue), the pitis coins of Palembang could be divided into two categories based on the fact if they were holed or not, the holed ones were known as pitis teboh and the coins without a hole were known as pitis buntu (or pitis bountou). The pitis teboh were strung together like Chinese cash coins which had already been circulating in the archipelago while the non-holed coins were packaged in leaves to form a box known as a kupat. The value of the pitis was based on both the Spanish dollar and the VOC duiten. The pitis teboh were strung together in strings of 500 coins on rotan and a string was referred to as a chuchub, while the pitis buntu were packaged per 250 coins in a kupat. During the colonial era a kupat was worth 20 duiten or 1⁄16 Spanish dollar while a chuchub was worth 40 duiten or 1⁄8 Spanish dollar.The value of the units of the pitis was also dependent on the actual size of the coins, with the standard size of the pitis teboh being around fifteen millimeters. However as most pitis coins were either in a box of leaves or strung together very tightly most traders couldn't see the coins and their value was very much dependent on an act of trust. This explains why some unofficially produced pitis coins were very crude (and even why some were actually made without features), this is as small low value coins within strings or boxes of leaves would not have been examined too carefully by those handling them.Penang dollar
The dollar was the currency of Penang between 1786 and 1826. It was subdivided into 100 cents, also called pice, and was equal to the Spanish dollar. The dollar was introduced after the East India Company acquired the island in 1786. In 1826, the Indian rupee was declared legal tender in Penang at a value of 48 pice. The dollar again became the currency of Penang with the introduction of the Straits dollar.
Between 1786 and 1788, coins were issued in denominations of 1⁄10, 1⁄2 and 1 cent (copper), 1⁄10, 1⁄4 and 1⁄2 dollar (silver). Large, tin 1 cent coins were issued between 1800 and 1809, followed by copper 1⁄2 and 1 cent in 1810. In 1826, copper 1⁄2, 1 and 2 cents coins were issued which were also minted in 1828, after the dollar had been replaced by the rupee.Peso
The peso (meaning weight in Spanish) was a coin that originated in Spain and became of immense importance internationally. Peso is now the name of the monetary unit of several countries in the Americas and the Philippines.Silver Dragon (coin)
Silver Dragon coins, also sometimes known as Dragon dollars, are silver coins issued by China, Japan and later Korea for general circulation in their own countries. Featuring a dragon on the obverse of Japanese and Korean issues and on the reverse of Chinese issues, all were inspired by the silver Spanish dollar which following its introduction into the region in the 16th Century had set the standard for a de facto common currency for trade in the Far East, this specification being a weight of 27.22 grams and a fineness of .900; the coin thus contained 24.5 g (0.7876 troy oz) of silver.Spanish colonial real
The silver real (Spanish: real de plata) was the currency of the Spanish colonies in America and the Philippines. In the seventeenth century the silver real was established at two billon reals (reales de vellón) or sixty-eight maravedís. Gold escudos (worth 16 reales) were also issued. The coins circulated throughout Spain's colonies and beyond, with the eight-real piece, known in English as the Spanish dollar, becoming an international standard and spawning, among other currencies, the United States dollar. A reform in 1737 set the silver real at two and half billon reals (reales de vellón) or eighty-five maravedís. This coin, called the real de plata fuerte, became the new standard, issued as coins until the early 19th century. The gold escudo was worth 16 reales de plata fuerte.Spanish real
The real (meaning: "royal", plural: reales) was a unit of currency in Spain for several centuries after the mid-14th century, but changed in value relative to other units introduced. In 1864, the real was replaced by a new escudo, then by the peseta in 1868, when a real came to mean a quarter of a peseta. The most common denomination for the currency was the Real de Ocho or Spanish dollar used throughout Europe, America and Asia during the height of the Spanish Empire.Sumatran dollar
The dollar (Malay: ringgit, Jawi: ريڠݢيت) was the currency of British colony of Bencoolen (also known as Fort Marlbro' or Fort Marlborough; it is known as Bengkulu today) on the west coast of the island of Sumatra until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, when the British Empire traded away Bencoolen for Malacca.
The dollar was subdivided into four suku (Malay, Jawi: ﺳوکو, English: quarter), each of 100 keping (Malay, Jawi: کڤڠ or کفڠ; English: pieces). The dollar was equal in value to the Spanish dollar. It was replaced by the Netherlands Indies gulden after the Dutch took over control of colony from the British in 1824.Tolar
Tolar (German: Thaler) is the Czech name for the silver coin mined in Kingdom of Bohemia in the 16th century in Jáchymov (German: Joachimsthal). The modern word dollar was derived from the Spanish dollar, so-called in the English-speaking world because they were of similar size and weight to the German Thalers. The German Thalers were so named because they were first minted from a silver mine in 1520 in Joachimsthal. It was the main currency in Bohemia from 1520 to 1750.Virginia pound
The pound was the currency of Virginia until 1793. Initially, the British pound sterling circulated along with foreign currencies, supplemented from 1755 by local paper money. Although these notes were denominated in pounds, shillings and pence, they were worth less than sterling, usually discounted so 1 Virginia shilling was equal to 9 British pence, while 1 British shilling was equal to 12 British pence. In British pounds, shillings and pence (£sd), duodecimal coinage (12d (pence) = 1s (shilling), 20s = £1 (pound), 21s = 1 guinea), which was in use in the UK until the adoption of decimal coinage in 1971.
In 1645 the legislature of the Colony of Virginia prohibited barter, and valued the Spanish dollar or piece of eight at 6 shillings. The 1655 legislature officially devalued the Spanish dollar to 5 shillings.
The first "official" coinage in British North America was issued by the Province of Virginia in 1775, although they were dated 1773. The reason was that the Virginia House of Burgesses had been requesting the coinage for several years and King George III finally consented in that year.
Five tons of coins were sent to the colony on the clipper ship Virginia and most of the coins were distributed just before the breakout of the American Revolution in April 1775. They are considered to be the most affordable Colonial American coinage.
The State of Virginia issued Continental currency denominated in £sd and Spanish dollars, with 1 dollar = 6 shillings. The continental currency was replaced by the U.S. dollar at a rate of 1000 continental dollars = 1 U.S. dollar.