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Spanish Pillar Dollar

Currency plays a crucial role in economic transactions, and throughout history, various forms of money have emerged. One such iconic currency is the Silver Spanish Pillar Dollar, often associated with the famous “pieces of eight.” In this blog post, we will delve into the history of the Silver Spanish Pillar Dollar and explore the fascinating story behind the legendary pieces of eight.

The Silver Spanish Pillar Dollar, also known as the Spanish milled dollar or “Real de a Ocho,” came into existence in the late 15th century. Its origins can be traced back to the reign of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, who authorized the minting of a new silver coin in 1497. The Pillar Dollar featured a distinctive design with two ornate pillars on the obverse, representing the Pillars of Hercules, with a banner inscribed “PLUS ULTRA,” meaning “Further Beyond.” The reverse showcased the Spanish coat of arms, including the shield with the royal castles and the rampant lions. The coin became widely accepted and circulated extensively due to Spain’s vast colonial empire. Spanish territories, including Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines, played a significant role in producing and distributing these coins. Their popularity was attributed to their consistent silver content and uniformity in weight. The Pillar Dollar became a prominent coin in global commerce during the Age of Exploration and the rise of international trade. It was widely used as a trading currency in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, facilitating transactions between different nations.

The term “pieces of eight” originated from the Pillar Dollar’s denomination, as it was worth eight reales, a Spanish unit of currency. Due to its popularity and wide circulation, the coin was often divided into smaller denominations, known as “bits” or “pieces of eight.” Each piece represented one-eighth of the original coin’s value. Thus we have the term “2 bits” referring to a quarter dollar.

The Pillar Dollar served as a model for several other currencies, such as the U.S. dollar and the Mexican peso. The dollar sign ($), often used as a symbol for currency, is derived from the Pillar Dollar’s monogram, which featured the letters “PS” for Peso de Ocho Reales.

Today, the Silver Spanish Pillar Dollar holds significant numismatic value and is highly sought after by collectors. The coins are appreciated for their historical significance, unique design, and connection to the age of exploration.

Van Allen, L., & Mallis, A. (1991). Comprehensive Catalog and Encyclopedia of Morgan & Peace Dollars. Coin & Currency Institute.

Sedwick, D. R. (2014). The Practical Book of Cobs, Fourth Edition. Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC.

“Spanish dollar.” (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_dollar

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