The Spanish dollar (also known as the piece of eight, the real de a ocho or the eight-real coin) is a silver coin, of approximately 38 mm diameter, worth eight reales, that was minted in the Spanish Empire after a Spanish currency reform in 1497. Its purpose was to correspond to the German thaler. It was the coin upon which the US dollar was based, and it remained legal tender in the United States until the Coinage Act of 1857 discontinued the practice. Because it was widely used in Europe, the Americas, and the Far East, it became the first world currency by the late 18th century. Many existing currencies, such as the Canadian dollar, United States dollar, and the Chinese yuan, as well as currencies in Latin America and the Philippine peso, were initially based on the Spanish dollar and other 8-reales coins.
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.
Etymology of dollar
In the 16th century, Count Hieronymus Schlick of Bohemia began minting coins known as Joachimsthalers (from German thal, or nowadays usually Tal, "valley", cognate with "dale" in English), named for Joachimsthal, the valley where the silver was mined (St. Joachim's Valley, now Jáchymov; then part of the Holy Roman Empire, now 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, Dutch as daalder, Ethiopian as talari, Italian as tallero, Greek as taliro (τάληρο), Flemish as daelder, and English as dollar.
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-reales coin in 1497.
In the following centuries, and into the 19th century, the coin was minted with several different designs at various mints in Spain and in the new world, having gained wide acceptance beyond Spain's borders. The main new world mints for Spanish dollars were at Potosí, Lima, and Mexico City, and silver dollars minted at these mints could be distinguished from the ones minted in Spain, by virtue of 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 and its joining the Latin Monetary Union meant the effective end for the last vestiges of the Spanish dollar in Spain itself. However, the 5-pesetas coin was slightly smaller and lighter but was also of high purity (90%) silver.
In the 1990s, commemorative 2000-pesetas coins were minted, similar in size and weight to the 8 reales and also with high fineness. (...)