dollar (often represented by the Dollar/Peso sign: "$") is the name of the
official currency in several countries,
including Australia, Canada, the
Eastern Caribbean territories,
Kong, Singapore, Ecuador, Panama, and the
comes from the Spanish dollars, so
called in the English speaking world because of their similarity in
size and weight to the German silver Thaler
coins that were first minted in 1520 from silver taken from a mine
at Joachimsthal, Bohemia, in the Holy Roman Empire.
Not long after
issuance, these coins gained the name Joachimsthalers
. Subsequently, coins of
similar size and weight were called Thaler
regardless of the issuing
authority, and continued to be minted until 1872.
is historically related to the bohemian
tolar (16th century) and much later also slovenian tolar (1991), daalder in the Netherlands, Reichsthaler in
daler in Sweden, Denmark, and
" can be
traced to 1486 when Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol, a small state
north of Venice, issued a dollar-sized coin which was referred to
as a "guildiner
." Silver supplies were
small which limited coinage.
The Dutch lion dollar circulated throughout the Middle East and was
imitated in several German and Italian cities. It was also popular in
the Dutch East
Indies as well as in the Dutch New Netherland Colony (New York).
The lion dollar also has circulated
throughout the English colonies during the 17th and early 18th
centuries . Examples circulating in the colonies were usually
fairly well worn so that the design was not fully distinguishable,
thus they were sometimes referred to as "dog dollars." This Dutch
currency made its way to the east coast due to the increased
trading by colonial ships with other nations. By the mid-1700s, it
was replaced by the Spanish 8 reales.
The name "Spanish dollar
" was used
for a Spanish coin, the "real de a ocho" and later peso
. It was worth eight reals (hence the nickname "pieces of eight"), and was widely
circulated during the 18th century in the Spanish colonies in the New
World, and in Spanish territories in Asia, namely in the
Philippines. The use of the Spanish dollar and the
Maria Theresa thaler as legal
tender for the early United States and its fractions were the mainstay of
They are the reasons for the name of that nation's
currency. By the American
in 1775, these Spanish coins became even more
important. They backed paper money authorized by the individual
colonies and the Continental
. However, the word dollar
was in use in the
as slang or
mis-pronunciation for the thaler for about 200 years before the
, with many
quotes in the plays of Shakespeare
referring to dollars as
money. Spanish dollars were in circulation in the
Thirteen Colonies that became the
States, and were legal tender
These coins were the standard money then in
use in the United States. On April 2, 1792, Alexander Hamilton,
then the Secretary of the Treasury, made a report to Congress
having scientifically determined the amount of silver in the
Spanish Milled Dollar coins that were then in current use by the
people. As a result of this report, the Dollar was defined as a
unit of measure of 371 4/16th grains (24.057 grams) of pure silver
or 416 grains of standard silver (standard silver being defined
as 1,485 parts fine silver to 179 parts alloy
paper is not the dollar, instead, it is 'worth', not 'is', 1 dollar
(US Silver certificate.) In section 20 of the Act, it is specified
that the "money of account" of the United States shall be expressed
in those same "dollars" or parts thereof. All of the minor coins
were also defined in terms of percentages of the primary coin — the
dollar — such that a half dollar contained 1/2 as much silver as a
dollar, quarter dollars contained 1/4 as much, and so on.
known as "Thistle dollars" were also in use in Scotland during the 17th century, and there is a claim that
the use of the English word, and perhaps even the use of the coin,
began at the University of St Andrews.
This explains the sum of "Ten thousand
dollars" mentioned in Macbeth
(Act I, Scene
II), although the real Macbeth
upon whom the play was based, lived in the 11th century, making the
anachronisms are not rare in Shakespeare's work.
In the early 19th century, a British five-shilling
piece, or crown
, was sometimes called a "dollar,"
probably because its appearance was similar to the Spanish dollar.
This expression appeared again in the 1940s, when US troops came to
the UK during World War II
. At the time
a US dollar was worth about 5s., so some of the US soldiers started
calling it a dollar. Consequently, they called the half crown
"half a dollar."
In an act passed on January 18, 1837, the alloy was changed to 11%,
having the effect of containing the same amount of silver but being
reduced in weight to 412 1/4 grains of standard silver which was
changed to 90% pure and 11% alloy. On February 21, 1853 the amount
of silver in the fractional coins was reduced so that it was no
longer possible to combine the fractional coins to come up with the
same amount of silver that was in the dollar.
Various acts have been passed over the years that affected the
amount and type of metal in the coins minted by the United States
such that today, there is no legal definition of the term "Dollar"
to be found in any Statute of the United States.
Today, the closest definition to a dollar comes from the United
States code Title 31, Section 5116, paragraph b, subsection 2, "The
Secretary [of the Treasury] shall sell silver
under conditions the Secretary considers appropriate for at least
$1.292929292 a fine troy ounce." However Federal Reserve banks
required to deliver credits instead of money. The silver content of
US coinage was mostly removed in 1965 and the dollar essentially
became a baseless free-floating fiat
, though the US Mint
continues to make silver $1 coins at this weight.
Continued Chinese demand for silver led several countries, notably
the United Kingdom, United States, and Japan, to mint trade dollars
in the 19th and early 20th
centuries, often of slightly different weights to their domestic
coinage. Silver dollars reaching China (whether Spanish, Trade, or
other) were often stamped with Chinese characters known as "chop
marks," which indicated that that particular coin had been assayed
by a well-known merchant and determined genuine.
Related names in modern currencies
- The tala is based on the
Samoan pronunciation of the word
"dollar." Likewise, the name of the smaller unit, seneiti,
equates to "cent."
- The Slovenian tolar had the same
origin as dollar, i.e. thaler.
National currencies called "dollar"
Prior to 1873, the silver dollar circulated in many parts of the
world, and with a value in relation to the British gold sovereign
of roughly $1 = 4s 2d. Following the US
Coinage Act , the value of silver
declined in relation to Gold, and the USA went unto a
'de facto' gold standard.
Canada and Newfoundland were
already on the gold standard, and the result was that the value of
the dollar in North America increased
in relation to the silver dollars that were being used elsewhere in
the world, notably in Latin America,
and the Far East.
By the year 1900,
the silver dollars had fallen to 50 cents in relation to the gold
dollars. Following the abandoning on the gold
standard by Canada in 1931, the
Canadian dollar began to drift away
from its parity with the US dollar.
returned to parity a few times, but since the ending of the
Woods system of fixed exchange rates that was agreed in 1944,
the Canadian dollar has been
floating against the US dollar.
regards the silver dollars of Latin
and South East Asia
they began to diverge from each other as well during the course of
the twentieth century. The Straits
adopted a gold exchange standard in 1906 after it had
been forced to rise in value against the other silver dollars in
the region. Hence, by 1935, when China and Hong Kong came off the silver
standard, the Straits dollar was
worth 2s 4d sterling, whereas the
Hong Kong dollar was worth only 1s
Existing dollar units today are the Bahamian dollar
, the Barbados dollar
, the Belize dollar
, the Bermuda dollar
, the Brunei dollar
, the Canadian dollar
, the East Caribbean dollar
, the Guyanese dollar
, the Hong Kong dollar
, the New Taiwan dollar
, the Singapore dollar
, the Trinidad and Tobago dollar
United States dollar
. The only
ones on this list that have still retained their original parity
from the days of the universal Spanish
are the Singapore dollar
and the Brunei dollar
Other countries in recent times have adopted the name dollar for
their national curency, but these are not true dollars as such.
They are in fact half-pound units of countries that had been using
a sterling based system prior to adopting the decimal system.
of these kind of dollars are the Australian dollar, the New Zealand dollar, the Jamaican
dollar, the Cayman Islands
dollar, the Fiji dollar, the
Namibian dollar, the Rhodesian dollar, the Zimbabwe dollar, and the Solomon Islands dollar.
- Act of April 2, A.D. 1792 of the Senate and House of
Representatives of the United States of America in Congress
assembled, Section 9.
- Section 13 of the Act.