The History of Spanish Dollars in the Americas

Since 1971, Kenneth Goldman of Needham, MA, has served collectors around the world as an expert on rare coins, advancing the field of numismatics as a significant contributor to A Guidebook for United States Coins (the “Red Book”). As a highly experienced dealer and collector, Mr. Goldman offers expertise on pieces of eight used in the Americas.

A piece of eight (a “Spanish dollar”) was arguably the first global currency, minted in Spain’s imperial American colonies from roughly 1497 until the mid-1800s. Typically a round or ovoid piece of solid or almost solid silver, the piece of eight was efficiently designed for commerce and export to the European continent in the age of mercantilism. Worth eight Spanish reales, the royal currency of Spain at the time, a silver Spanish dollar coin was assayed and minted so that it could be physically cut or broken into eight slivers (“bits”) for payments, exchange, and making change. For centuries, the Spanish dollar was the only international currency accepted in certain countries such as China and the Philippines, and it was the most common currency for interstate and regional commerce in the United States until 1857, when the Coinage Act outlawed the use of foreign coins.

Mr. Goldman is available for consultation as well as expert appraisal for all types of United States and World coins. Having been an expert witness for the Federal Trade Commission as well as for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, he is well qualified in all fields.

Mr. Goldman can be reached at


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