Letter: Dollar linked to pieces of eight

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Dollar linked to pieces of eight

Sir: Sara Clarke's explanation for the origin of the $ sign (letter, 18 December) may be appealing, but is only partially correct; the real explanation is equally appealing and more romantic.

The name comes from the German coin the Joachimstaler, named for Joachimstal (Joachim Valley) in Bohemia, where they were first minted in 1519.

The name was abbreviated to thaler and then turned into its Dutch form, daler, before entering English as "dollar" before 1600 and becoming the common English name for the peso or eight-real coin, better known as the "piece of eight".

Popular with Long John Silver, the piece of eight was the common currency of Spain and its American colonies, and had come into general use throughout the British colonies of North America by the time of the American Revolution in 1776. (Proof, by the way, that sharing a currency with others does not preclude independence!)

The dollar sign thus evolved from the numeral "8". The Mexicans use this same $ sign for their modern currency, still called the peso.


Wortham, Suffolk