The word peso was the name of a coin that originated in Spain and became of immense importance internationally. Peso is now the name of the monetary unit of several former Spanish colonies.

1537–1686 piece of eight

Peso was a name given in Spain and particularly in Spanish America to the 8-real coin or real de a ocho, a large silver coin of the type commonly known as a thaler
The Thaler was a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in various currencies as the dollar or tolar. Etymologically, "Thaler" is an abbreviation of "Joachimsthaler", a coin type from the city of Joachimsthal in Bohemia, where some of the first such...

 (dollar) in Europe. It had a legal weight of 27.468 g and a millesimal fineness
Millesimal fineness
Millesimal fineness is a system of denoting the purity of platinum, gold and silver alloys by parts per thousand of pure metal by mass in the alloy. For example, an alloy containing 75% gold is denoted as "750". Many European countries use decimal hallmark stamps Millesimal fineness is a system of...

 of 930.5 (25.561 g fine silver). This real de a ocho or peso was minted in Spain from the mid 16th century, and even more prolifically in Spanish America, in the mints of Mexico and Peru. It was originally known as the 'piece of eight
Spanish dollar
The Spanish dollar 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...

' in English, due to the nominal value of 8 reales
Spanish real
The real was a unit of currency in Spain for several centuries after the mid-14th century, but changed in value relative to other units introduced...


The piece of eight became a coin of worldwide importance in the 17th century, especially in trade with India and the Far East, where it was immediately melted down. At this time, the piece of eight was produced in Mexico and Peru in a rapid and simplified manner. Instead of making a proper flan or planchet
A planchet is a round metal disk that is ready to be struck as a coin. An older word for planchet is flan. They are also referred to as blanks.-History:The preparation of the flan or planchet has varied over the years...

, a lump of silver of proper weight and fineness was hacked off the end of a silver bar, then flattened and impressed by a hammer. The result was a crude, temporary coin, an irregular lump of silver. This type of coin became known as a cob in English, as a macuquina in Spanish. The Crown was entitled to a fifth of all gold and silver mined, the quinto real (royal fifth), and cobs were a convenient means of handling and accounting for silver. Although intended to serve only temporarily, some did remain in circulation as currency. Because of their irregular shape and incomplete design, cobs were ideal candidates for clipping and counterfeiting.

This coin was originally known in English as a piece of eight, then as a Spanish dollar, and then as a Mexican dollar. In French, it was a piastre
The piastre or piaster refers to a number of units of currency. The term originates from the Italian for 'thin metal plate'. The name was applied to Spanish and Latin American pieces of eight, or pesos, by Venetian traders in the Levant in the 16th century.These pesos, minted continually for...

and in Portuguese, a pataca
A pataca is a unit of currency, and an avo is of a pataca. Pataca is the Portuguese name for peso. The following articles contain more information :*Macanese pataca*Maltese pataca...

or patacão. The Spanish names at various times and in various places as a patacón, a duro
Duro may refer to:*Duro v. Reina , a U.S. Supreme Court case* a coin of five Spanish pesetas*Samir Duro, Bosnian footballer*Ibrahim Duro, Bosnian footballer*Duro, a Star Wars planet* a free, truly relational RDBMS library, written in C...

, or a fuerte. Peso is the name used in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 for the U.S. dollar.

1686 Spanish currency reform

Because of domestic financial and monetary problems, Spain devalued its silver currency by about 20% on October 14, 1686, introducing a new 8-real coin weighing only 21.912 g (with 20.392 g fine silver). Because of the importance of the piece of eight in international trade, this new silver coin was intended only for circulation in Spain itself, and the older and heavier 8-real coin continued to be minted. The new 8-real was known as a peso maria or peso sencillo (as opposed to the old peso fuerte or peso duro), and the new standard was called plata nueva (new silver), usually called new plate in English. After this, the monetary systems of Spain and of Spanish America developed along different lines. Accounts in Spain were kept in the copper real (real de vellón) of 34 maravedíes
Spanish maravedí
The maravedí was the name of various Iberian coins of gold and then silver between the 11th and 14th centuries and the name of different Iberian accounting units between the 11th and 19th centuries.-Etymology:...

, while in Spanish America accounts continued in the silver real and eventually in pesos of 8 reales.

1686–1821 peso in America

After 1686, the old piece of eight remained the standard coin in the Spanish colonies. Because the piece of eight had the same intrinsic value as the thaler
The Thaler was a silver coin used throughout Europe for almost four hundred years. Its name lives on in various currencies as the dollar or tolar. Etymologically, "Thaler" is an abbreviation of "Joachimsthaler", a coin type from the city of Joachimsthal in Bohemia, where some of the first such...

 (dollar) coins familiar to English colonists in North America, it was being called a Spanish dollar
Spanish dollar
The Spanish dollar 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...

 by the end of the 17th century and the older term piece of eight gradually fell into disuse.

Spanish laws of 1728 and 1730 adopted modern minting techniques. Coins were to be minted with technologically advanced equipment so that they would be perfectly round and have milled edges. There was a simultaneous reduction in weight and fineness, the peso becoming 27.064 g, 0.916⅔ fine (24.809 g fine silver). This is the coin that became known in the British colonies as the Spanish milled dollar.

When Charles III of Spain adopted new coinage designs in 1772, he also reduced the fineness of the peso from 0.9166 to 0.9028. The fineness was again reduced (secretly) in 1786 to 0.875.

1686–1868 peseta in Spain

During the War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was fought among several European powers, including a divided Spain, over the possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. As France and Spain were among the most powerful states of Europe, such a unification would have...

 (1701–1714), the French introduced a coin worth 2 reales, it was called a peseta
Spanish peseta
The peseta was the currency of Spain between 1869 and 2002. Along with the French franc, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra .- Etymology :...

(a little peso) in Spanish, and soon the name was given to the Spanish 2-real coin as well. In 1717 the mints at Madrid, Segovia, Cuenca, and Seville flooded the country with debased silver coin (the real now containing only 2.556 g fine silver). These coins were designated plata provincial (provincial silver) to distinguish them from the older, "heavy" silver still minted in America, now called plata nacional (national silver).

The old 8-real coin now became known in Spain as a peso duro, or simply a duro, and was rated 10 reales. By 1728, the role of the old peso was assumed in Spain by the new 2-real coin, now called a peseta. One peso duro, worth 10 reales, was equal to five of the new peseta coins, each weighing 5.876 g and containing 4.938 g fine silver. The fine silver content of the peseta was reduced to 4.855 g in 1772, then to 4.793 g in 1786.

During the French occupation, Joseph Bonaparte
Joseph Bonaparte
Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made him King of Naples and Sicily , and later King of Spain...

 issued a 20-reales piece or piastre
The piastre or piaster refers to a number of units of currency. The term originates from the Italian for 'thin metal plate'. The name was applied to Spanish and Latin American pieces of eight, or pesos, by Venetian traders in the Levant in the 16th century.These pesos, minted continually for...

, actually a duro or peso of the 1772 standard (27.064 g, 0.9028 fine), and gave it a value of 20 reales. The peseta (containing 4.887 g fine silver) became a 4-real coin. The peso duro and peseta were retained in the monetary reform of 1821.

Spain adopted the French bimetallic standard on January 1, 1859, with the peseta equal to 4.500 g fine silver or 290.322 mg fine gold. This standard was replaced by a law of June 26, 1864, only to be restored on October 19, 1868, when the Latin Monetary Union system was formally adopted, with the peseta weighing 5.000 g, 0.835 fine (4.175 g fine silver), and a duro or 5-peseta piece weighing 25.000 g, 0.900 fine (22.500 g fine silver).

1821–1897 Mexican dollar

The successful revolt of the Spanish colonies in America had cut off the supply of silver coin by 1820. By 1825 "...the Spanish dollar, the universal coin of three centuries, had lost its supremacy, and...its universal dominion was in process of disintegration into rival 'currency areas', chief among which was destined to be the area dominated by British sterling." (Chalmers, p. 24)

But the Spanish dollar continued to dominate the Eastern trade, and the peso of 8 reales continued to be minted in the New World. The coin was sometimes called a Republican dollar, but eventually any peso of the old Spanish 8-real standard was generally referred to as a Mexican dollar, Mexico being the most prolific producer. Mexico restored the standard of 1772, producing a coin of 27.073 g, 0.9028 fine, containing 24.441 g fine silver (the mark weight of the Mexico City mint was very slightly heavier than the standard mark of Spain).

In 1869–1870, not long after adopting the metric system
Metric system
The metric system is an international decimalised system of measurement. France was first to adopt a metric system, in 1799, and a metric system is now the official system of measurement, used in almost every country in the world...

 system, Mexican mints began producing the peso of "Un Peso" denomination, popularly known as "balanza" (scales), with the same weight and fineness, but with a uniform diameter of 37 mm (making it slightly thicker than the old peso, which was slightly irregular, with a diameter of 38–40 mm). Chinese merchants rejected the new coin, discounting it 4%–5% in favor of the old 8-real peso. Faced with this threat to her silver exports, Mexico returned to the old 8-real peso by decree of May 29, 1873, but international trade was already shifting from silver to gold, and after 1873 there was a steady decline in the international price of silver.

Prior to 1873, the Mexican dollar would have been to all intents and purposes equal in value to the silver dollar coins of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 north of the border, but at that time in history, the Mexican coin would have had a much greater international notoriety than that of the US dollar. The great silver devaluation of 1873 caused the Mexican dollar to drop in value against the US dollar, but up until the beginning of the 20th century, the Mexican dollar would still have been a more widely accepted coin in the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

, than the US dollar. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Mexico produced well over three billion of these coins. Mexico minted the last 8-real peso in 1897, and at the beginning of the twentieth century, these Mexican dollar coins were worth only 50 cents in relation to the US dollar.

Philippine peso

The Philippine peso is derived from the Spanish silver coin Real de a Ocho or Spanish dollar
Spanish dollar
The Spanish dollar 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...

, in wide circulation in the Americas and Southeast Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries, through its use in the Spanish colonies and even in the United States and Canada.

The Philippine peso was established on May 1, 1852, when the Banco Español-Filipino de Isabel II (now the Bank of the Philippine Islands
Bank of the Philippine Islands
Bank of the Philippine Islands is the oldest bank in the Philippines still in operation and is the country's third largest bank in terms of assets, the country's largest bank in terms of market capitalization, and the country's most profitable bank...

) introduced notes denominated in pesos fuertes ("strong pesos", written as "PF"). Until October 17, 1854, when a royal decree confirmed Banco Español-Filipino's by-laws, the notes were in limited circulation and were usually used for bank transactions. The peso replaced the real
Philippine real
The Philippine real was the currency of the Philippines until 1852. Sixteen silver real were equal to one gold escudo.-Pre-Hispanic Period:...

at a rate of 8 reales = 1 peso. Until 1886, the peso circulated alongside Mexican coins, some of which were still denominated in reales and escudos (worth 2 pesos). Coin production commenced in 1861 and, in 1864, the Philippines decimalized, dividing the peso into 100 centimos de peso. The peso was equal to 226⁄7 grains of gold. In 1886, Philippine colonial authorities started the gradual phase-out of all Mexican coins in circulation in the Philippines, citing that Mexican coins were by then of lesser value than the coins produced in Manila. But just as in the case of the Mexican dollars, the Philippine unit was based on silver, unlike in the case of the United States and Canada where a gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

 operated. As such, following the great silver devaluation of 1873, the Philippine unit devalued in parallel with the Mexican unit, and by the end of the 19th century, the Philippine unit was worth 50 cents in relation to the US dollar.

Countries currently using the peso

Countries Currency ISO 4217
ISO 4217
ISO 4217 is a standard published by the International Standards Organization, which delineates currency designators, country codes , and references to minor units in three tables:* Table A.1 – Current currency & funds code list...

 Argentina Argentine peso
Argentine peso
The peso is the currency of Argentina, identified by the symbol $ preceding the amount in the same way as many countries using dollar currencies. It is subdivided into 100 centavos. Its ISO 4217 code is ARS...

 Chile Chilean Peso
Chilean peso
The peso is the currency of Chile. The current peso has circulated since 1975, with a previous version circulating between 1817 and 1960. The symbol used locally for it is $. The ISO 4217 code for the present peso is CLP. It is subdivided into 100 centavos, although no centavo denominated coins...

 Colombia Colombian Peso
Colombian peso
The peso is the currency of Colombia. Its ISO 4217 code is COP and it is also informally abbreviated as COL$. However, the official peso symbol is $. As 20 July 2011, the exchange rate of the Colombian peso is 1750 Colombian pesos to 1 U.S. dollar.-History:The peso has been the currency of Colombia...

 Cuba Cuban Peso
Cuban peso
The peso is one of two official currencies in use in Cuba, the other being the convertible peso...

 Dominican Republic Dominican Peso
Dominican peso
The Dominican peso, also called peso oro is the currency of the Dominican Republic. Its symbol is "$", with "RD$" used when distinction from other pesos is required; its ISO 4217 code is "DOP". Each peso is divided into 100 centavos , for which the ¢ symbol is used...

 Mexico Mexican peso
Mexican peso
The peso is the currency of Mexico. Modern peso and dollar currencies have a common origin in the 15th–19th century Spanish dollar, most continuing to use its sign, "$". The Mexican peso is the 12th most traded currency in the world, the third most traded in the Americas, and by far the most...

 Philippines Philippine peso
Philippine peso
The peso is the currency of the Philippines. It is subdivided into 100 centavos . Before 1967, the language used on the banknotes and coins was English and so "peso" was the name used...

 Uruguay Uruguayan peso
Uruguayan peso
Uruguayan peso has been a name of the Uruguayan currency since Uruguay's settlement by Europeans. The present currency, the peso uruguayo was adopted in 1993 and is subdivided into 100 centésimos.-Introduction:...


Countries that previously used the peso

Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

 Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

 Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea, officially the Republic of Equatorial Guinea where the capital Malabo is situated.Annobón is the southernmost island of Equatorial Guinea and is situated just south of the equator. Bioko island is the northernmost point of Equatorial Guinea. Between the two islands and to the...

 El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, the Pacific Ocean to the southwest, Belize to the northeast, the Caribbean to the east, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast...

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, and Guinea to the south and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west....

Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...

Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

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