1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dollar (coin)
DOLLAR, a silver coin at one time current in many European countries, and adopted under varying forms of the name elsewhere. The word “dollar” is a modified form of thaler, which, with the variant forms (daler, dalar, daalder, tallero, &c.), is said to be a shortened form of Joachimsthaler. This Joachimsthaler was the name given to a coin intended to be the silver equivalent of the gold gulden, a coin current in Germany from the 14th century. In 1516 a rich silver mine was discovered in Joachimsthal (Joachim’s dale), a mining district of Bohemia, and the count of Schlitz, by whom it was appropriated, caused a great number of silver coins to be struck (the first having the date 1518), bearing an effigy of St Joachim, hence the name. The Joachimsthaler was also sometimes known as the Schlickenthaler. The first use of the word dollar in English was as applied to this silver coin, the thaler, which was current in Germany at various values from the 16th century onwards, as well as, more particularly, to the unit of the German monetary union from 1857 to 1873, when the mark was substituted for the thaler. The Spanish piece-of-eight (reals) was also commonly referred to as a dollar. When the Bank of England suspended cash payments in 1797, and the scarcity of coin was very great, a large number of these Spanish coins, which were held by the bank, were put into circulation, after having been countermarked at the Mint with a small oval bust of George III., such as was used by the Goldsmiths’ Company for marking plate. Others were simply overstamped with the initials G.R. enclosed in a shield. In 1804 the Maundy penny head set in an octagonal compartment was employed. Several millions of these coins were issued. These Spanish pieces-of-eight were also current in the Spanish-American colonies, and were very largely used in the British North American colonies. As the reckoning was by pounds, shillings and pence in the British-American colonies, great inconveniences naturally arose, but these were to some extent lessened by the adoption of a tariff list, by which the various gold and silver coins circulating were rated. In 1787 the dollar was introduced as the unit in the United States, and it has remained as the standard of value either in silver or gold in that country. For the history of the various changes in the weights and value of the coin see Numismatics. The Spanish piece-of-eight was also the ancestor of the Mexican dollar, the Newfoundland dollar, the British dollar circulating in Hong Kong and the Straits Settlements, and the dollar of the South American republics, although many of them are now dollars only in name.