Spanish Silver Reales Coinage

Numismatic Information, Spanish Rulers, Coin Denominations & History

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This page depicts only dug silver coins, the representatives of the most common types (not all) of Spanish Reales, unearthed in the North and South Americas.

Spanish Silver Real CoinThe reason the Spanish Reales are often found at historic sites in the US is that during colonial days in the U.S., the silver Ocho Reales coin, referred to as the Spanish milled dollar, piece of eight, or eight bits, was the principal coin in circulation. This coin and its fractional parts, the half, one, two, and four Reales, were legal currency until February 21, 1857 in the U.S., 1858 in Canada, and 1895 in Puerto Rico. The great majority of these coins were Mexican pesos, due to the geographical proximity to Mexico and the large production of the Mexican mints.

The first Real was introduced by King Pedro the Cruel (1350-65) with the Latin expression, Numus Regalis (royal coin), and was a unit of currency in Spain for several centuries. In 1642, two distinct reales were created, the Real de Plata (made of silver) and the Real de Vellón (made of billon, or "less than half silver"). Real de Plata was the standard, issued as coins until the early 19th century. Denominations of ½, 1, 2, 4 and 8 Reales were produced.

Dating from 1536, the first coins minted in America were of Carolus and Johanna. The first 8-real piece minted in America was that of Felipe II (1556-1598), and was an impressive beginning to over 450 years of continuous coining at the Mexico City Mint. Throughout the western hemisphere, Spanish coins reigned. Many Spanish Colonial mints struck coins similar to regular Spanish issues until 1820's.

The Real was often divided into pie-shaped wedges or pieces to make change; an eight real coin, for example, could be cut into eight pieces valued at one Real each.

Each of these pieces was referred to as a "bit," which was a wedge-shaped piece of silver equal to 1 Real in metal weight and monetary exchange value.

Currency was based on the price of silver, and the colonists generally used the Spanish milled dollar over other forms of silver currency. The Spanish Real was favored because it had a milled edge which would deter the shaving of silver from the edge of the coin.

Spanish Coin Denominations:

1/2 REAL or One-Half "Bit" is equivalent to American HALF-DIME or 1/16 PESO also called a PICAYUNE, DIAMETER: 16.4 mm - 17,7 mm

1 REAL or One "Bit" is equivalent to American DIME or 1/8 PESO, DIAMETER: 20.3 mm - 21.6 mm

2 REALES or Two "Bits" are equivalent to American QUARTER or 1/4 PESO, DIAMETER: 26.2 mm - 28.1 mm

4 REALES or Four "Bits" are equivalent to American HALF-DOLLAR or 1/2 PESO, DIAMETER: 34.9 mm

8 REALES - a Piece of 8, or Eight "Bits"(a "Cob"), coin is equivalent to American 1 DOLLAR or 1 PESO, DIAMETER: 38.8 mm - 39.9 mm

On Spanish Reales denominations are abbreviated "R" (on both 1/2 Real and 1 Real coins), "2 R", "4 R", and "8 R" respectively.


Spanish Rulers of Time Period:

1350-1365 Pedro I (Pedro The Cruel)
1369-1379 Henry II of Trastamara
1379-1390 John I
1390-1406 Henry III
1406-1454 John II
1454-1474 Henry IV
Spain Coat of Arms on Silver Real Coin1474-1504 Isabella (1451-1504) House of Castile
1479-1504 Ferdinand V (II of Aragon) House of Aragon
1504-1506 Johanna (1479-1555) and Philip I (1478-1506)
1506-1516 Ferdinand V (1452-1516)
1516-1556 Charles I (1500-1558) Hapsburg Kings
1556-1598 Philip II (1527-1598)
1598-1621 Philip III (1578-1621)
1621-1665 Philip IV (1606-1665)
1665-1700 Charles II (1661-1700)
1700-1724 Philip V (1683-1746) Bourbon Kings
1724 Louis I
1724-1746 Philip V, restored (1683-1746)
1746-1759 Ferdinand VI (1713-1759)
1759-1788 Charles III (1716-1788)
1788-1808 Charles IV (1748-1819)
1808-1808 Ferdinand VII (1784-1833)
1808-1813 Joseph Bonaparte Napoleon (1768-1844), French Rule
1814-1833 Ferdinand VII (1784-1833) (in exile until 1814)
1833-1868 Isabella II (1830-1904)
1869-1870 Francisco Semano y Dominguez (1810-1885), Regency
1870-1873 Amadeo I (1845-1890) House of Savoy, Regency
1873-1874 First Republic
1874-1885 Alfonso XII (1857-1885) Bourbon Kings
1886-1931 Alfonso XIII (1886-1941) 2nd Republic and Civil War

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