World of Coins

Research and reference => Numismatics => Topic started by: Figleaf on March 21, 2012, 09:35:20 AM

Title: Denomination systems
Post by: Figleaf on March 21, 2012, 09:35:20 AM
Are there 12 pence in a shilling?

In Britain there are.

Why did Britain issue Florins AND Half Crowns? Why did the U.S. issue 20 and 25 cent pieces?......

Half crowns go back to Henry VIII who had them for his wives, but the florin is mostly a Victorian invention. It was part of a futile attempt to decimalize, since a florin was 1/10th of a pound.

US coins copied the Spanish system, also used in their colonies, where 8 reales was called a peso. The peso became the dollar, making halves (4 bits) and quarters (2 bits) inevitable and calling for a 12-1/2 cents piece (1 bit). The influence of the French revolution brought the cent instead. In a decimal system, a 1-2-5 system of denominations is more logical, so coins of 1-2-5-10-20-50-100 cents are called for (compare euro denominations.) However, the Americans couldn't make up their minds, so they applied the Spanish system until the quarter and the French system below, with the 20 (a French quarter ;)) being an experiment to shift the border between the two systems. Even today, you will find "quarter" on the coins, but not "25 cents".

Peter
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: chrisild on March 21, 2012, 12:51:14 PM
Even today, you will find "quarter" on the coins, but not "25 cents".

Interestingly, in Canada, where they actually use digits to indicate the face value, the quarters say "25 cents". In the US, where all the coin denominations except the unpopular $1 piece have the value in words, they use "quarter dollar" instead of "twenty-five cents".

What I find a little peculiar is that both Canada and the US use a "25" denomination when it comes to coins but a "20" when it comes to paper money. French or Spanish influence?

Christian
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: Prosit on March 21, 2012, 12:55:43 PM
Maybe neither? Maybe a commercial concession. I think the first US 20 note was 1862 which should have been long after the French or Spanish
could have an influence other than what had already been established as historical precesedent.
Dale


What I find a little peculiar is that both Canada and the US use a "25" denomination when it comes to coins but a "20" when it comes to paper money. French or Spanish influence?

Christian
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 21, 2012, 02:33:43 PM
...What I find a little peculiar is that both Canada and the US use a "25" denomination when it comes to coins but a "20" when it comes to paper money. French or Spanish influence?

It's just common sense--and the practical difference between using units and sub-units. Order your pizzas (units) by any number you want, say by the "20," which is more decimally useful than "25." But when it comes to the cutting (sub-units), it's much easier to get four (25) equal pieces than it is five (20).

 ;) v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 21, 2012, 02:45:04 PM
...US coins copied the Spanish system, also used in their colonies, where 8 reales was called a peso. The peso became the dollar, making halves (4 bits) and quarters (2 bits) inevitable and calling for a 12-1/2 cents piece (1 bit). The influence of the French revolution brought the cent instead. In a decimal system, a 1-2-5 system of denominations is more logical, so coins of 1-2-5-10-20-50-100 cents are called for (compare euro denominations.) However, the Americans couldn't make up their minds, so they applied the Spanish system until the quarter and the French system below, with the 20 (a French quarter ;)) being an experiment to shift the border between the two systems. Even today, you will find "quarter" on the coins, but not "25 cents".
No, no, and no--again. (Really, check the dates, and lose a long-cherished notion or two. ;)) But I will agree that the euro 1-2-5-10-20-50 sub-units are "more logical," just less practical.

 :) v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: FosseWay on March 21, 2012, 03:40:02 PM
I don't really get how either the 20 system or the 25 system is more or less logical or more or less practical than the other. But it's definitely less practical to have a currency that misses out a step, resulting in an overload of one particular coin. The US does this three times: no 2c, no 50c and no $2 (in normal circulation), resulting in large numbers of pennies, quarters and $1 bills being carried around. Pre-euro Germany did it by lacking either a 20pf or 25pf coin. Sweden has no 2 or 200 kronor. The UK does it by default rather than design by not distributing enough £5 notes, even though they exist and are eagerly accepted by the population, so you end up with handfuls of £1 and £2 coins in change.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: chrisild on March 21, 2012, 04:03:19 PM
I don't really get how either the 20 system or the 25 system is more or less logical or more or less practical than the other.

I find setups easy to use where each denomination is "x" times the next (smaller) denomination, with "x" being a non-fractional figure. So that would be 1-5-10-50...  However, since you don't want too many "1" or "10" pieces, it makes sense to have gap fillers. If you add "2.5" and "25" pieces, you cannot simply use the next/smaller denomination: Something costs 30 umthings? OK, that would be a 25 umthing piece, then grab the next one which is a 10, nah, I have a 5 etc. etc.  Admittedly much of this simply boils down to what one is used to. :)

Quote
Pre-euro Germany did it by lacking either a 20pf or 25pf coin. Sweden has no 2 or 200 kronor.

As for Germany, interestingly the Federal Republic had a 0.02 coin but not a 0.20 until the euro cash came - the GDR (until 1990) did it the other way round. As for Sweden, wait until 2015 (?) when both of those missing denominations should come ...

Christian
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 21, 2012, 05:22:46 PM
A question I've long wanted an answer to, and why not here? Was the German 25-pfennig of 1909 introduced because of theory, or was there some particular purpose the coin was intended for (a rise in streetcar fares...whatever)? The coin didn't take, of course, but why?

I note that there were contemporary European attempts at a 25-subunit coin--the Italian coin of 1902 didn't take either, but for reasons unrelated to the 20/25 question. The French did make a go of their own 25-subunit piece, finally persevering, but then of course let decimal theology (20!) get the better of them when they introduced the new franc in 1960.

Germany's short-lived 25-pfennig? Any one know?

 :) v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: chrisild on March 21, 2012, 06:54:52 PM
Germany's short-lived 25-pfennig? Any one know?

Not sure why it was introduced at all. It did not really replace the previous 20 Pfennig coin (that one was last made in 1892). According to the Jaeger catalog the 25 pf piece had been much criticized even before it was designed and issued. People did not use it, and the catalog quotes from a report dated 1911 which said that the coins were hardly popular and kept coming back to the banks. Consequence: Public banks should use them as much as possible.  :-\ Except that even that did not help - the "quarter", first issued in 1909, was last made in 1912.

The 20 Pfennig coin from the GDR was first issued in 1969, by the way, and in use until mid-1991. And in 2002 the 20 cent coin became legal tender of course.

The Netherlands heavily relied on "quarters", but at least ;) at all levels so to say: They had a 2 1/2 cent coin until the 1940s, plus (until the end of the NLG years) 25 cent coins, 2 1/2 gulden coins, 25 gulden notes and (short-lived) 250 gulden notes. Takes a while to get used to if you're used to 2, 20, etc. ...

Christian
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 21, 2012, 07:13:53 PM
...The 20 Pfennig coin from the GDR was first issued in 1969, by the way, and in use until mid-1991...

Thanks for the info on the '09 25-pfennig. Any additional input on the puzzle is most welcome. Since production ended in '12, I suppose the coin was being actively withdrawn even before the outbreak of WWI and the consequent demand for its pure nickel.

About the DDR 20-pfennig, the only thing that surprises me about it was that it took so long to appear. I've read that the DDR authorities were extraordinarily proud that they had been able to keep the streetcar fare at the old-time 20pf. So the '69 issue always seemed to me like a practical coin with a particular purpose.

 :) v.

Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: FosseWay on March 21, 2012, 07:40:45 PM
The French did make a go of their own 25-subunit piece, finally persevering, but then of course let decimal theology (20!) get the better of them when they introduced the new franc in 1960.

The French introduced the 20 centime coin earlier than that -- there's a Vichy issue of that denomination from the early 1940s.

As to the DDR 20 pfennig, I seem to remember that the reason it alone among circulating coins was made of a metal other than aluminium was that it was the standard fee for a phone call from a call box, and that aluminium coins weren't heavy enough to activate the mechanism in the phone.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 21, 2012, 08:04:50 PM
Yes, I've heard that also about the 20pf needing to be a heavier piece so as to navigate various coin-boxes. And true enough about the Vichy 20-c. Of course it's really only a footnote, disappearing almost as quickly as it arrived. But speaking of the French, we could also talk about 20-c and competing 1/4-franc of the 19th century. Looks like they may have had alternating theories of utility, or simply different practical requirements.

 :) v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: Figleaf on March 21, 2012, 08:31:42 PM
I don't really get how either the 20 system or the 25 system is more or less logical or more or less practical than the other.

My source is research from the Dutch Central Bank. They calculated how many coins would be necessary for payment of all amounts between 1 and 100 with several combinations of coins, both with and without change given. the conclusion was that the 1-2-3-5 series (the Soviet Russian system) was the most efficient, though followed very closely by 1-2-5 and 1-3-5, so cost restrictions would favour the 1-2-5 solution. The combination 1-2.5-5 (the Dutch system at the time) was found to be significantly less efficient. Indeed, leaving out a step (there was neither a half cent, nor a 2-1/2 cent at the time) makes the system less efficient. The study did not lead to action, unsurprisingly, in view of the bank's conservatism.

Peter
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 22, 2012, 03:53:07 AM
...US coins copied the Spanish system, also used in their colonies, where 8 reales was called a peso. The peso became the dollar, making halves (4 bits) and quarters (2 bits) inevitable and calling for a 12-1/2 cents piece (1 bit). The influence of the French revolution brought the cent instead....

Nothing like watching history being rewritten...but why?

 ;D v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: chrisild on March 22, 2012, 11:02:58 AM
Don't want to play those "I think you're wrong but I won't say why" games once again, so ...

(...) Spanish dollar and other 8-reales coins. The term peso was used in Spanish to refer to this denomination (...)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_dollar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_dollar)

(...) The choice of 25¢ as a denomination, as opposed to 20¢ which is more common in other parts of the world, originated with the practice of dividing Spanish Milled Dollars into eight wedge shaped segments; at one time "two bits", i.e. two reales, was a common nickname for a quarter (...)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter_(United_States_coin) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter_(United_States_coin))

Christian
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: FosseWay on March 22, 2012, 01:44:43 PM
In many countries it seems that the division between base metal small change and larger-value silver coins tended to be set at around the 20-25 cent mark (where 'cent' = generic subunit). A 20-cent coin would obviously be smaller than a 25-cent one if each had the same purity of silver. I wonder whether the tendency to use 25 cents is therefore as a result of starting from 1 principal unit and working downwards to halves and quarters to the smallest practical silver coin, whereas 20 cents is the result of starting at 1 subunit and working upwards, where 20 follows on logically from 2 (I realise the Netherlands is an exception). This applies to the LMU countries, where 20c coins tended to be rather shortlived until or unless converted into a base-metal form. It doesn't work so well with the US/Canada or the Scandinavian countries, where the 10c was also of silver, but perhaps it was advisable to have a bigger difference in value and therefore size between two precious-metal small coins. At the purely 1-2-5 end of the scale we find many newer currencies that took shape since the abandonment of silver in most circulation coinage, including decimal sterling, the post-1960 French franc and the euro.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 22, 2012, 03:34:01 PM
In many countries it seems that the division between base metal small change and larger-value silver coins tended to be set at around the 20-25 cent mark...

I hope you'll think some more on this and talk to us about it. Really. I wonder about this stuff myself.

@ Christian: About Figleaf's assertions regarding America's "Spanish + French Revolutionary coin system." A little later, I hope.

 ;D v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: translateltd on March 22, 2012, 08:19:34 PM
I suspect a lot of discussion about what is "logical" depends on habit - I'm reasonably good at maths but found it terribly confusing trying to deal with change in 25c and 2½-guilder pieces in a visit to Holland in pre-Euro days.

There is an analogy with road rules - NZ has (till this weekend) one simple rule that determines who gives way at an intersection, but it isn't used anywhere else in the world, so we are discarding it in favour of a more complicated sequence that I can't get my head around at all.  Apparently it's more "logical", but only to those who are familiar with it!



Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 25, 2012, 04:46:10 AM
Don't want to play those "I think you're wrong but I won't say why" games once again, so ...

This isn't a case of that. I've let the person addressed know my objections to his version of U.S. coinage history several times, but the business about the U.S. adopting the “Spanish [coinage] system” down to the quarter-dollar value, “and the French [coinage] system below” is something that keeps getting repeated around here.

Jefferson and other Americans were voicing a preference for a decimal currency very early on. What contributed to their opinions is open to argument, of course, but there is plenty of reason to believe that their basic interest in things decimal was home-grown.
 
That the Spanish dollar (or at least the Spanish dollar as it was then circulating in the U.S.) was adopted as the American currency unit, or the fact that Spanish and Mexican silver circulated in parts of the U.S. until the legal tender status of foreign coinage was removed in 1857,  is not nearly the same thing (as is often asserted on this forum, most recently just upthread) as the U.S. adopting the “Spanish [coinage] system.” Instead, a slightly underweight Spanish dollar was adopted as the new American dollar, underpinned by a thoroughly un-Spanish system of decimal subunits (and for that matter, overtopped by an un-Spanish decimal “super-unit”).

I see nothing intrinsically Spanish in the cutting of coins into halves and quarters—or should I say “half pennies” and “farthings?” Spanish, sure—when you talk about some of the language use, or when you get below the quarters into individual “bits,” at eight to the 8-reales—but that’s the point, isn’t it? I mean, the U.S. did not adopt a system of 8 subunits. The U.S. did not adopt—as asserted upthread—the “Spanish [coinage] system.” It adopted a home-grown decimal coinage system, with a unit based on the Spanish dollar as was then circulating in the United States.

As for the choice of the half-dollar and quarter-dollar, and for much of their early use in the U.S., what we’re talking about is not nearly so much “Spanish” as it is “shortage.” Halving and quartering coins is like halving and quartering anything round—it’s the easiest and most natural division, the practical and human way of cutting things. Halve and quarter, and then halve the quarters. Aha! “Bits.” The American language usage descends from the process as it was applied to Spanish and Mexican “dollars,” but the process itself has roots far deeper. Was the halving and quartering adopted as part of the “Spanish [coinage] system,” or because halving and quartering makes practical sense across the whole range of cutting apart round things, and intuitive good sense beyond?

Anyone who knows anything about Thomas Jefferson knows the answer to that. Jefferson didn’t adopt the half-dollar and the quarter-dollar into his proposal for a coinage system because he wanted to render some sort of homage to the “Spanish system.” No way. He did it because it made practical sense within his own idea of things. (And ditto—maybe double ditto—for Alexander Hamilton later on.)

Jefferson recommended a simple decimal currency system (simpler than Morris’ 1782 decimal system by far) into the Legislature in 1784, and it was a suggestion that immediately gained Washington’s support. In mid-1785, the “Grand Committee” recommended (according to the Redbook) “...a dollar of silver with fractional coins of the same metal (in denominations of half, quarter, 10th, and 20th parts of a dollar); and copper pieces valued at 1/100 and 1/200 of a dollar.”

Which brings us, once more, to the assertion upthread about the French Revolution completing America’s “Spanish [coinage] system.”

The Redbook:“Congress gave formal approval to the basic dollar unit and decimal coinage ratio in its resolution of August 8, 1786.”  (Nussbaum, in 1957’s A History of the Dollar, says that the “resolution of August, 1786, dubbed the hundredth part of a dollar a ‘cent’—a Jeffersonian term.”)

The Redbook:“The Massachusetts cents and half cents struck in 1787 and 1788 were the first official coins in the United States to bear stated values in terms of decimal parts of the dollar unit.”

Of course these are all preliminaries to The Mint Act of  (April) 1792, which initiated the current American coinage system. And from what I read, October 1793 is when France adopted its own decimal coinage—on paper, anyway—so why do I keep reading here on the forum of the decimal coinage of Revolutionary France completing the American coinage system? If there was indeed a transfer, don’t the dates involved make it more likely that it was the other way around?

Finally, as for the additional assertion upthread re the 1875 introduction of the American 20-cent piece, and its being “an experiment to shift the border” between the Spanish and the French systems....good one.

 :) v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: Figleaf on March 25, 2012, 08:12:50 PM
Congratulations, Christian. Didn't think you'd get this far, so I'll react, though I have had it with this person's droning vicious personal attacks and I'll continue to ignore him.

Of course, the issue is not who "invented" what. Classical monetary systems already have quarters (e.g. the quadrans) and halves (e.g. the semis) of a standard unit (e.g. the as) as well as multiples of ten and one hundred (e.g. the denarius and the centenionalis.) The medieval obol of half a denarius is scarce, but a denarius would often have a cross for cutting it in two or four pieces. the Russian rouble had 100 kopeks long before Jefferson. All interesting and beside the point.

Part of the point is the pragmatic resolution of Medina del Campo of 1497. It created a system based on the copper maravedi, 34 being a silver real and 375 of which being a gold excellente. While the resolution was meant as a local regulation to forge local Spanish coin systems into one, it became the basis for an international coin standard that dominated the financial world for centuries. The silver coins in this global standard had denominations of 0.5, 1, 2, 4 and 8 reales. During the US war of independence, this was still the dominating global standard, although the English shilling (using a Carolingian system, also used in pre-decimal France and in the Republic) was making inroads. The coins of Spain dominated world finance. An emigrant, sailing from Delftshaven or Portsmouth to New Netherlands would have paid the captain in Spanish silver.

The other part of the point is the franc de germinal, as the name indicates, an invention of the French revolution. Contemporary US mythology belittles the French contribution to the US war of independence (e.g. at the battle of Yorktown, the largest army was French, commanded by Rochambeau), because the US fell out with the French revolution owing to the terreur, as Thomas Paine - himself a victim of the terreur - found out to his grief. However, the achievements of the French revolution deeply influenced the US society in all kinds of fields, from its legal system to its architecture. One of those achievements was the wide acceptance of decimal weight, measures and standards. Decimal systems were incidental before the revolution. They became the dominating standard after the revolution.

By the end of the wars of Napoléon, the franc de germinal (later the gold franc), a decimal coin, was the new global standard, although the pound was making inroads in British colonies. Its influence spread to all parts of the world through the Latin Monetary Union. Its power was broken only by the first world war, but gold francs remained in use as an international unit of account until the second world war. An American, sending a letter to the UK would pay a tariff, based on the UPU agreement, using gold francs.

So here we have two dominating world level currencies. One is characterized by a 1-2-4 organisation and originates in Spain, the other by a 1-10-100 organisation and it originates in France. Call them whatever you want, but "Spanish" and "French" seems fair to me and calling both "Roman" would be highly misleading, even when the Romans did use them.

Peter
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: translateltd on March 25, 2012, 09:14:45 PM
I think the only "red herring" in this tale is the influence of France, which just doesn't fit chronologically, as has been pointed out.  Distilling the story down, the US system appears to have been a fusion of its own decimal system (1-10-100) and the inherited (and, as noted, coexisting till 1857) usage of Spanish dollars and their fractions (1 - 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/8).  As I understand it, France was the third country to "go decimal" in its coinage system, after Russia and the US.

Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: Figleaf on March 25, 2012, 09:48:41 PM
Huh? French influence in the Americas dates from well before the franc de germinal, also coin-wise. As I tried to explain, it's not about "inventions" but about number schemes and a naming convention that I can't see as strange, given where those schemes originated. Surely, you don't want to say that the US was the driving force for the wide acceptance of decimalisation? It is still counting in miles.

Peter
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: translateltd on March 25, 2012, 11:26:04 PM
Huh? French influence in the Americas dates from well before the franc de germinal, also coin-wise. As I tried to explain, it's not about "inventions" but about number schemes and a naming convention that I can't see as strange, given where those schemes originated. Surely, you don't want to say that the US was the driving force for the wide acceptance of decimalisation? It is still counting in miles.


Whoa!  You're moving the goalposts way beyond the original focus of the discussion here.  We're talking about the US adoption of decimal currency and the influence of the Spanish dollar in the American use of "quarters" and "two bits", nothing else.  As has been pointed out, French decimal currency came *after* the American adoption, so can hardly have influenced it.  General questions of French influence in the Americas, world-wide acceptance of decimalisation and the use of miles are entirely different issues.

Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: Figleaf on March 26, 2012, 01:37:07 AM
No, I am not. I am saying the US denomination system consists of two parts, one rooted in the Spanish denomination system, another rooted in the franc de germinal system. I could have called it the Russian system, but that would have been confusing. I could have called it the denarius and centenionalis system, but that was no system. I could have called it the inverted pretzel system and confused everyone. I called it the French system because it seemed obvious.

Decimalisation was not invented one day, it was a long process, it is not restricted to coins but applies mainly to other stuff and it certainly did not originate in the US but got there because of international relations. I do not deny that the US coins came out before the French coins, I am saying that the order is irrelevant, because I am talking about a denomination system, not a coin. Decimalisation did not originate in France, but the French revolution popularized it into a worldwide standard, so I do not see why it should not be called the French system.

I hope I have been clear this time, but if not, since this is getting repetitive, let's do any follow-up by PM.

Peter
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: translateltd on March 26, 2012, 05:14:00 AM
It's clear that we're talking past each other again, so let's let it drop.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 26, 2012, 05:36:34 PM
...But speaking of the French, we could also talk about 20-c and competing 1/4-franc of the 19th century. Looks like they may have had alternating theories of utility, or simply different practical requirements.

The American dollar of 1792 and its subunits as they existed in coin about 1796:
1---1/2---1/4---1/10---1/20---1/100---1/200.

The French franc germinal of 1803 and its subunits as they existed in coin about 1804:
1---1/2---1/4---1/10---1/20---1/100.

The French were free to choose in 1803 when they put together the franc germinal and its subdivisions. Any idea why they chose the “half-franc,” and “quarter-franc?” (This first iteration of their “quarter” lasted some four decades.)

 ??? v.
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: chrisild on March 26, 2012, 08:07:46 PM
Surely, you don't want to say that the US was the driving force for the wide acceptance of decimalisation? It is still counting in miles.

The US has certainly not gone metric, and it is amazing how Americans can deal with this 1-100 concept which must be terribly difficult for people who otherwise calculate with a yard being three feet and a foot being twelve inches. But I digress. ;D As others have pointed out, its currency became decimal quite a few years before a similar setup was introduced in France. We could be a little mean and rotten and say that the US copied the Russian decimal system, but Russia did not have a "purely" decimal setup.

The "decimal franc" was introduced in 1795; the coins came later. And I don't think it was a concidence that the French franc used the same 1-10-100 system that had been introduced in the US a few years before: 1 dollar or franc = 10 dimes or décimes = 100 cents or centimes.

And villa66, while I agree that the US currency was based on a decimal(-only) setup, and that literally cutting a "Spanish dollar" into four or eight pieces may have practical reasons (cash shortage, etc.), I don't really see a contradiction here as far as the reasons for introducing quarters (and not 20c pieces) are concerned. And to some extent the 8-based system did get stuck. ;) From the Wikipedia article about the Spanish dollar that I already quoted from: "The pricing of equities on U.S. stock exchanges in 1/8-dollar denominations persisted until the New York Stock Exchange converted first to pricing in sixteenths of a dollar on June 24, 1997, and shortly after that, to decimal pricing."

Christian
Title: Re: Denomination systems
Post by: villa66 on March 28, 2012, 11:37:24 PM
..."The pricing of equities on U.S. stock exchanges in 1/8-dollar denominations persisted until the New York Stock Exchange converted first to pricing in sixteenths of a dollar on June 24, 1997, and shortly after that, to decimal pricing."

Interesting and fun observation about the 1/8 unit and the NYSE. Here’s another of those anachronisms, this one from Nussbaum’s book: “And New Hampshire, whose 1784 constitution provided for the establishment of the shilling as the monetary unit, did not do away with this constitutional provision until 1948, by a popular referendum vote of: yes, 61,949; no, 28,038!”

The mish-mash of money in the 13 original colonies—much of it British or British-inspired, of course—made currency reconciliation a major concern for anyone putting together the new Federal coinage. Morris’s 1000-unit/1-mark---500-unit/1-quint---100-unit/1-bit decimal system, with each “unit” being the equivalent of 1/1440th of a Spanish milled dollar, suggests the difficulties in reconciling these criss-crossing and competing systems.  As above, New Hampshire established its shilling in 1784. And why not a shilling, except that it was a reminder of the British? After all, the earliest homegrown American coins—struck for decades—were the New England shillings, and their halves (6d), and quarters (3d).

So do the American half-dollar and quarter-dollar exist because the 1792 adoption of the Spanish milled dollar as the new currency unit mandated coins valued at the equivalent of 4-reales  and 2-reales?

Or were the American half-dollar and quarter-dollar adopted as subunits not only for reasons of the “Spanish system,” but perhaps also for broader reasons?

I think the latter. And I think that any discussion (popularly, anyway) of the origins of the half-dollar and quarter-dollar is now often cut short by the fun(!) linguistic fossils left behind by the long American acquaintance with Spanish and Mexican 8-reales coins, and their fractions, which circulated as de facto American coins from 1792 until 1859.

The main thing here though, for me anyway, is that we stop spreading the idea that the American coinage system wasn't thought through by its founders, and instead was just some kind of anachronistic cut-and-paste job.

 :) v.