Denominations--Notes and Coins

Spanish coins during the American colonial period were minted in denominations that used 1/8 as the division. The following is a table of copper, silver, and gold coin denominations. Only silver coins are known to have been used as vignettes on US obsolete paper money.

Spanish American Colonial Coin Denominations

Copper Silver Gold
1/16 real 1/4 real  
1/8 real 1/2 real* 1/2 escudo
  1 real* 1 escudo
  2 reales* 2 escudos
  4 reales* 4 escudos
  8 reales* 8 escudos

* denomination used as a depiction on US notes
16 reales = 1 escudo

Denominations of US Obsolete Notes and the Coins They Used

US obsolete notes come in many different and sometimes strange denominations.  Because the Spanish 8 reales was the model for the US silver dollar, the division of the dollar into eighths (even sixteenths) came about.  Notes of 12 1/2 and 6 1/4 cents denomination are fairly common, most without any depiction of a Spanish coin or reference to the Spanish system.

Only the silver coin vignettes were used on notes--never the copper or gold--and the 1/4 real coin is not found.  The following are the most common combinations of coins and note denominations.

  • 1/2 real coin. Used on 5 cent and 6 1/4 cent notes.
  • 1 real coin. Used on 10 cent and 12 1/2 cent notes. Also found on at least one 37 1/2 cent note.
  • 2 reales coin. Used on 25 cent notes.  At least 4 75 cent notes are also known.
  • 4 reales coin. Used on 50 cent notes; also on one Alabama 75 cent note.
  • 8 reales coin. Used on dollar and multiple dollar notes (2, 3, 5, and 10 dollars).  For multiple dollar notes, the Spanish coin is sometimes depicted with a US coin--the designer was basically covering all bases.