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THE MEXICAN PIECES OF EIGHT REALES and their domination in South East Asia;
an historic survey of more than three centuries of a trading coin
by J. Busschers, Driebergen (Netherlands) 1999, 155 pages, A4.
Spiral bound (ISBN 90-805431-1-X) price NLG 38.= + H&P; hard bound (ISBN 90-805431-2-8) NLG 75.= + H&P.

       The Spanish-American eight real represents, no-doubt, the most widely used international trade coin. The denomination of the real finds its origin in Europe, but with the discovery by the middle of the 16th century of the rich silver deposits in Mexico and somewhat later in Potosi, in present Bolivia, the international flow of precious metals changed entirely.

       At the same time, considerable silver deposits were also found in Central Europe, which led to the introduction of the taler, a silver coin of almost equal value to the Spanish eight real piece.

       The hegemony of the gold currency for payment of large trade transactions of capital goods was soon overtaken by silver currency of equivalent value to the former gold currency. By the end of the 16th century large silver coins of approximately 27 to 30 grams largely took over the role of gold. The present publication provides an most interesting survey of the history of the eight real pieces, their minting in Spanish America and the coin’s dominant role in South East Asian trade. Economic and nautical aspects are discussed as well as events in Europe that influenced those developments. An attempt has also been made to obtain an impression of the volume of reales despatched to South East Asia. The survey has been compiled using presently available printed information from all kinds of sources. As a rule, these sources of information are often restricted to a particular area, period or subject. Moreover the information derived from the various sources is sometimes also conflicting. The author of the present publication has tried to define how the various elements inter-relate, and to compile an overview of the global history of the most important trade coin, which in due course became known as the Spanish dollar.

       Particularly for trade purposes, this denomination was also adopted by many other nations, including the United States of America, and as such its legacy continues.

       The book covers the period from the 16th to the 20th century and starts with an overview of the relevant data for Europe, America and Asia. The textual part of it is divided by chapters for each successive centuries, viz. 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century. An appendix and bibliography completes the textual part. The publication is illustrated throughout with excellent photographs and various diagrams and a number of tables. A supplement of 42 fine plates of photographs of about 90 coins completes the book. The photographs have been arranged in chronological order, and are accompanied by brief descriptive texts. In order to facilitate detailed reproduction, and to show the beauty of the coins, they have been enlarged 1.75 times the actual size.

       It is, as far I know, the first time that an integral publication has appeared of the world’s most important trade coin. The prime importance of this trade coin in Asia and the many Asian derivations of this denomination will make this publication of interest to many.

       Jan Lingen

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