The Caribbean island of Trinidad was under Spanish rule from the 15th century up until 1797 when it was taken over by the British.
Trinidad's accounts under Spanish rule were always in the "red", its expenses far exceeding its revenue. To defray Government expenses, both civil and military, its annual income was supplemented by $200,000 in value of Spanish Silver Dollars shipped from Mexico.
In the first years of British occupation, the Government accounts were expressed in £ s d as well as dollars and 'bits'.
To halt the export of Silver Dollars, the Government issued a Proclamation in 1811 to permit the circulation of dollars cut with an octagonal hole.
The coins passed throughout the colony for the sum of nine shillings.
The Spanish Silver Dollar. The coin that ruled the world.
The Spanish Silver Dollar was the coin that ruled the world.
Beginning with Columbus in 1492 and continuing for nearly 350 years, Spain conquered and settled most of South America, the Caribbean, and the south west of America. It was however, the silver rich continent of South America that became Spain’s treasure trove, bank rolling its ascendancy as a world power.
In 1536, Spain established its first colonial mint in Mexico. It was by far the most lucrative of the Spanish mints, coining more than 2 billion dollars’ worth of silver pieces over a 300 year period (1536 – 1821). The Lima and Potosi Mint came on board in 1568 and 1573 respectively.
Not only were the Spanish mint’s prolific but the monarchy in 1537 introduced exacting standards of weight and purity into its coinage that would see the worldwide dominance of the Spanish Silver Dollar and its ultimate acceptance as an international currency and medium of exchange.
The Spanish Silver Dollar was fabled as pirate plunder. It was the famous ‘piece of eight’ of the Spanish empire with a diameter of 39mm and weighing 27.70 grams of pure silver.And it was used – and abused – the world over for centuries.
It was the coin that was holed and counter stamped by private individuals, banks and government authorities in the eighteenth and nineteenth century including the penal colony of New South Wales to create the nation's first coins, the Holey Dollar and Dump. When cut into quarters, half or three-quarter segments and stamped with the insignia of a colony, it served as small change for that dependency.
Such practises were widely used throughout the British colonies of the Caribbean and several African nation’s including Sierra Leone. Even Great Britain succumbed to the lures of the Spanish Silver Dollar when in 1797 the Bank of England purchased for its own account well over two million dollars of Spanish Silver Dollars to supplement its own coinage. These were counter stamped with an oval bust of King George III.