Colonial Silver: an overlooked treasure?

In the present climate of high silver prices and equally high demand for silver coins, it is surprising that many important silver numismatic pieces are entirely overlooked by numismatists.  Three historic pieces stand out in particular as highly overlooked despite all being both large coins and integral to global trade at the period at which they were in circulation.

The Spanish colonial Eight Reale coin, also known as the ‘Spanish Dollar’ was issued throughout the Spanish colonial empire in Central and South America from 1535 and by the seventeenth century was extensively used in trade throughout the Americas.  The fledgling United States in particular made great commercial use of the Eight Reale and based its own silver dollar upon it.

The British Trade Dollar is another example of a silver trading piece.  Minted between 1898-1935, these coins were utilised to stimulate British trade in the Far East from Singapore and Hong Kong.  The Trade Dollar is particularly notable for having a reverse denomination written in both Chinese and Malay.

Finally, the French Trade Piastre was used throughout the Far East from the French colonial possession of Indo-China.  The Piastre performed a similar role to the Trade Dollar, being accepted as a conversion piece within the Far East from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

Despite relative obscurity, the three historic pieces described have all held a position of supreme importance in stimulating commerce.  Furthermore, all are large silver pieces; making collector neglect baffling to say the least.


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