The sixteenth century was one of the most important times, not only for Spain but for the rest of the world. After the reign of the Catholic Kings, Isabella and Fernando (1474-1516), the unified country entered a phase of unprecedented territorial expansion that led to the creation of one of the greatest known empires in world history. Shortly after Columbus, sailing the Atlantic Ocean to the west, encountered the American continent in 1492, and thanks to the explorations and conquests of Spain and Portugal carried out during the following years, the world was practically distributed among these two great powers. In addition, with the union of Spain and Portugal in 1581 and expansion across America and parts of Asia and Africa, the maximum splendor of the Spanish empire was reached, occupying almost 15% of the earth's surface, leading to dominate the world panorama for almost three centuries. In the rest of Europe, most countries were still awakening from their winter lethargy of the Middle Ages and, while some were consumed in continuous religious clashes, others were engaged in piracy and pillage, with the Ottoman Empire looming threatening the horizon.

          Under this scenario, world trade increased significantly throughout the new territories of the Spanish Empire, awakened the need to create a strong and recognized currency that would be accepted by all countries for all types of commercial transactions. This coin was the Real de a Ocho, introduced by the Holy Roman Emperor king of Spain, Charles I in 1537. It turned out to be a currency that was never thought to be so important but the fact is that, backed by its strength, it led world trade for more than three centuries. Made of pure quality silver from the mines of Mexico and Potosi in Peru (now Bolivia), it was a large coin with a weight of 27,47 grams and a purity of 93%. The Real de a Ocho, also known as Spanish dollar in the Anglo-Saxon world, spread throughout Europe and America and much of Asia and Africa reaching places as remote as Australia and China.


         The Real de a Ocho began to be minted in 1543 using the hammer technique in the money factories of Burgos, Segovia, Seville, Toledo and Granada. In 1586, King Philip II modernized the technique of minting with the use of horizontally developed hydraulic mills. This consisted of a large tree that transmitted the force from the wheels in the water canal to the minting machinery inside the building. The Real Money Factory of Segovia was designed by the famous architect Juan de Herrera, being located in the left margin of the river Eresma. The Real de a Ocho was emitted in this place until 1868.

             The coin shows in one of the faces a great shield of the Spanish monarchy and in the other the effigy of the reigning king or a shield surrounded by a field quartered of lions and castles. The mint mark of the coinage of Segovia represents the Roman aqueduct of the same, as can be seen in the coins to the left, in the position corresponding to nine of the hourly sphere.

             The Real de a Ocho not only served as a model for coinage of other countries but also, in the design of the dollar symbol, also wanted to see the influence of the Spanish currency.


           The coinage where the Columns of Hércules appear correspond to the American issues of the Indian currency. One of the first mints of America was the mint of Mexico showing two vertical bars representing the Columns of Hercules on both sides of the shield and lazily curl some bands with the legend "Plus Ultra". It seems that the S figure of the dollar symbol would be the band, stylized to form an S, and the two vertical bars would be the columns. It is possible that the one who designed the symbol of the "euro" used this same idea, rotating 90 degrees the Columns of Hércules to cross horizontally the C that conforms this symbol. In any case, it does not seem that much had been discussed in its design. In our visit to the Segovian monument, we had the opportunity to learn many more about the famous Real de a Ocho and to see the Museum where we could see pieces of the minting machinery and numerous details of the history of this mint. We were left with the nostalgia of having visited a place that had its importance during the development of the greatest and extensive empire that has ever existed.

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