Red Book 70: Spanish Milled Dollar
The first coin in the first edition of the Red Book – a 1766 Mexico City 8 reales – appeared below the headline “The Spanish Milled Dollar,” “The Coin of Our Nation’s Founders.”
The text: “The Spanish milled dollar otherwise known as the ‘pillar dollar’ and ‘piece of eight’ has been given a place in romantic fiction unequalled by any other coin.
“The time-honored piece was the chief coin of the American colonists and actually was the forerunner of our silver dollar. It became so fundamentally a part of the everyday course of business during the colonial period that its official adoption as the standard unit of value for United States money was a natural and desirable development.”
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That brilliantly written description perhaps unintentionally connected the coin with pirates in the minds of young collectors and inspired generations of numismatists to add one to their collections as a birth-point of U.S. coinage.
The coin retains its preeminent place in the current Red Book, though the coin pictured now is a 1734 Mexico City piece.
The text, too, has changed, giving more detail about its place in Continental Congress deliberations and its value ($225 in Fine to Very Fine).
The current description ends with a timely warning that probably would not have been necessary in 1946. “Note that many modern copies of the 8 reales exist. These are produced mostly as souvenirs and have little or no value.”