Today brought a visit to La Casa Nacional de Moneda (the Bolivian Mint). Built in 1575 & expanded in the 18th century, the Mint resembles a castle to keep any would-be marauders out. All the silver plundered by the Spanish out of the Cerro Rico in Potosi together with gold from Peru was brought here & hammered into shapeless Reales to then be sent into circulation in Spain & throughout colonial America. The largest Reales were called Pieces of Eight. My knowledge of pirate mythology is falling into place!!
The pirate theme continued with massive iron strongboxes with fake locks & 12 lever locking mechanisms built to outwit those pesky pirates!
As cheeky people kept cut small bit off the shapeless coins & pilfering the silver to make fakes, Carlos III decided in mid 18th Century that coins must be a uniform circular shape. This was first achieved through mule power, then steam then electricity driving the machines.
All coins made in the Mint included a mark of the letters in Potosi laid over each other. The resulting mark looks like a $ & hence how the dollar sign came into being.
Am sure y'all are getting rather bored of the history lesson but i promise only a few cool facts to go.
The Mint stopped producing currency in 1951. Now this is the bit I find really cool....since then the 5 Boliviano coin is made in Canada, all other coins (which resemble play money I had as a child) are made in Peru & all the notes are manufactured in France!!!
Hope i haven't sent anyone to sleep but as you could tell I really enjoyed the visit :)