Sacred Origin of the Dollar Sign



Offering Plate from Cokesbury catalogue

I believe I know the origin of the peso/dollar sign from my research. There are many popular theories on the origin of the dollar sign.  Some have said that it comes from the Spanish royal coat of arms, which features the two vertical Pillars of Hercules, plus some fabric swirls that, with a lot of imagination, could just possibly be taken as an “S”.  But this seems farfetched.

Another common theory in the US is that the dollar sign is composed of the “U” and the “S” printed in overstrike, with the bottom of the “U” cut off.  The problem with this theory is that the dollar sign was not an American invention.  It first appeared as a symbol for pesos in several Hispanic colonies.  It is also used in several former British colonies, including Canada and Australia.

The explanation that I have come up with allows for the presence of the in both English and Spanish-speaking countries. You will not find this answer published anywhere except for my blog site.

In Greek, the first three letters of Jesus’ name are IES. The Greek letter for the long-E sound is Eta, which is written as “H”. Christian iconography often uses IHS as a symbol of or abbreviation for the name Jesus.

Shown above is a typical American offering plate.  This plate displays the IHS logo, in stylized lowercase lettering and without the overstrike (ihs).  It does show that the IHS symbol is practically the standard for church offering plate logos.

Often the IHS is formed in overstrike mode. IHS in overstrike mode becomes a “$” with three vertical bars. This overprint form of the IHS can be found throughout Europe, and it seems to be a common emblem since the 1700’s.

European churches have used the IHS in overstrike mode for centuries in the bottom of church offering plates. Once you see one these, and think about what you are looking at, it becomes clear where the “$” comes from. Also, this theory confirms why the “$” sign is found both in Spanish and English languages to represent money.




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