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Making sense of old handwriting


Portuguese Currency:

As you are going through old documents, it can be useful to have a basic understanding of what types of currency were being used during different time periods.

1139-1433 A.D.

The first currency of Portugal was the Portuguese Dinheiro issued by the first King of Portugal; Dom Afonso Henriques. D. Afonso Henriques also issued denominations of half a Dinheiro called Mealha sometime after 1179. Like many other medieval kingdoms of the time, the currency mirrored the older Roman system, and thus twelve Dinheiros equaled one Italian Soldo, and twenty Soldos equaled one Libra.

Around 1200, the second king, Dom Sancho I, introduced the gold Morabitino, which was worth fifteen Soldos. About a decade later, the sixth king, Dom Dinis I, introduced the silver Tornês, which was worth 5,1/2 Soldos. In 1380 King Fernando I introduced several new coins: the gold Dobra (=6 Libras), the silver Real (=10 Soldos), and several billion denominations such as the Pilarte (=7 Dinheros).

It is important to note that in this period, it was difficult to standardize a type of currency like today and, therefore, many other forms of currency circulated alongside the Dinheiro. These include the Byzantine Siliquae, the Moorish Dirhem & Dinar, the Spanish Dinero, among others.

1433-1911 A.D.


In 1433 the Dinheiro was officially replaced by the Portugues Real (plural: réis or archaic reais), which was introduced by King Fernando I and was used until 1911 at a rate of 1 Real to 840 Dinheiros. During the reign of João II (1455-1495), the Cruzado was introduced at an initial value of 324 Réis, but its value changed over time. There was also the Vintém (=20 réis) and the Tostão (=100 réis). There were also different coins and banknotes issued in Réis for use in other parts of the Portuguese Empire, of which Brazil still uses the Real as its present currency.

1911-1999 A.D.

Due to the 1910 Republican Revolution, the Portuguese Escudo replaced the Real in Portugal are a rate of 1000 Réis to 1 Escudo. This was further subdivided into 100 Centavos.


The Escudo was used in the Portuguese mainland, the Azores, and Madeira without distinction. In the African colonies, the Escudo was used until their independence in 1975; however, various local coins were often circulating alongside. Of these, only Cabo Verde still uses the Escudo.

In colonial Macau, the Macanese Pataca was and is still used.

Timor-Leste used the Portuguese Timor before switching to the Timor Escudo.

India used the Indian Rupia and then the Indian Escudo from 1958 to 1961 until Goa was annexed by India

1999- Present

Portugal switched to the Euro on 1 January 1999, and the Escudo was removed from circulation on 28 February 2002. Portugal still uses the European Euro currently.

Brazil maintained the Real but briefly replaced it with the Brazilian Cruzeiro from 1942-1967. However, a new form of the Real was brought back into circulation and went through several iterations until the modern Brazilian Real.

Most of Portugal’s other colonies maintained the Portuguese monetary system until soon after they received independence in or after 1975. Around this time, many of these new countries switched to other currencies, like Timor-Leste with the American Dollar, or created their own, like Mozambique with the Metical.


Paleography Introduction