Re: Traditional dollar sign

From: Doug Ewell (
Date: Sun Oct 26 2003 - 22:45:38 CST

Kevin Brown <graphity at adelaide dot on dot net> wrote:

> On 27/10/03 3:13 AM, Simon Butcher <> wrote:
>> I was taught at school that the double-bar form was used when
>> Australia switched to decimal currency in 1966, and that it was
>> incorrect to write the single-bar form when referring to Australian
>> dollars. I guess the single-bar form had taken over due to the lack
>> of support from type-faces and computing devices, although it's still
>> quite common to see it in Australian publications, especially in
>> large fonts (headlines, advertising, etc).
> I was also taught in an Australian school (Queensland) at the time of
> our decimal currency chageover, but my experience is exactly the
> opposite of Simon's. We were taught to use the single bar form to
> distinguish the Australian dollar from the U.S. dollar.

Both of these sound like well-intentioned attempts to create a
typographical distinction that never really caught on.

If either of these conventions had achieved widespread use, both glyphs
probably would have made their way into contemporary character sets.
This, in turn, would have paved the way for both to be encoded in
Unicode, just as U+00A3 POUND SIGN (£) and U+20A4 LIRA SIGN (₤) are both
encoded due to artificial glyph distinctions.

However, the presence of two opposing conventions serves as a strong
hint that there was no consensus in 1966, nor now, as to how glyph
variants of the dollar sign were to be used to stand for different types
of dollars.

Kevin later quoted the Decimal Currency Board:

> (c) where it is necessary to distinguish the Australian dollar from
> overseas currencies, the letter A should be placed immediately after
> the dollar sign - $A;"

Interesting. I've often seen the opposite, A$ or AU$, even in contexts
that only involved Australian dollars, not U.S. dollars.

Of course you can always just use AUD and USD and be done with it.

> These specific recommendations were to be read in the context of the
> Board's overall recommendations that:
> "It is not considered practicable to prescribe, for all purposes,
> exact symbols for dollars and cents, or precise methods of expressing
> dollars and cents in words or figures"

The European Commission might have chosen to follow this example 30
years later, instead of trying to mandate that the Euro glyph remain
invariant in all fonts and contexts.

> Incidentally, as far as I know, neither the dollar symbol nor cent
> symbol have ever appeared on Australia's paper money or coinage.
> Is this unusual?

Not necessarily. As far as I can tell, the cent sign has never been
used on any regular-issue U.S. coin. The dollar sign was used
occasionally for decoration on large-sized (pre-1929) U.S. currency, but
not on small-sized issues (except for the bank-only $100,000 note).
Other countries do tend to make greater use of currency symbols on their
legal tender.

-Doug Ewell
 Fullerton, California

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