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Dollar ($) and Cent (¢) Signs

July 17, 2009

dollar sign

The dollar sign has a long history in this country.  Unfortunately, its cousin, the cent sign, is disappearing from our culture.

 The dollar sign emerged in the late 1700s. During that period Spanish dollars or pesos were widely used in the colonies.  The abbreviation for pesos was “ps.”  Over time, the “s” was written over the “p” and the dollar sign, “$”, came into being.

 The origins of the cent sign are a little less clear. Some speculate that the cent sign dates to the early 19th century.  It was common to place a line through a letter as a way of indicating that it was a currency symbol, so the lower case “c’ for cents became“¢.”

block_cent_sign_16196sYou may think that the demise of the cent sign is due largely to the fact that very few things cost less than a dollar.  Actually, the disappearance of the cent sign has more to do with computers than inflation. During the 1960s, computer manufactures were challenged with how to incorporate all the letters and symbols used in communication into computer programs.  Based on the slots available, a number of symbols were unable to be used.  Fractions, along with the cent sign, disappeared.

 The full impact of this was not felt until personal computers began to appear in the late 1970s.  With the cent sign unavailable on our keyboards, we adopted the scheme of using the dollar sign, and 12¢ became $0.12.  Computer manufacturers eventually added the cent sign to the symbols menu, although, the sign is out of sight and mind.

The cent sign – something we will be able to talk to our grand kids about – remember when……………………

Keep on saving,


Chris Hayman


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