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Value of Money

The British monetary units were used. These was the pound ($), the shilling (s) and the pence (d). One pound had the equivalent of 20 s or 240 d and one shilling was worth 12 pences. There where half-pennies and farthings which are 4 of one pence.

So in short:

1 (p) = 20 shilling (s)
1 Shilling (s) = 12 pences (d)
1 pence (d) = 2 half-pennies
1 pence (d) = 4 farthings

Therefore
1 p = 240 pences (d) (1 x 20 x 12) or
1 p = 480 half-pences or
1 p = 960 farthings

Therefore
1 shilling (s) = 12 pences (d), or
1 s = 24 half-pences or
1 s = 48 farthings

Due to British policy very few money was in circullation in Colonial America. English law prohibitet the official export of money to the coloies. Therefore the colonists used foreign money primarily the piece of eight (Spanish eight reales) which was called dollar (from German thaler wich is daalder in Dutch) but also wampum or tobacco for exchange. But for British goods Colonial merchants needed silver.

The worth of one dollar was 54 pences which is 4shilling and 6 pences. When the colonies began to mint their own silver coins in 1652 they reduced the British sterling standard which lead to money units of different value in the different colonies and not on par with Britain. In fact the British, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia shillings were of diffenent values.

In the later colonial period the value of a Spanish dollar (piece of eight) was
4s6d British = 6s Massachusetts = 7s6d Pennsylvania = 8s New York.
A fine ounce of gold was
4p in 1670, 4p13s in 1700 and 4p5s in 1770. (Today price April 2006 the fine ounce is about 600 $)

Even impossible to compare the following list may help to get an idea of the worth of goods in the old days.

1670 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 276 or $ 212 in 2006
1680 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 273 or $ 212 in 2006
1690 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 315 or $ 263 in 2006
1700 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 281 or $ 250 in 2006
1710 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 247 or $ 294 in 2006
1720 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 286 or $ 303 in 2006
1730 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 302 or $ 294 in 2006
1740 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 248 or $ 357 in 2006
1750 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 299 or $ 277 in 2006
1760 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 303 or $ 263 in 2006
1770 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 229 or $ 232 in 2006
1780 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 221 or $ 140 in 2006
1790 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 201 or $ 212 in 2006
1800 2 pound 5 shilling ($10) gives a purchase power of 112 or $ 153 in 2006

Pelts were accepted as payment for goods. A so called standare were beaver pelts "Made-Beaver (MBr). In the 18th century following comparative pelt values were used:
1 Parchment Moose = 2 MBr
1 Drest Moose = 1 1/2 MBr
1 Red Deer = 1 MBr
1 Bear = 2 MBr
1 Wolfe = 2 MBr
1 Catt = 1 MBr
1 Wolverine (they called it quaquehatch) = 2 MBr
1 Black Fox = 3 MBr
1 Grey Fox = 2 MBr
1 Red Fox = 1 MBr
2 Otters = 1 MBr
3 Martins = 1 MBr
1 MBr = 0 pounds / 9 shilling / 8 pences or, refering to above table, so about $ 2.10