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V12 2009 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 34, August 23, 2009, Article 13

QUERY: HOW LATE WERE SHILLINGS AND PENCE USED IN THE U.S.?

Philip Mernick of London writes:

I am currently reading "The Potters & Potteries of Bennington" by John Spargo (1926 reprinted Dover, New York, 1972) and in quoting diary entries from the 1820s giving prices of pots, some items are priced in dollars and cents and others in shillings and pence. Could people still be using shillings in Vermont at that time?

Since I was already corresponding with him, I forwarded Philip's question to longtime colonial money collector Joe Lasser, who writes:

The answer is quite clearly "yes" looked at from several viewpoints. First, keep in mind that our fledgling mint had produced and was producing only a very limited amount of coinage. Dr. Dick Doty points out in America's Money America's Story that only 50 cent pieces were struck in 1810, 1812, 1813 and 1817 and that seven of the ten authorized denominations ... "were unpopular and rarely struck because there existed better-known foreign coins that were preferred in trade" .

Secondly, it is generally accepted that English coinage denominations historically had been the customary presentation in money of account for decades. Also, remember that Canada is Vermont's neighbor to the north and that Montreal is closely proximate to Vermont's border. As a consequence, English coinage easily could have circulated in the nearby area.

All of these factors plus the fact that U.S. coinage did not become the sole legal tender in our country until 1857 indicate that it would be a normal and customary practice to express prices in both American and English terms.

Philip Mernick adds:

It seems clear from the diary entries quoted that currency played relatively little part in the rural economy at that time and in that place. Most business was done by exchange with whatever other commodity was available, often cider.

Thanks, Joe. Other theories and comments are welcome. -Editor

THE BOOK BAZARRE

DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE offers rare and out of print material on numismatics from around the world. For our ANA book catalogue, from which much remains available, see our Web site at www.fanningbooks.com .


Wayne Homren, Editor

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