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  • Introduction to New Netherland History
  • Wampum in New Netherland

    Money Substututes in New Netherland and Early New York: Charts Illustrating Wampum Value Depreciation


    Below are charts relating to the value of wampum beads in New Netherland and early New York. The first section displays charts showing the depreciation in the number of beads per stuiver. The second section adds to this information the continual depreciation of wampum value in relation to the beaver pelt. The third section charts the rate of wampum in relation to silver coin during the later part of the Seventeenth century.


    I. Wampum Rates: Depreciation in the number of Beads per Stuiver

    The following two charts show the depreciation of wampum relative to the number of wampum beads needed to equal one stuiver (a stuiver was equal to one penny), as cited in the various regulations and letters mentioned in the text. Also included in the chart is the number of beads needed to equal one guilder. One guilder, sometimes called a florin, was the basic unit of commerce and equalled 20 stuivers.

    I a. Wampum Bead Usage in General Trade

    This chart shows the number of wampum beads per stuiver in general usage, as cited in the various regulations and letters mentioned in the text.

    Date Type of Wampum Beads per Stuiver Beads per Guilder Guilders per Fathom* Type of Wampum Beads per Stuiver Beads per Guilder Guilders per Fathom*
    1641 Good 4 80 gl. 4 : 10 ------ ------ ------ ------
    Poor 6 120 gl. 3 ------ ------ ------ ------
    1650 White 6 120 gl. 3 Black 3 60 gl. 6
    Poor White 8 160 gl. 2 : 5 Poor Black 4 80 gl. 4 : 10
    Oct. 1658 White 8 160 gl. 2 : 5 Black 4 80 gl. 4 : 10
    Oct. 1664 White 8 160 gl. 2 : 5 Black 4 80 gl. 4 : 10
    June 1673 White 6 120 gl. 3 Black 3 60 gl. 6

    *A fathom is a standard length of wampum about six feet in length containing approximately 360 beads. The value given in this column is based on 360 beads expressed in guilders and stuivers (1 guilder = 20 stuivers) as follows: gl. 4 : 10 for 4 guilders and 10 stuivers.

    The October 1664 rate is included as it represents the rate promulgated by the British after occuping the area; it was specified in an order from Governor Nicolls on October 10, 1664 and was also mentioned in the request of Hempsteed, Long Island from November 2, 1669. The June 24, 1673 rate is from the proclamation found in the Council minutes upgrading the value of wampum.


    I b. Wampum Bead Values in WIC Transactions

    The West India Company continued to trade wampum at the rate of 8 guilders in wampum per beaver long after the general commerce rate had rose to between 20 and 24 guilders in wampum per beaver. To partly make up the difference the WIC officers authorized revaluations in the number of beads per stuiver. These rates were not in general commercial use rather they were limited to company business.

    Date Type of Wampum Beads per Stuiver Beads per Guilder Guilders per Fathom* Type of Wampum Beads per Stuiver Beads per Guilder Guilders per Fathom*
    June 1660 White 10 200 gl. 1: 16 Black 5 100 gl. 3 : 12
    1662 White 16 320 gl. 1 : 2.5 Black 8 160 gl. 2 : 5
    Jan. 1663 White 24 480 15 stuivers Black 12 240 gl. 1 : 10

    *A fathom is a standard length of wampum about six feet in length containing approximately 360 beads. The value given in this column is based on 360 beads expressed in guilders and stuivers (1 guilder = 20 stuivers) as follows: gl. 4 : 10 for 4 guilders and 10 stuivers.

    The rate for July 1660 is based on Styversant's letter of July 25, 1660 where he stated the company was collecting tobacco and farming taxes at ten wampum beads per stuiver. The 1662 and 1663 rates were mentioned in relation to payments to be made to company employees, primarily for wages; both rates are based on the ordinance of December 28, 1662. That ordinance specified the rate had been 16 white beads per stuiver and as of January 1, 1663 the rate would be 24 white beads per stuiver with black beads at 12 per stuiver. The 1662 rate for black beads was not mentioned in the ordinance and had been assumed to be double the value of the white.


    II. Wampum Rates: Depreciation of Wampum in Relation to Beaver

    The following charts show the devaluation of wampum as it is reflected in both (a) the continuingly increasing number of beads needed to equal a stuiver as well as (b) in the increasing quantities of guilders in wampum needed to equal a beaver pelt. The interaction of these two factors, the former set by regulations and the latter set by the market, are more readily apparent when seen in a chart showing the actual increase in the number of beads needed to equal a beaver pelt.

    II a. Wampum Depreciation in Relation to a Beaver Pelt in General Trade

    Date Guilders in Wampum per Beaver Type of Wampum Number of Beads Type of Wampum Number of Beads Ratio of White / Black Beads to One Guilder in Wampum
    1641 gl. 8 Good 640 ------ ------ 80 : 1
    gl. 8 Poor 960 ------ ------ 120 : 1
    May 1650 - Oct. 1657 gl. 10 White 1,200 Black 600 120 / 60 : 1
    gl. 12 White 1,440 Black 720
    Nov. 1657 gl. 10 White 1,600 Black 800 160 / 80 : 1
    gl. 12 White 1,920 Black 960
    Nov. 1658 gl. 14 White 2,240 Black 1,120 160 / 80 : 1
    gl. 16 White 2,560 Black 1,280
    June 1660 gl. 15 White 2,400 Black 1,200 160 / 80 : 1
    gl. 16 White 2,560 Black 1,280
    1662 gl. 20 White 3,200 Black 1,600 160 / 80 : 1
    ca.1670 gl. 24 White 3,840 Black 1,920 160 / 80 : 1
    June 1673 gl. 24 White 2,880 Black 1,440 120 / 60 : 1

    The rates for the guilders in wampum per beaver pelt are taken from letters mentioned in the text. When a range is given in a document the highest and lowest amounts are show for that date. I have then calculated the number of beads this would equal based on the rating for white and black beads at that date. The ratio of beads per guilder is given in the final column. For fuller information on the bead rates see the wampum bead charts above in section one.

    For the May 1650 - Oct. 1657 period I have not included the poor quality wampum rates as they are the same as the general rates established in November 1657. In the minutes of the New Amsterdam court, which survive from the period starting in the mid 1650's, there are several cases from 1656-1658 in which the defendant wants payment at the 12 guilder rate while the plaintiff offers payment at the 10 guilder rate! These cases are usually assigned to an arbitrator so no resolution is recorded. The November 1657 rates reflects the devaluation of wampum beads to 8 white or 4 black per stuiver (from 6 white or 3 black per stuiver). Styversant's letters of November 1658 and June 1660 mention the beaver pelt rates listed under those dates. In the ordinance of December 28, 1662 it was mentioned beaver pelts were trading at between 20 and 24 guilders in wampum, however in most New Amsterdam court cases of the period when a rate is mentioned it is 20 guilders in wampum per beaver (as on: Jan. 10, 1662; Sept. 18, 1663; July 8, 1664; and April 18, 1665). The 24 guilders rate is mentioned in the ordinance of December 28, 1662 and is found in New Amsterdam court cases of 1670 and 1674 and well as in later documents, as the January 18, 1677 John Shakerly contract to purchase a house in New York City. The rate of June 1673 reflects the revaluation of wampum to 6 white or 3 black beads per stuiver.


    II b. Wampum Depreciation in Relation to a Beaver Pelt in WIC Transactions

    Date Guilders in Wampum per Beaver Type of Wampum Number of Beads Type of Wampum Number of Beads Ratio of White / Black Beads to One Guilder in Wampum
    June 1660 gl. 8 White 1,600 Black 800 200 / 100 : 1
    1662 gl. 8 White 2,560 Black 1,280 320 / 160 : 1
    Jan 1663 gl. 8 White 3,840 Black 1,920 480 / 240 : 1

    The West India Company continued to trade wampum at the rate of 8 guilders per beaver long after the general commerce rate was fluctuating up to 20-24 guilders in wampum per beaver. To partly make up the difference WIC authorized a revaluation of the number of beads per stuiver. As explained in chart I b the white wampum rates rose from the standard 8 beads per stuiver to 10 beads per stuiver, then up to 16 beads and finally 24 beads per stuiver. These increased beads per stuiver rates were not in general commercial use but were limited to specific company reeipts and payments into and out of the general treasury. The final revaluation to 24 beads a stuiver put the company rate of 8 guilders per beaver on par with the commercial rate of 24 guilders per beaver (at 8 beads per stuiver).


    III. Wampum Rates: Wampum in Relation to Silver Coin

    This chart shows the depreciation in wampum relative to silver coin during the British era.

    Date 24 Guilders Value (£ 2) in: Type of Wampum Number of Beads Type of Wampum Number of Beads Silver to Wampum ratio
    June 24, 1673 Silver Coin White 8,640 Black 4,320 1 : 3
    June 23,
    1675
    Massachusetts Silver White 8,640 Black 4,320 1 : 3
    British Sterling White 11,520 Black 5,760 1 : 4
    Danckaerts
    Diary
    1679
    Holland Money white
    (loose ?)
    14,400 black
    (loose ?)
    7,200 1 : 5

    I used 24 guilders (480 stuivers) in the second column as the conversion amount since it was familiar as the wampum to beaver rate. As a stuiver equalled a penny 24 guilders would convert to £2. The rates for 1673 only specify the relationship of wampum to the "Value of Silver" while the 1675 rates distinguish between Massachusetts silver and British Sterling. The rate for 1680 is taken from the Diary of Jasper Danckaerts for the days from September 25-29, 1679 where he mentioned three small transations paid in wampum which Danckaerts calculated at about a 1 : 5 ratio with Holland coin. As this rate differs from the official rate is is possible these small purchases were made in loose wampum, but that fact is not mentioned.


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    Wampum in New Netherland
    and Early New York
    Section Contents The Beaver Pelt in New Netherland
    and Early New York


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