A Project of the Robert H. Gore, Jr. Numismatic Endowment
University of Notre Dame, Department of Special Collections
by Louis Jordan

Images Coordinated by
James C. Spilman and the Colonial Newsletter Foundation

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FAQ: What is the Purchasing Power of a Colonial Pound in today's money?

Often people wish to know the purchasing power of money in colonial America as compared to its purchasing value today. There is a book that converts the purchasing power of money from the past into today's dollar. It lists values from America back to 1665 and for Britain back to 1600 in relation to the purchasing power of a US dollar in 2001. The work is:

John J. McCusker, How Much is that in Real Money? A Historical Commodity Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2001.

ISBN 1-929545-01-0. This work was published in August 2001, 132 pages, hardcover at $15.00. Oak Knoll Press, 310 Delaware Street, New Castle, DE 19720

Further, there are several online databases and sites available at:




One can also read the explanatory essays listed on the bottom of our colonial currency site at:


Especially relevant are the essay on The Value of Money in Colonial America and the 1702 Assay.

You will discover the pound in the American colonies was usually not equal to the pound sterling (the British pound). For example, the VA pound was 20% less valuable than the British pound, although in Maryland the pound equalled the British standard. Further the pound in various colonies differed, thus 6s in Massachusetts equalled 8s in New York and 7s6d in Pennsylvania. American colonial transaction in pounds would usually be in pounds of account while only those specifically listed as pounds sterling would be in the value of British pounds.

There is a standard reference listing the exchange rates between the different colonies: John J. McCusker, Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600-1775: A Handbook, North Carolina: U of NC at Chapel Hill, 1978, 367pp.