Friday, May 1, 2009

What this blanket cost . . . stanza the second

All right, so how much did a 2 1/2 point blanket (roughly a twin size, 4'x5' size) cost?

And the chorus chimes in . . . "It all depends."

In a sense, price and value are two very different things. I will set aside "value", that is what is this thing worth in relative terms (whether contemporaneously or today) for a later discussion.

When speaking of the price of the blanket, the cost can be denoted in a variety of period monetary values from English guineas and shillings (gold/silver) to French Louis d'or, crowns, pistole, and sols (gold/silver) to Spanish milled doubloons or 4-pistole pieces, milled dollars, and pistareens (gold/silver) to Dutch Johannes (gold), or even later the US Eagle or dollar (gold/silver).

All these currencies were floating around, in varying amounts and accessability. For the purposes of the fur trade of the latter 18th century, a denomination in Canadian/English currency is appropriate, though the standards there, too, were dependent on and pegged to Spanish gold and, more precisely, Spanish silver dollars.

So, then, what of this 2 1/2 point blanket? How much did it cost?

Well, you know the chorus . . .

But let's just refer to the standard currency denomimates of Canada for this period.

Ah, there's a wrinkle, now.

In Canada, post Conquest, there were a number of currency standards in play. Without rehearsing a lot of economic history, let us refer to the shilling.

There were:
*Shillings, denoted in Sterling exchange
(that is, shillings as pegged to the English pound, and the price of silver)

*Shillings, of a variety of denoted but not actually minted
(shillings with a different silver exchange rate than the £ Sterling)
Quebec (New England)
York (as in New York)

Of course, there were other monetary valuations: ancien cours (livre/sols, from the French regime in Canada and still used after the Conquest for accounting), Grand Portage livre (GP, a differing valuation form of livres) for a few examples. This does not include, as yet, a discussion of commodity exchange price (ie beaver pelts).

All of the shilling denotations were in play at various times and in various places in Canada.

Interestingly, the dominant coins in Canada were French: French Crowns and half-Crowns and pistareens.

Also, coins often were in such short supply that exchange rate competition between Canada, England, and the American Colonies became a point of contention. The Halifax rating held the Spanish dollar (the "universal" standard of silver) at 5 shillings, above the accepted 4 shillings 6 pence (d) sterling. The point being to attract silver and coinage to Canada at this rate.

For our purposes, though, the £ Halifax valuation and the English £ Sterling will be the standard by which we will determine "what this blanket cost".

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