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    Encyclopedia of Acadian Life:


     The earliest and most common form of buying something in Acadia was to barter (trade) for it.  You might get a tool for a load of beaver pelts, or some sugar for a bushel of vegetables.  Coinage was scarce in early Acadia, and currency was unheard of.   Coins did manage to make their way to the New World, however.  French coins ... the liard, ecu, and sol ... were the most common.  Sometimes Spanish money would find it's way into their pockets.  Coins were never produced in Acadia, and were not made in New France till later in its history.  Though currency wasn't used, other forms of paper were used as payment.  These included playing cards, ordinances, and certificates.

     The earliest form of payment was in the form of a trade.  This topic is covered on the Trade web page.  It was used between the settlers and Indians from the earliest days and continued throughout the Acadian period.  Common items used for trade were animal products (ie. pelts) and produce.  Some artisans were able to trade items of their craft (ie. coopers could trade barrels).

     Since no coins were made in Canada (New France/Acadia), they had to be brought from Europe.  The King's ship (vaisseau du roi) would transport the coins, primarily used by the government to pay workers, merchants, etc.  If the ship was late (or didn't arrive), the government might have to borrow from the merchants (to whom were issued types of promissory  notes). 
1655 liard
copper Louis XIV 1655 liard
    The coinage used in early Acadia was primarily the coinage of France.  But the French West India Company, established May 26, 1664, started making coinage specifically for French colonies ... including New France and Acadia.   A Royal Proclamation (Feb. 19, 1670), described the 3 types of coins that were made.  They minted 20,000 livres worth of copper 2-denier pieces (doubles), 50,000 livres worth of 5-sols silver pieces, and 30,000 livres worth of 15-sols coins. They were minted in Paris and intended for use in "the Islands and Continent of America".  But legally these coins were only to be used in the New World and couldn't be exchanged in France.  Given that stipulation, they weren't well received in New France/Acadia because they couldn't be used to buy things from France.
1664 1/12 ecu
silver Louis XIV 1664 1/12 ecu
     It was in this era that Spanish coins became widely used in New France.  Part of the reason was that Intendant Talon pushed for increased trade with the French West Indies, and the coinage used most commonly there was the Spanish cob.  They were made of silver and came in 1, 2, 4, and 8 reales.  Another large influx of cobs came from the English.  Even though trade with the English was forbidden, it occurred regularly.  The Spanish cobs, minted in Lima, Mexico City, and Potosi, were quite common in the American colonies.
    The French monetary system was based on the livre, although no coin named livre existed.  The exchange rate of the coinage was as follows:
   • 1 livre = 20 sols       • 1 sol = 12 deniers      • 1 liard = 3 deniers      • 1 ecu = 6 livres
     Sometimes, money was described as follows; if you had 3.5.2, that meant 3 livres, 5 sols, and 2 deniers.  Most lower denominations (ie. deniers, liards, sols) were made of copper.  The sols marques (worth > 12 deniers) were made of billon, a (copper/silver alloy.  The gros ecu a couronne ... worth 6 livres and 12 sols ... was made of silver, as was the dollar (piastre eslpagnole).    The small louis (petit louis), small ecu (petit ecu) and white ecu (ecu blanc) ... worth 3 livres and 6 sols ... were made of silver.  Gold coins included the louis, the pistole, and the guinne portugaise. 
5 sols 1702
silver Louis XIV 1702 5 sols
1670 Louis
Louis XIV 1670 louis
     Since coin production was rarely uniform, an assay balance was often used to determine value, despite what was stamped on them. Filing, clipping, and sweating coins tended to produce a number of light coins in circulation.  So the Superior Council of New France ordered (Sep. 17, 1681) that foreign coins be accepted based on their weight.  So they started regularly weighing and sta
     There was also a difference between the value of the same coin in France and in New France/Acadia.  The money in Canada (argent du Canada) was worth 25% more than in France (argent de France).  This disparity continued until 1717, when the King made them equal at home and abroad.

    From the start, coins were scarce in the New World.  It was common for a merchant or person to write a note for payment, even for small amounts.  A common term for them was Bon Pours, because they usually began with "Good for ..."
    In 1685, the government of New France was badly in need of money (and the coins hadn't arrived).   So Intendant Demeulle invented card money.  He printed amounts of money on playing cards and put his seal on them.  He made up 30,000 livres in "money" this way.  When the King’s ship arrived, he’d redeem the card money for coins.  This system stopped the following year, once the coins arrived; but it resumed in 1689 and continued until 1714.  At the time of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714, there were 2 million livres of playing card money in circulation.  The effects of the Treaty caused a decline in the value of the card money by almost 75%. 
Playing card money ... 1714
Card money ... 1753 The King later returned to card money in 1729 because the merchants insisted.  The new cards were white with corners cut according to a fixed table (though playing cards were sometimes  still used).  The values of the new cards were as follows:

     • whole card = 24 livres
     • 1 quarter cut = 6 livres
     • corners cut off = 3 livres
     • half card = 7 sols 6 deniers

     Other forms of paper money were also being used, especially for larger amounts.  Certificates were issued for a specific amount and given to a suppier by a storekeepeer.  Ordinary citizens, in order to avoid using cash, might exchange a draft (traite, or lettre de change).  Sometimes the intendant would issue and sign a promissory note, known as an order (ordonnance). 

•  Canada's First Coinage
•  Canada's Playing Card Money
•  Currency Museum of the Bank of Canada
•  Money and Banking in British North America

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