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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Worth of Regency Money

When I read in a Regency about the hero giving a waif a pound, I wonder how much money that Regency pound is today. The worth of money has two parts: its value in today's money, and what you could buy with it then.

Here's an Old Money to New Calculator from the British National Archives that translates yesterday's money into today's.

According to this calculator: In 1820, £1 0s 0d would have the same spending worth of today's £41.92

For all of us Yanks out there, we now need to translate to US dollars. Yahoo Finance has a Currency Converter. Here, I select US dollar (USD) and British pound (GBP), setting British pound to 41.92.

For September 21, the day I wrote this post, GBP 41.92 equals 67.9086 USD. Since the exchange rate varies from day to day, you will get a different value on another day.

The second part of the National Archives' currency converter, Buying Power, tells you what you could purchase with that Regency pound: Plug in 41.92 pounds in today's money (1 Regency pound) and select the year 1820.

For 1 pound, you could purchase 6 days (craftsman wages in building trade) or the wool from 1 sheep.

What does this mean? One Regency pound was a lot of money. Coins smaller than the sovereign or guinea, which I listed in my last post, could easily handle most day-to-day transactions.

The other important fact is that labor was cheap and commodities, including food, were expensive. A Regency construction worker had to work six days of more than eight hours each to earn enough money for the wool for a suit of clothes.

That Regency lord was very generous, and that waif was very lucky.

Thank you all,



Joyce Moore said...

Linda: I don't write in Regency, but this is awesome. I've always struggled with what a certain coin would buy, or the price of something, say, in 13th century. I bookmarked all your mentioned sites under a new folder in Favorites called Old Money. I'm sure one of these sites will be SO helpful next time I want to know how much someone paid for chocolate in 16th c. Venice. Thanks so much!

Linda Banche said...

You're welcome, Joyce. It's always interesting to know what you could buy with old money.

Jaimey Grant said...

You have no idea how much I needed this info. I do write Regency and have more or less avoided anything too detailed in this area because I couldn't figure out how much was too much. Thank you so much for posting this. :o)

Linda Banche said...

Glad to help, Jaimey. I have other links about old money. Maybe another post is in order.

Beverley Eikli said...

Hi Joyce, Your blog info was brilliant! I'm doing final edits on my third Regency Historical and on the basis of your 'old money' post I've drastically reviewed the size of a gambling debt my heroine owes the hero. Thank you so much!

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