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Measures & Currencies

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Distances & Lengths
Land Area
Weights & Volumes
Currency Values


Our Benitz family history involves the currencies and measures of Argentina, Germany, Mexico, UK, USA, and Venezuela.  This page explains how we arrive at modern equivalents for past measures and monetary values of the 19th century when each country, state, province, and even some cities had its own systems.  Systems that are today unfamiliar to us – and to say the least, confusing.

We include measuring systems referenced in family or legal documents.  Our modern standards are the metric system and US Dollars.  We include the past English / US system of measures for those still familiar with it and for the holdouts (US, Myanmar [Burma], & Liberia) who have not yet adopted the metric system.

Metrification: Argentina c. 1885, Germany c. 1870, Mexico 1860's, Spain 1850's, Venezuela c. 1915, UK / Canada / Australia, et al 1970's.

Sources: They do conflict, so welcome to the fun!

Spreadsheets created from the work of Juan Alvarez, “Temas de historia económica argentina”, Buenos Aires, El Ateneo, 1929.  The measuring systems used the same terms but varied in size by province and usage (urban vs. rural).  We are concerned with only the rural measures of Córdoba and Santa Fé – and have included Buenos Aires because of its political & commercial importance.  Metrified c. 1885.
The German measuring systems varied by city and state – thankfully, we have not encountered them (yet) in our family history and so have omitted them.  However, see the cautionary note with the letters written to Thadeus Benitz in Germany by his brothers in the US.  There were three German currencies, and those we have included.  Metrified c. 1870.
Spain & Mexican California:
See the work of Kenneth Pauley, California Mission Studies Association and the Rescate de antiguas medidas – it includes an interesting historical perspective.  We have not found a definitive work on California weights & volumes and so have used the Mexican standards.  Spain went metric in the late 1850's, Mexico in the 1860's.
See the NIST Handbook – includes conversion to metric.  Has not metrified.
Haven't got there yet.  We will include them when we expand the pages on Alexander, et al, and the Colonia Tovar.  Metrified c. 1915.

Distances & Lengths:


METRIC Metric Other
Metre 100 cms. 1.094 yards
3.281 feet
39.37 inches
Kilometre 1,000 mts. 0.6214 miles
3,280.8 feet
League 5 kms. 3.107 miles
ENGLISH / US Metric Other
Inch 2.54 cms.
Foot 30.48 cms. 12 inches
Yard 91.44 cms. 3 feet
Mile 1,609.3 mts. 5,280 feet
League 4.828 kms. 3 miles

Old Spanish Measures:

The Spanish system of measures contained the following units – there were many more than those we list here.  The official Spanish vara de Burgos (or vara de Castilla) was set by royal Spanish edict in 1801 and measured 0.8359 meters (32.909 inches).

SPANISH Units Metric Other
Legua 6,666.67 varas 5,572.67 3.463 miles
Vara 3 pies 0.8359 2.743 feet
32.909 inches
Pie 12 pulgadas 0.2786 0.914 feet
Pulgada 0.0232 0.914 inches

Mexican California 1840's:

The official vara had 22 accepted variations in California prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo of 1847, which set the vara at 33 inches.  New variations upon 33 inches arose in south-west US until 1855 when the Texas vara was set at 33.333 inches.

California 1847 Units Metric Other
Legua 5,000 varas 4,190.89 13,750 feet
2.604 miles
Vara 3 pies 0.8382 33.00 inches
Texas 1855 Units Metres Other
Legua 5,000 varas 4,232.79 13,887 feet
2.630 miles
Vara 3 pies 0.8466 33.33 inches

US Survey 1850+:

Deeds and survey maps used the following survey measures, which are still used today:

Survey Metric Other
Foot 0.305 mts. 12 in.
Link 0.201 mts. 2/3 foot
Chain 20.117 mts. 100 links
66 feet
4 rods
Mile 1,609.3 mts. 80 chains
320 rods
5,280 feet

Argentina, pre-metric:

Prior to metrification in 1885, the Argentine system of distance & length measures (established in 1835) recognized the following units, to which we added: (a) cuarta (it appears in our family documents and has been described variously as equal to ¼ of a vara, or as the width of a spread hand), and (b) the vara de Bustinza (a measure local to Santa Fé). 

Measurement Fraction
Legua 40
Cuadra 150 varas
Vara 3
Pie 12 pulgadas
Cuarta 9 pulgadas


VARA – 1835 Metres Inches
(Burgos, 1801)
0.8359 32.909
Buenos Aires
0.8666 34.118
Córdoba 0.8676 34.158
Santa Fé 0.8660 34.095
Santa Fé
0.8487 33.413


CUADRA – 1835
(150 varas)
Metres Feet
Buenos Aires 130.0 426.5
Córdoba 130.1 427.0
Santa Fé 129.9 426.2
Santa Fé
127.3 417.7


LEGUA – 1835 Varas Metres Miles
METRIC:   5,000.0 3.1069
Spain (1801) 6,666.67 5,572.7 3.4627
Buenos Aires 6,000 5,199.6 3.2309
Córdoba 6,000 5,205.6 3.2346
Santa Fé 6,000 5,196.0 3.2286
Santa Fé
6,000 5,092.2 3.1641

Land Measures:


  X by X Hectareas Acres
Hectarea 100 metres = 2.471
Square League – Metric 5 kilometres 2,500 6,178
Acre 208.71 feet 0.4047 =
Square Mile – English 1 mile 256 640
Square League – English 3 miles 2,331 5,760

Mexican California 1840's:

Please bear in mind that many survey maps of the early 1800's were estimates made without benefit of proper measurement, e.g. California diseños (survey maps) of the 1840's were often made a ojo (estimated by eye).  The 2.6% maximum variance in the standard Mexican land measure of the 1840's, sitio de ganado mayor, pales in comparison to the huge errors in mapping and translation – witness the legal problems Wilhelm's inaccurate diseño (made a ojo from the back of a horse) caused the subsequent owners of Rancho Herman.

Alta California – 1840's X by X varas Hectareas Acres
Hacienda 5,000 x 25,000 8,782.5 21,701.0
Sitio de Ganado Mayor 5,000 x 5,000 1,756.5 4,340.2
Sitio de Ganado Menor 3,333.33 x 3,333.33 780.6 1,929.0
Milla cuadrada (Spanish mile) 1,666.66 x 1,666.66 195.2 482.3
Fanega de Sembradura (Ft.Ross – see note) 0.162 0.40

Fanega de Sembradura:

The highly inexact area sown by a fanega of seed.  Its size varies enormously, e.g. corn (0.6 – 8.8 acres) or wheat (0.15 – 1.8 acres).  The sizes in the above table were used by Governor Vallejo for wheat sown at Fort Ross in 1841.

Sitio de Ganado Mayor:

During the first half of the 1800's in Mexico, of which California and Texas were part, large land grants were measured in sitios de ganado mayor (or sitios) – often translated into English as Spanish leagues, or simply as leagues which could lead to confusion.  Originally one sitio de ganado mayor was the amount of land considered necessary for a cattle ranch, however, land grants most often consisted of several sitios de ganado mayor.  A sitio de ganado mayor was a square of 5,000 x 5,000 varas.  Simple enough, except that the length of the vara varied over time and place – see above.  It was also considerably smaller than the Spanish or Argentine legua (of 6,666.7 or 6,000 varas per side respectively).

Sitio de
Ganado Mayor
Year Hectareas Acres
Burgos o Castilla 1801 1,746.8 4,316.4
California League 1847 1,756.5 4,340.2
Texas League 1855 1,792.1 4,428.3

Argentina 1835-1885, pre-metric:


Crop yields and land prices were quoted in cuadras. (Some of the older colonos were still using cuadras in the 1950's, stating crop yields in terms of the old quintal of approx. 46 kg. and not the metric quintal of 100 kg.!)

CUADRA – 1835
(150 x 150 varas)
Hectareas Acres
Buenos Aires 1.690 4.176
Córdoba 1.694 4.185
Santa Fé 1.687 4.170


Argentina, the size of estancias (aka: camps or ranches) are often broadly described in leguas de campo or leagues of land.  A legua was 1,600 cuadras (40x40).  In modern terms, a legua or league is a metric square league – we include it here for easier comparison.

LEGUA – 1835
(6,000 x 6,000 varas)
Hectareas Acres
METRIC: 2,500.0 6,177.6
Buenos Aires 2,703.6 6,680.7
Córdoba 2,709.8 6,696.1
Santa Fé 2,699.8 6,671.4

Suerte de estancia:

An old term, still used occasionally to identify a tract of land.  Its size varied according to who (i.e. government body) or when (i.e. period) the land in question was first distributed or auctioned off, but generally speaking each suerte consisted of several leagues of land.  The sizes listed here are by example and varied within and between provinces.

Frente x Fondo
(Width x Depth)
Hectareas Acres
Buenos Aires 0.5 x 1.5 leguas 2,028.0 5,011.3
Santa Fé 1 x 2 leguas 5,400.0 13,343.6

Weights & Volumes:


DRY Volumes Units Litres Other
Litre 1,000 ml
1,000 cc
= 0.227 US gal.
0.220 Brit gal.
Bushel (British) 36.3667 1.032 US bushel
Bushel (US) 4 pecks
8 gallons
35.2391 0.969 Brit.bushel
Peck (US) 2 dry gal. 8.8098
Dry Gallon (US) 4.4049


FLUID Volumes Units Litres Other
Litre 1,000 ml
1,000 cc
= 0.264 US gal.
0.220 Brit gal.
Gallon (British) 4.5461 1.201 US gal.
Gallon (US) 4 quarts 3.7854 0.8327 Brit gal.
Quart (US) 2 pints 0.9464
Pint (US) 16 ounces 0.4732
Ounce (US) 0.0296


WEIGHT Metric Other
Kilogram 1,000 g. 2.205 lb.
Quintal – Metric 100 kg. 220.462 lb.
Ton – Metric 1,000 kg. 2,204.6 lb.
Pound 0.454 kg. 16 oz.
Short Ton – US 907.185 kg. 2,000 lb.

US Bushel:

In spite of being a volume measure it persists in the US for stating crop yields and prices (yet measuring is by weight, the weights are then converted to bushels!).  Being a volume measure, the weight of each seed is dependent on its density (we leave it to the farmers amongst us to adjust for moisture and foreign material).  The following table lists the Standard US Bushel weights by crop.

Pounds Kg. Seed Semilla
28 12.712 Sunflower Girasol
32 14.528 Oats Avena
44 19.976 Barley Cebada
56 25.424 Corn, Rye, Sorghum Maiz, Centeno, Sorgo
60 27.240 Soybeans, Wheat Soja, Trigo

Conversion between US Bushels & Metric:

The following table contains multipliers for converting crop yields between quintales por hectarea (qq./ha.) and bushels per acre (bu./ac.) – the common measures of Argentina and the US.  A quintal is a colloquial term for 100 kilograms, inherited from an older now obsolete measure.

CROP YIELDS Kilograms US Bushels Pounds
 Quintal / Hectarea 100 kg/ha. - 89.22 lb./ac.
Quintal / Hect.: CORN 100 kg/ha. 1.593 bu./ac. 89.22 lb./ac.
 Quintal / Hect.: WHEAT, Soy. 100 kg/ha. 1.487 bu./ac. 89.22 lb./ac.
 Bushel / Acre: CORN 62.77 kg/ha. 1 bu./ac. 56.00 lb./ac.
 Bushel / Acre: WHEAT, Soy. 67.25 kg/ha. 1 bu./ac. 60.00 lb./ac.

Mexican California 1840's:

The following are selected Mexican measures from Rescate de Antiguas Medidas.  We have not discovered a definitive study of Californian measures.  We doubt the accuracy of the volume (both dry & fluid) conversion factors – their relative values don't appear to be simple multiples of the next smaller unit, as would be expected. For example, a carga is exactly two fanegas (ok!), but a fanega is somewhat less than four cuarterones, which is not a practical relationship for it makes it difficult to add together portions of a fanega.

DRY Volumes Units Litres US Bushel
Carga 2 fanegas 181.60 5.15
Fanega 4- cuarterón 90.80 2.58
Cuarterón 2+ – 5+ almud 25.00 0.71
Almud   4.50 – 11.00 0.13 – 0.31


FLUID Volumes Units Litres US Gallon
Barril 8- jarras 63.29 16.72
Jarra 8+ cuartos 8.21 2.17
Cuarto 2+ cuartillos 0.95 0.25
Cuartillo 0.46 0.12


The weight measures make sense; that is, their relative values are simple multiples of the next smaller unit.

WEIGHTS Units Metric US
Quintal 4 arrobas 46.024 Kg. 101.466 lb.
(F.Ross: 101.2 lb.)
Arroba 25 libras 11.506 Kg. 25.366 lb.
Libra 2 marcos 460.25 g. 1.015 lb.
Marco 8 onzas 230.00 g. 8.113 oz.
Onza 28.75 g. 1.014 oz.

Argentina 1835-1885, pre-metric:

DRY Volumes Units Santa Fé
Fanega 4 cuartilla 220 217 137.3
Cuartilla 3 almud 55.00 54.25 34.33
Almud 18.33 18.08 11.44


CROPS Santa Fé Córdoba Buenos Aires
Weight per Fanega arroba kg. arroba kg. arroba kg.
Wheat 15 173.7 9 103.4
Corn 16 185.3 16 186.4 16 183.8
Corn+cob 12 139.0 12 139.8 12 137.8


FLUID Volumes Units Santa Fé
Pipa 6 barriles 456.0 480.2 456.0
Barril 20 galones
32 frascos
76.0 80.0 76.0
Galón 3.8 frascos 9.025 10.008
(4.0016 frascos)
Frasco 4 cuartas 2.375 2.501 2.375
Cuarta 2 octavas 0.594 0.625 0.594
Octava 0.297 0.313 0.297


WEIGHT Units Santa Fé Córdoba Bs.As.
Tonelada 20 quintales 926.6 kg. 931.8 kg. 918.8 kg.
Quintal 4 arrobas 46.33 kg. 46.59 kg. 45.94 kg.
Arroba 25 libras 11.58 kg. 11.65 kg. 11.49 kg.
Libra 16 onzas 463.3 gm. 465.9 gm. 459.4 gm.
Onza 16 adarmes 28.96 gm. 29.12 gm. 28.71 gm.
Adarme 3 tomines 1.810 gm. 1.820 gm. 1.795 gm.
Tomín 12 granos 603.3 mg. 606.6 mg. 598.2 mg.
Grano 50.27 mg. 50.55 mg. 49.85 mg.

Currency Values:

For simplicity, on this site we state currency values in terms of US Dollars (close of 31 Dec., 2000) as follows:

However, estimating the value of money should be done more carefully and appropriate to the analysis sought.  Though the US-CPI is used widely, it typically underestimates the relative worth of past amounts.


From the Historical Text Archive:

“One of the most difficult tasks in dealing with the past is to get people to think historically about prices and income. Remembering what something cost 40 years ago does not tell us much; knowing how long the person had to work to acquire it does.”

Economists, when calculating inflation (e.g. the US-Consumer Price Index "CPI"), exclude the cost of improvements to the standard of living (horse vs. combustion engine, heart transplants, telephones, computers).  Consequently, the CPI seriously underestimates the relative worth of a $1 (USD) earned in the past vs. today.

We stronlgly recommend you visit the Measuring Worth web-site for an enlightning discusssion with apt examples of how worth can and should be measured under different situations.  For an amusing example, quoting from the web page:

“George Washington was paid a salary of $25,000 a year from 1789 to 1797 as the first president of the United States.  The current [2012] salary of the president is now $400,000, to go with a $50,000 expense account, a generous pension and several other benefits.  Has the remuneration improved?

“Making a comparison using the CPI [Consumer Price Index] for 1790 shows that $25,000 corresponds to over $647,000 today [2012], so current presidents have an equal command over consumer goods as the Father of the Country.

“When comparing Washington's salary to an unskilled worker, or the measure of average income, GDP [Gross Domestic Product] per capita, then the comparable numbers are $12 to $27 million.  Granted that would not put him in the ranks of the top 25 executives today that make over $200 million.  It would, however, be many times more than any elected official in this country is paid today.  Finally, to show the "economic power" of his wage, we see that his salary as a share of GDP would rank him equivalent to $2.1 billion.”


There are many indices, the US-CPI being the most well known.  Indices should be applied appropriate to the analysis.  Again, for a clear discussion, please visit the Measuring Worth web-site.

As an example of an index, we can create our own cowboy index: the activities & skills of a cowboy have changed little during the past 100-150 years.  By several accounts, in about 1875 a cowboy earned $30 per month, or $360 per year. Adjusted for inflation per the US-CPI, the $360 in 1875 is worth about $7,800 in 2000 (a multiplier of 21.7).  In 2003, the mean wage of a farm hand in New Mexico was $20,010 per year.  Comparing the wages for the same work (360 vs 20,010) provides an earnings based multiplier of approx. 55.8.  That is, based on his earnings, the cowboy’s 25¢ shot of whisky in 1875 cost him ¼ day’s work or $14 earned in today’s dollars.

However inaccurate our multiplier may be, used appropriately it provides a better understanding of the worth, in today's terms, of a cowboy’s earnings in the past.  A similar measure could be created for a peón de campo's wages – see Alfred Benitz's diaries for the wages he paid during the 1890's.

Issues with Precious Metals

In terms of the US-Consumer Price Index, both gold and silver were relatively much more expensive in the 19th century than in the 20th.  In more recent times, the recession of 2007-2010 greatly increased the demand for precious metals, dramatically inflating their prices during that period.  Because of the distorting effects of temporary economic conditions, precious metals should not be used for comparing worth between periods.


The ratio of silver ounces per gold ounce remained relatively stable at 15:1 or 16:1 until the mid to late 1870's when it began to slip with the discovery of large silver deposits.  At the close of 2000, the silver:gold ratio was 59:1.

Gold Standard:

It first emerged in the UK during the early 1700's, it was abandoned in 1790 (due to the Napoleonic wars) then resumed in 1819.  Its adoption spread during the 1800's – the US adopted it in 1879 (dropping its bimetal standard with silver).  It effectively placed the world economy on a single currency – the US Dollar was valued at 1.5047 grams (23.22 grains), the British Pound at 7.3224 grams (113.0 grains).  Attractive to entrepreneurs and capital rich countries (UK, US), it harmed the working class and primary product exporting countries (Argentina, Canada), and deepened economic down turns into depressions.  It collapsed with WW-I, was then resurrected for a short while until it was finally laid to rest by the Great Depression.  For more details, see:

Country Adopted Abandoned
Argentina 1812
France   1936
Mexico 1931
UK Early 1700's
1914? WW-I
US Silver & Gold: 1792
Silver & Gold: 1866
Gold: 1879
Gold: 1920
1861 Civil War
1914? WW-I

Buying Power, & the Cost of Living

Buying Power:

Buying power is what a unit of currency will buy in one place (city, country) versus another on a given date.  Here is an example from the Economist magazine (17 Jan.'04) - it showed how the buying power of the US Dollar varied geographically by converting to US dollars the local price of a McDonald's Big Mac hamburger: Switzerland $5.11, Euro area $3.48, USA $2.80, Argentina $1.43, China $1.23.  Same product, same currency, different price.

[2010: Because of the “Big Mac” index, the Argentine government in a vain attempt to hide the true inflation rate from its people pressured McDonald’s to not offer the sandwitch in Argentina.]

Cost of Living:

Cost of living is typically expressed in comparative terms, e.g. New York is twice as expensive to live in as Miami, Buenos Aires twice as expensive as Bahia Blanca.   You should be aware that:

Brief Histories of the Currrencies:

For a historical discussion of past currencies, see Money and Coinage in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe.


The Spanish Real de a Ocho reigned as the monetary standard in world trade for nearly 400 years, from 1500 until the late 1800's, giving birth to more than 50% of the world's currencies, including the US dollar.  The official name of the Spanish colonial and early Mexican currency was the Real de a Ocho (o Ocho Reales) - “pieces of eight” – which became known colloquially as a Peso, Peso Fuerte, o Peso Duro because of its unchanging weight in silver.  According to a Spanish Royal Ordenanza (decree) of 1497, 67 Reales were to be minted from a single Marco de Castilla of pure silver that weighed 230.465 grams (the standard weight of a Cologne Mark), i.e. each Real weighed 3.4335 grams and each Peso Duro weighed 27.4680 grams.  For more details, search the web for: “Marco de Castilla”, “Real de a Ocho”, and “pieces of eight”.


Following independence from Spain in 1810, Argentina continued to recognise the Spanish Peso Duro (known colloquially as a Patacón) as legal tender for a number of years.  The Peso Argentino, first emitted in 1812, fared badly during years of chaos until 1853 when order was restored.  In 1881 Argentina struck its first silver Peso, valued at 1:1 with the Peso Duro (Spanish Real de a Ocho).  However, once again it soon lost value.

Currrencies used by our ancestors when they first arrived in Argentina include the following:

For more about Argentine currency, see:

The value of one current peso (2000) is 10,000,000,000 pesos of 1969 (or 1914), and more than 13,000,000,000 pesos of 1914 with the U.S. dollar as reference.

Year Event
1810 After independence, continues use of the Spanish Real de a Ocho (o Peso Duro), known colloquially as a Patacon.
1812 The Peso Duro (Argentino) is set at nearly 2 gms. of gold.
1822 First bank is created, Banco de Buenos Aires. Peso Argentino bank notes are emitted, redeemed at: $1 = 1.8 gms. of gold.
1823 Redemption in gold is suspended because too many notes were emitted.
1826 War with Brazil is followed by a 17 year period of political tyranny and economic chaos
1853 Order is is restored with a new constitution. Peso Argentino set at: $1 =  1.7 gms. of gold.
1876 Banco de la Nacíon is created. 
1880's The Gold Standard is maintained with some temporary suspensions when too many bank notes are emitted, particularly during the mid to late 1880's. Beginning of the Belle Epoque (1880-1930) in Argentina, a period of tremendous growth and political stability: 1878 – First shipment of wheat.  1879 – First shipment of chilled meat (mutton)  to Europe. 
1881 First Peso Argentino coin is struck, initially valued 1:1 with Peso Duro.
1891 Control is regained when the Peso Argentino is set at: $1.42 = 1 gm. of gold
1928 After several devaluations, redemption in gold is suspended, Peso at: $5.16 = 1 gm. gold. Pegged to the US dollar at 2.36 pesos = 1 dollar
1931 Pegged to USD: 1.71 pesos = 1 dollar
1932 Central Bank is established.
13 Dec., 1933 Argentina goes off the Gold Standard. Peso Moneda Nacional replaces Peso Argentino. $1 m/n = $0.44 Peso Argentino Peged to USD: 3 m/n = 1 USD
1934-1939 Pegged to the British pound: $15 m/n = 1 BPD
1943-1955 Peron's first era.  The Central Bank is transformed into a political tool of the government – economic ruin follows.  One of 10 richest nations during the first half of the 1900's, Argentina begins it slide into the ranks of the "under-developed".
1 Jan., 1970 Peso ley replaces Peso Moneda Nacional $1 = $100 m/n
1 June, 1983 Peso Argentino replaces Peso ley $1 = $10,000 (old). A million old pesos was known colloquially as a palo (stick).
14 June, 1985 Austral replaces Peso Argentino (at mid month!) A1 = $1,000 Inflation ranges between 10-30% per month, towards the end it reaches 250% per month.
1 Jan., 1992 A new Peso Argentino replaces the Austral $1 = A1,000 Pegged to the US Dollar at 1:1 until 1 Jan., 2002.  The US dollar is made legal tender.
Late 1990's The peso became highly over-valued vs. the US dollar. Squeezed for funds, the provinces (led by Buenos Aires) begin issuing bank notes in their own currencies (lecops, patacones, quebrachos, etc.), adding to inflationary pressures.
1 Jan., 2002 With financial disaster imminent, the fed. gov. froze bank accounts, converted dollar accounts to pesos, and allowed the peso to float. The Peso Argentino stabilized, holding at $3 to the USD.  Known as the Corralito, the action seriously damaged savings accounts. The gov. also stoped making payments on its foreign debt, with dire consequences to its financial reputation.
Recent times
2010 +
The Peso Argentino slipped badly when Pres. C. Kirchner limited foreing exchange & froze rates.  Pres. Macri, elected Nov.2015, removed almost all restrictions end of 2015.  Fernadez elected, took office 19 Dec 2019:
Mar. 2011: $4.00;  Sept. 2012: $4.70
Dec. 2013: $6.50;  “Blue” rate= $10.00
Nov. 2015    “Blue” rate= $15.00
Nov. 2016: $15.90 “Blue” rate≈ $16.10
End 2020: $89.87  “Blue” rate˜ $166.00


In very simplified terms, three currencies (there were many others, most local) were the basis of trade during the period that concerns us, 1830-1870: (1) Thaler – used in the northern principalities including Mecklenberg and Prussia; (2) Gulden – used in the southern principalities including Baden; and (3) Mark-Banco – used by Hamburg and Luebeck.  In 1871 the three currencies were consolidated into the Mark.  For more details, see the archives in:

Year Event
1252 Florin (originally 3.56 gm. gold) first appears in Venice. Name taken from Florence where it was first minted.
1524, about Silver Gulden replaces the Florin. Gulden = 60 copper Kreuzer = 240 Pfennige
1566 Silver Reichsthaler (25.98 gm. silver) replaces (old) Thaler; (old) Thaler = 60 copper Kreuzer; Reichsthaler = 68 copper Kreuzer
before 1600
Holy Roman Empire
1 Thaler = 1.5 Gulden – applied inconsistently. Thaler = 24 Groschen = 288 Pfennige = 576 Heller. Gulden = 60 Kreuzer = 240 Pfennige = 480 Heller
1622 Reichsthaler devalued. Reichsthaler = 60 copper Kreuzer
Leipzig Conference
Speciesthaler created, = 120 Kreuzer
1736 Gulden appreciated, = 180 Kreuzer
Viena Convention
Konventionthaler (reduced to 23.38 gm. silver) created from Speciesthaler. Konventionthaler = 1.33 Speciesthaler. Konventionthaler = 1.5 northern Gulden. Konventionthaler = 2 southern Florins or Gulden.
Munich Treaty
Attempt to unify Gulden.
Dresden Convention
Accord is reached based upon silver: 1 northern Thaler = 1.75 southern Florins or Gulden.
Austro-German Monetary Convention
Vereinsthaler (southern Thaler) becomes monetary unit of the north. Vereinsthaler = 1.5 Austrian Florin. Vereinsthaler = 1.75 southern Florin (Vereinsgulden)
German Monetary Union
1 Mark = 0.333 Thaler = 0.55 Gulden = 0.833 Hamburg Marks. Mark = 100 Pfennige
1907 Thaler demonetized.
1923-1924 Mark collapsed due to hyperinflation. Mark replaced by the Retenmark (10/1923) = 1 : 1,000,000,000,000 Retenmark replaced by the Reichmark (8/1924) = 1: 1
1939-1948 Various Marks were issued during WW-II and shortly after. 1945 German Allied Mark created – and over issued by Russia. 1948 Western Allies created Deusche Mark = 10 Reichmark.
1999 – 2002 Euro replaces Mark, 1 Euro = 1.95883 Deusche Mark.


During the years we are concerned with, 1830-1850, Mexico continued with the Spanish Real de a Ocho (Peso Fuerte), minting its own – see Spain above.  For more details, see:

Year Event
1810 After independence, continues to use and mint the Spanish Real de a Ocho.
1873 Large silver deposits were discovered and silver begins to lose its parity of approx. 15:1 with gold.  Devaluations and inflation set in.
30 July, 1931 Mexico abandons the Gold Standard. New silver Peso loses value vs. old gold Peso.
1 Jan., 1993 After a period of hyperinflation, revalues the Peso. $1 new = $1,000 old


The British Pound became of interest to the family when they began travelling to Europe in the late 1800's and/or married British subjects or their Anglo-Argentine descendants.  Consequently, we include it here.  Since the 16th century, one pound was 20 shillings or 240 pennies, that is, until 15 February, 1971, when the pound was decimalized with 100 (new pence) pennies.  For the rest of the old coins, find a good pub, offer a Brit a pint of ale and have him explain farthing, hapenny, pence, crown, guinea, etc. (Cheaper but less fun, search the web for: "England decimalisation").


The US Dollar has had its tribulations like any other currency.  Named after the German Thaler, its value was originally based upon the Spanish Real.

Year Event
1775-1781 The 13 colonies suffered hyperinflation of 50,000%  There was little or no currency standardization.
2 April, 1792 In a joint session of the US Congress, the US Mint was created and the "Spanish Dollar" (Real de a Ocho) was adopted as the currency of the US (the English monetary units were deemed too complex and were not as widely used). The US Dollar was valued at 24.06 gms. of silver or 1.6038 gms. of gold.  This bi-metal valuation and ratio of approx. 15:1 was maintained until 1879 when silver had lost much of its value.
1793 Production of coins for general circulation began.  Though valued at 1:1 with the Real, the US minted dollar coins contained less silver, consequently many preferred using the Spanish or Mexican minted Real  for legal tender (27.468 gms.). 
Until 1840, approx. Many banks issued their own bank notes (mostly $5) that were accepted locally.
1850, approx. By mid-century the US produced enough coinage to displace foreign currencies. The Spanish Real, along with other foreign currencies, were no longer accepted as legal tender as of 21 Feb., 1857.
US Civil War
Conversion to silver and gold was suspended and inflation set in: (i)US Dollar – 258%; (ii)Confederate Dollar – 9,211%
1866 The US Dollar was restored to a 1:1 parity with the silver Spanish Real. The new US quarter contained less silver than before: 6.25 grams (96.45 grains), its previous silver content had been: 6.74 grams (104 grains, .900 fine).
1879-1914? US Dollar on the Gold Standard until WW-I.
1920-1931 US Dollar on the Gold Standard.
1934 to 196x In an attempt to cheapen US goods on the world market, Pres. Rooseveldt artificially devalued the dollar 50% in gold terms and made it illegal to own gold bullion in the US.
1964 The last US currency redeemable in silver (silver certificates) were printed, and the last coins (half, quarter, dime) containing silver were minted.

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)