Rick G. writes: I am trying to do an equivalency of British coins of the 1580’s to current US values. Thus what would a shilling be worth in current values. From one source it is said the a shilling in the era of 1585 would have a current equivalency value of $20. What I need to calculate the value would be the weight and purity of a coin. Say if I knew that a gold sovereign from 1585 was worth one pound and had a weight of 1.5 oz of gold and a purity of .90. Then one could say (current gold price in US dollars x 1.5 oz x .9=current US equivalent). Do you have any of this info on any coins from that area?
There is a bit of apples and oranges in your request but you can easily compare gold values from the 1580’s and translate it into current gold bullion values. The problem lies in that the 16th century economic system can hardly be translated into modern terms. There was still a strong barter economy partly due to the fact that coins were difficult to make in quantity for commerce.
Hammered coinage was unreliable since the irregular nature of the flans made the coins an easy subject for clipping. Having a clipped coin in ones possession could bring severe judicial punishment even if you innocently, albeit naively, accepted the flawed piece.
The era of Elizabeth I brought a technological breakthrough in the guise of the Screw Press. The coins of this era are of remarkable quality and are a credit to the round milled coinage that was introduced during this era.
In addition, to make a comparison between 16th century goods and modern goods you have to find items and services that would have been available in both eras. An example might be bread, wine, bricks, horses, doctor services, clothing such as shirts, pants, blouses and dresses, shoes etc.
Let see how some of the gold coins of this era translate strictly by bullion weight.
- Sovereign (pound) of 1551-1625, weight 12 grams of .9948 fine gold. Actual gold content = .3838 troy ounces. Equivalent to 20 shillings or briefly 22s 6 p
- “Fine” Sovereign or Rose Ryal (1485-1625), weight 13 grams of .9948 fine gold. Actual gold content=.4158 troy ounces.
- Angel (approximately 1/2 pound or less depending on date), weight 5 grams of .9948 fine gold. Actual gold content = .1599 troy ounces
Based on just the just the gold content, a shilling at 20s=pound, would be worth about $23.50 in gold bullion in current U.S. currency. Of course, this is skewed. But it is possible that in terms of goods, the shilling might have bought the equivalent of roughly $20 of modern goods. This requires further research.