Land of the Brave

Colonial, Continental and Revolutionary Currency

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

Colonial, Continental and Revolutionary Currency

Early American currency went through several different stages of development in the colonial period before the American revolution, during the revolution and following the American Revolutionary War. Definition of Currency: Currency is any form of money used as legal tender and a basis for trade.

Colonial Currency
The Definition of Colonial currency: Colonial currency relates to the paper money issued in North America whilst under the rule of Great Britain prior to the American Revolution War, from 1690 to 1774.

Revolutionary Currency - The Continentals
Revolutionary money was referred to as 'Continentals' - the paper money issued by the Continental Congress. Coins were so scarce during the period of the American Revolution the 'Continentals' (Revolutionary currency) was the only money in circulation. Anyone refusing to accept the money was branded a traitor.

Colonial, Continental and Revolutionary Currency
The history of Colonial, Continental and Revolutionary Currency (Continentals) is very interesting. The early explorers and colonists hoped to find gold and silver in America, just had the Spanish had done in South America. No gold or silver was found in Colonial America but there were many other valuable raw materials such as iron ore, cotton, timber and tobacco. Without the raw materials of gold and silver it was not possible to mint many coins in the thirteen colonies. Foreign coins like the Spanish dollar were widely circulated together with English and French currencies. So the early Americans Americans were forced to use English, Spanish and French money. Silver or gold coins were referred to as 'Hard Currency'.

Colonial, Continental and Revolutionary Currency - Types of Colonial Currency
The thirteen colonies were therefore in the situation where they could print paper money (which did not have the backing of and gold reserves) or engage in trade using raw materials in exchange for goods that were scarce in the colonies. There were therefore 3 common types of currency in the 13 colonies:

  • Commodity currency - Raw materials were exchanged for other goods - no currency or money changed hands
  • Hard Currency or money (gold and silver coins - also called specie)
  • Paper money or currency that was printed in America

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