Saturday, April 27, 2013

eXchange rates and values

When researching Family History, it can be interesting to convert the currency of the past to current value.

In addition to understanding the history of the currency, it is also necessary to take into consideration inflation and exchange rates, if applicable.

Initial currency in Australia was varied with barter being being common.  Gold and rum were very popular forms of early currency.

After Federation in 1901, the federal government became responsible for currency.  When Australian currency was introduced in 1909 the Australian pound was specified as equivalent to 123.27447 grains of gold 11/12ths fine or 113.002 grains of fine gold.  The Australian Notes Act was passed in 1910 and the first set of Australian Notes was issued in 1913 and was based on the old British System.  Until 13 February 1966 Australian currency continued to be based on the British system, being one pound (£) divided into 20 shillings (s.) each of 12 pence (d.).

Until the depression in 1930, The value of an Australian pound was identical to the pound sterling. There was a gradual depreciation of the Australian pound in terms of sterling from the beginning of 1930 until December 1931 when it was stabilised at the rate of £125 Australian = £100 sterling.

Upon implementation of the conversion to Decimal currently on 14 February 1966, £1 Australian was set at $2.

In 1988, Australia began its conversion to plastic (polymer) notes.  By 1996, Australia became the first country in the world to have a full set of polymer bank notes.

Purchasing Power of 80 pounds in 1850
Source: National Archives Currency Converter
In 1847, my Great Great Grandfather, James Pilgrim, purchased a cottage in Upper Holt Street, Earls Colne for £80.  According to the National Archives Currency Converter this is equivalent to £4682.40 now.

However, when Inflation is taken into consideration, using the Bank of England Inflation Calculator, this increases to an approximate value in 2012 of £411,364.  According to Zoopla, the average house price for Upper Holt Street, Earls Colne is currently £390,359.

Receipt for 9 bags of almonds in 1964

In 1964, my Grand Uncle, Lloyd Pilgrim, received £68 4s 6d upon the sale of 9 bags of almonds.  According to the Reserve Bank of Australia Inflation Calculator, this is equivalent to $136.45 but when inflation is considered this increases to the equivalent of $1,707.10 today.


  1. Some interesting conversions there. £80 is not even a days wage now, least not for me it's not.

  2. It is hared to believe that about 150 years ago, it was more than a years wage!

  3. Thanks for these useful links Sharon. I will need to work out some of values from wills in my family history.

    1. Hope that they can help. Very glad that you read the post as this one has had fewer readers than any other!