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How a Buck became a Dollar

Updated on June 20, 2016

Back When A Deer Was Currency

Back before there ever was a United States.when the American Colonies were still under the flag of Great Britain, the buck was already the main currency of the trading posts, such as Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) one of the early forts, catered to the Native Americans with buckskin as currency. Fur trading between the trading post owners and the Native Americans was the main form of commerce in the frontier. Because various native tribes found the metal knives and cast iron cauldrons fo the English superior to their bone, antler, and wooden tools and the English craved the furs for their leather shoes and clothing, the barter was a win-win for all involved.

The Rate of Currency

The transactions at the trading post were simple. Members of the various tribes as well as frontiersmen brought in the furs that they hunted and trapped over the winter months. (Animal furs in the winter were superior to those obtained during the summer months because they were thicker and smoother). The furs were examined by the trading post owner to determine the quality of the fur. The trading post owners gave the furs a buck value. Genuine high- quality buckskin was, of course, equal in value to one buckskin. It took a doeskin or inferior buckskin, two skins to equal a buck skin. Six high-quality beaver pelts equaled one buckskin; twelve high-quality rabbit pelts were equal to one buckskin and so on. In the same token, the goods available at the trading post were also given a buck value. A knife might be worth 5 buckskins and the buyer would be required to come up with furs that equaled five buckskins in order to complete the transaction. The transaction, of course, was always open to negotiation, but usually, because the trading post owner had a limited supply and he could wait for the next person with furs who was more willing to pay his price, the trading post owner could usually set whatever price he wanted.

The Name Stuck

As the United States grew as a nation and the forts with the trading posts grew into villages and towns, the dollar replaced the buckskin as the main currency. The word buck continued to be used as a slang for the United States dollar bill long after the buckskin ceased being considered as currency.

© 2009 Cygnet Brown


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    • drpastorcarlotta profile image

      Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 8 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

      WOW!!! Were never through learning and I like it!!!! GREAT HUB!!! Blessings!!!

    • HOOWANTSTONO profile image

      HOOWANTSTONO 8 years ago

      Very interesting, I always wondered where it came from

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 8 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Cygnet. Thanks, I learned something new today. Love those old west stories and traditions. Guess we're lucky not to have followed the pattern of Canada! Perhaps you can encourage Immartin to share her "dixie" story.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 8 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Interesting. Canada shares the same history, trading forts, fur traders, the native trappers and the not-native trappers. I suppose had our language followed your pattern, our dollar would be called the beaver, rather than a buck, as old records here show all pricing was in beavers.

      My husband, from Louisianna, tells me a story of the origin of the term dixie. Given encouragement, I'll come back and tell it.

    • bayareagreatthing profile image

      bayareagreatthing 8 years ago from Bay Area California

      That is such a cool piece of history trivia! Thanks!