This post was written by Fred Baumann, APRL Library Assistant.
Recently an APS member who is now in Cyprus asked the American Philatelic Research Library for documentation on historical rates of currency exchange. His request inspired us to take a look at the various tools that are available today on the Internet to help collectors looking to determine the value of the dollar (the pound, the franc, the euro and more) over time. Most are very simple to use, although some are more sophisticated and detailed than others. Many have very short ranges, extending back only a few decades, whereas one from Great Britain’s National Archives covers the value of the British pound over the past 745 years!
For a broad array of foreign currencies from 1990 to last month, see OANDA’s Historical Exchange Rates.
Historical Currency Conversions allows you to “convert the historical buying power of American and British currencies into current dollars” including 19th century dates by year.
The Inflation Calculator “adjusts any given amount of money for inflation, according to the Consumer Price Index, from 1800 to 2013.”
From the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the Currency Converter shows the value of British pounds from 1270 (when the Eighth Crusade took place) to 1970 in relatively modern (2005) pounds.
Lawrence H. Officer’s Dollar-Pound Exchange Rate From 1791 on MeasuringWorth gives the exchange rate for any year or group of years.
Wikipedia provides Tables of historical exchange rates to the United States dollar since 1840.
Finally, for those with a desire to drill deeper, see Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount – 1774 to Present.
If you need more specific information for a different currency, keep on searching. You’re likely to find what you’re looking for.