Currency…if the buck stops here, where did it start?

Why do we refer to money, specifically dollars, as bucks?  

It’s mostly likely to be reference to deerskins, which were used as a medium of exchange long before the first US dollar was minted (in 1748, a cask of whiskey traded to Native Americans cost “5 bucks”). A “buck” didn’t simply mean one deerskin, but may have meant multiple skins, depending on quality. For instance, skins from deer killed in the winter were considered superior, due to the fur being thicker.

The highest quality skins were generally assigned a one to one value with one skin equalling one buck. In contrast, for lower quality skins, it might take several of them to be valued at a single buck. The specific value for given sets of skins was then set at trading.

This use of skins as a medium of exchange gradually died off over the next century. Once the US dollar was officially introduced in 1792 it quickly became the leading medium of exchange, but the term “buck” stuck around and by the mid-nineteenth century was being used as a slang term for the dollar.

Dough, bread, dosh, moolah…whatever you like to call it, we hope that this edition of ‘Lighter Side’ made you feel like a million bucks!

Read more Lighter Side articles here.

Simone O'Connor
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