Tobacco As Money

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TOBACCO AS MONEY. Because of the scarcity of specie, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina used tobacco as currency throughout most of the colonial period. In 1619 the Virginia legislature "rated" high-quality tobacco at three shillings and in 1642 made it legal tender. Nearly all business transactions in Maryland, including levies, were conducted in terms of tobacco. North Carolina used tobacco as money until the outbreak of the Revolution. Sharp fluctuations in tobacco prices led Virginia in 1727 to adopt a system of "tobacco notes," certificates issued by inspectors of government warehouses. The obvious weakness of tobacco as currency—notably, lack of portability and variability of value—became more apparent with time, and it was abandoned in the second half of the eighteenth century.


Breen, T. H. Tobacco Culture. Princeton: New Jersey Press, 2001.

Hugh T.Lefler/a. r.

See alsoBarter ; Colonial Commerce ; Cotton Money ; Maryland ; Tobacco Industry .