Sometimes a family history researcher digs up some information about the money amount that an ancestor spent, or earned, or owned etc. And then it becomes interesting how big was the money, what one could buy for this money, what was the real value of this money. For better understanding, one may start with the general information about the money that circulated in the region of Latvia. To this moment I have described only the period of the existence of the Russia Empire till 1914.
The detailed information about the Latvia money system for later periods can be found on the Internet.
At the beginning of the reference period in 1800 pretty many kinds of money units (coins) were current in the Baltic provinces, but the most popular money was still the Talers. They were initially minted in Joachimstal (now in Czech Republic), and the name stems from the German word Tal that means valley. May be it is worth to mention that the word Taler was changed to dollar in British colonies. A lot of varieties of Talers existed in the world, but in the Baltic provinces the Alberts Talers were the most used currency.
Each Alberts Taler (minted in Austria) in the first half of the 19th century contained 23.4 grams of silver /LKV/, more precisely - it should have contained, because people frequently cut off small pieces of silver from the coins. As far as I know, only coins of 1 Taler existed, so 1000 Talers corresponded to 23.4 kilograms of silver and you may imagine what problems had millionaires, if they wanted to keep their money with them.
The most popular system of dividing a Taler /Buchholtz/ was the following:
1 Taler = 3 Guilders (Gulden) = 15 Mark = 90 Groschen (graši)
Less popular but nevertheless used system was:
1 Taler = 16 Fünfer (pimberi) = 40 Mark = 80 Ferdinge (vērdiņi)
More about the money systems in German states you may find on the Internet, for example, in a paper of R.Selig.
The official money of the Russia Empire was Roubles (or in another spelling - Rubles). In 1768 Catherine II introduced paper Roubles - the assignations, that were the obligatory payment means throughout the Empire in parallel with silver coins of Roubles and copper coins of Kopecks (0.01 of a Rouble). It was declared that the assignations should be freely exchanged to coins, but soon the banks terminated this exchange, because in reality the Tzars printed more assignations than the State had silver coins, and therefore the real value of the assignations later gradually decreased.
The rate of the Talers against the Roubles changed in time. Some information about the value of a Taler in the custom operations you can find in the following table /LKV/:
It was announced in 1814 that the small coins of non-Russia money used for change would not be accepted as the payment means since January 1, 1815 and would be confiscated after that term. The exchange offices for money changing were established in apriņķi and in Riga.
On August 31, 1824 it was prohibited to possess any foreign currency including Talers, and the people were forced to change their foreign currency to Roubles in 4 months, later the non-Russia money was to be confiscated if discovered anywhere. In reality the Talers continued to circulate in the private business till the middle of the 1840s. Sometimes some peasants buried their savings in soil for safety but the information about them was frequently lost later, and these savings could be found even nowadays. As a rule they consist of Talers.
The real value of assignations decreased practically at each war the Empire participated in, because additional assignations were printed.
In 1817 the government began to try to decrease the amount of the paper money and these attempts continued to 1839 when the official rate was set - 3.5 Roubles of assignations were worth of 1 Rouble in silver ( 28.6 Kop. Silver for 1 Rouble in assign.).
In 1841 a serious reform of the monetary system took place and new paper money was printed that now was called credit billets and was equal in value to the existing silver coins. The old paper money was changed to the new billets in a 7 year period. These credit billets existed till the end of the Empire, but their real values changed.
Serious change in the monetary system took place in 1899, when the gold money was introduced, and the paper money and silver and copper coins were declared to be freely changeable to the gold coins.
© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002