The Card Money

The Card Money


Playing cards was used at times as currency in several French colonies and countries from the 17th century to the early 19th century.


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Card money is a type of fiat money printed on plain cardboard or playing cards, which was used at times as currency in several colonies and countries (including Dutch Guiana, New France, and France) from the 17th century to the early 19th century. Where introduced, it was often followed by high rates of inflation.

In order to prepare playing cards or plain cardboard for use as currency, the medium had to be given a denomination, a seal, a serial number, and appropriate signatures. In New France, this meant an embossed fleur-de-lis and the signatures of the intendant, governor, and treasurer. In Dutch Guiana, meanwhile, the form of these validations took varied between issues. Card money was generally issued, at least initially, in emergency situations. It could be backed by other currencies, such as Bills of Exchange, or be without a guarantee.

Veronique Deblon, writing for the National Bank of Belgium, notes that all issues of card money "could not be called unqualified success[es]", as they were capable of solving budget deficits but eventually were overproduced, leading to inflation. The numismatist Neil Shafer concurs, noting that the card money of Guiana "served its purpose" in spite of the devaluation. In his article on the card money in French Canada, Larry Allen described it as "showing the flexibility, adaptability, and inventiveness of an expanding economic system", despite "seeming ... far-fetched".


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