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I’d give you 30 bucks

March 25, 2018
Nick Buseman - Grundy County Conservation Operations Supervisor , Reinbeck Courier

Well it has been 3 weeks since I had a total knee replacement on my left knee. I'd be pulling your leg if I told you it has gone smoothly. I am off work and told Kevin that I could take care of the news articles while I'm off work, but until this point I was in no condition to write anything.

No more sob stories. While lying in a hospital bed I had a strange thought; why do we call dollars, bucks. As a trapper I figured that it had to have something to do with animals and trading.

With a little research I found that the use of the word buck for dollar started way back in the mid 1700's before we had minted our first dollar. Prior to minted money frontiersman had to have something to bargain with to purchase things like ammo, food, guns, traps and whiskey. A deer hunter myself I figured that the word buck was in referral to the male deer, which is called a buck. Dating back to 1748 it was mentioned that the exchange rate for a cask of whiskey traded to Native Americans was 5 bucks, referring to 5 deer skins. Another example was also in 1748 when a man logged in his journal that while being in present day Ohio someone had been burglarized and the total value of his stolen belongings was 300 bucks; which translates into his belongings equaling the value of 300 deer hides. Even though there were many different animal pelts that were traded; the buckskin or buck became the currency before the dollar bill.

As for the other pelts that made up the pack of a frontiersman, their value was referred back to the buckskin. For example it took 6 high quality beaver pelts or 12 quality rabbit pelts to equal a buck. As Europeans moved in and built towns over the next century the use of pelts as currency began to slow, and with the Coinage Act of 1792 the dollar quickly became the currency for trade.

All these years later the slang term for dollar is still alive here in Iowa at least. The next time you hear someone say, "I'll give you 30 bucks for," don't be surprised when they hand over 30 fleshed deer hides. Don't get me wrong, the value of 30 deer pelts would equal more then 30 dollars, I doubt that many people would be satisfied with a stack of pelts as payment.

 
 

 

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