In the past, historical exchange rates were only found in business newspapers and magazines or by paid subscription. Today, these rates are available online and free of charge to the general public. Two concepts associated with old money exchange rates are; the historical rate of exchange between two currencies and the value, adjusted for inflation, of the same currency.
Currency exchange tools from governments and from commercial services can be used to find old and historical exchange rates between currencies (Example: historical US Dollar Vs Pound Sterling). Other tools can be used to convert old money to new inflation adjusted values of the same currency (Example: 1980 US Dollar to 2010 US Dollar)
Old Currency Exchange Rates: Government Sources
Government sources use internal data provided by the financial sector to estimate currency exchange rates on a daily basis. These rates are average rates calculated from banks information that are fed to a country’s central bank. These sources generally include much older exchange rates. In the United States three agencies providing old and historical currency exchange rates include:
The Federal Reserve Bank – Historical currency exchange rates releases are provided on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. All major world currencies are included at the site federalreserve.gov/econresdata.
The US Treasury Department – Provides current quarterly foreign exchange rates at fms.treas.gov. For much older historical currency rates the Treasury can be contacted at (202) 874-8001.
The Internal Revenue Service, IRS – Provides annual historical foreign exchange rates for the last five years at irs.gov
Historical Currency Exchange Rates: Commercial Services
Exchange rates are provided by many commercial services daily and free of charge. These currency exchange rates are obtained mainly from inter banks averages and are proprietary information. The historical exchange rates go back to different time periods depending on the service used. Three popular services to find old foreign currency exchange rates calculators include:
Oanda.com – provides current and historical exchange rates and graphs for major currencies. The database goes back as far as the year 1990.
XE.com – current and old currency exchange rates, educational tools and graphs. The data goes back to 1995.
X-Rates.com – current and historical rates from the year 1990 for major world currencies. In addition pictures of currencies are provided on the site.
Convert Old Money to New Inflation Adjusted Values: Inflation Calculators Pounds and US Dollar
The new purchasing power of a currency can be obtained using inflation calculators. These tools allow users to enter a currency amount from one year to find the inflation value in a future year. Most countries’ Central banks provide free calculators at their websites. For the US Dollar (from 1913 – present) and for the Pound inflation calculators (from the 1200s – present) the sites are; minneapolisfed.org and national archive.gov.uk.
Using the US Dollar as an example; $100 in 1980 is equivalent to $266 in 2010, after inflation adjustments. This indicates that the purchasing power of old US dollars have gone down. Today, more dollars are needed to purchase the same item bought in 1980 for $100.