Way back in the early 16th century Canada began to establish its currency, but instead of using coins, the likes of furs, wampum shells and, at one point, playing cards were actually considered tradeable currency. With colonisation by France and England in the 18th and 19th centuries, coins began to be introduced – and these days, shells are unfortunately no longer considered legal tender, so don’t waste your time searching on the beach!
With a coin shortage throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there were never enough coins in Canada to go around. It took the public a little while to trust paper money when it was introduced in the early 19th century and by 1837, banks were importing tokens from England known as Papineaus. In 1841, the Province of Canada adopted the Canadian pound, a new system based on the Halifax Rating. However, the Canadian authorities were determined to align with the US dollar over the British pound and by 1894, the Canadian dollar was fully introduced across the country.
These days, the Canadian dollar is the 5th most held reserve currency in the world and accounts for approximately 2% of all global reserves. You might hear it referred to as the loonie, because of the image of a loon bird on the one dollar coin, or as the huard in French.
A look back at British pound to Canadian dollar rates
Although most currencies in the Bretton Woods system had fixed values, the Canadian dollar was instead a floating currency between 1950 and 1962, reaching a high of 1.06 US dollars on August 20 1957, with the dollar worth £0.35 at the time. Falling considerably after 1960, the Canadian dollar returned instead to a fixed exchange rate, pegged against the US dollar at $0.925 to C$1, with the US dollar still trading at £0.35. It remained here until 1970, where inflation meant that it returned to a free floating currency and peaked at $1.04 in April 1974, with the dollar worth around £0.41.
During the USA’s technological boom of the 1990s, the Canadian dollar fell, trading at its lowest ever rate of just $0.61 to C$1 on January 21 2002, with the dollar trading at around £0.70. This put the Canadian dollar at around £0.43.
The Canadian dollar today
In 2007 rates improved thanks to a strong Canadian economy. This saw the Canadian dollar rise from a value of around £0.42 in January to around £0.52 by the end of the year.
By May 2010, rates had improved all the way to £0.67. Since 2013, rates have fallen again and sit in October 2015 at around £0.47. This is great news for your pounds though, meaning you’ll get around C$2 for every pound you spend, compared to around C$1.50 in 2013.
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