Money in the 17th century Netherlands

Let us first trace the guilder back to its origin: Florence.

The "fiorino d'oro" of the Republic of Florence was the first European gold coin struck in sufficient quantities to play a significant commercial role in Europe. It was first struck in 1252. It had 3.5 grams of nominally pure gold (0.1125 troy ounce).

The design of the original Florentine florins was the distinctive fleur-de-lis "flore" badge of the city on one side and on the other a standing, facing figure, of St. John the Baptist wearing a hair shirt. This "flore" coin was called a "florin" or a "golden florin".

As many Florentine banks were international super companies with branches across Europe, the florin quickly became the dominant trade coin of Western Europe for large scale transactions, replacing silver bars in multiples of the mark (a weight unit equal to eight troy ounces), or a pound sterling silver.

In the fourteenth century, a hundred and fifty European states and local coin issuing authorities made their own copies of the florin. However, on other countries' florins, first the inscriptions were changed (from "Florentia" around the fleur, and the name of the saint on the other side), then local heraldic devices were substituted for the fleur de lis.

The Netherlands
In 1378, under Count Willem V (not related to Willem of Orange) the Dutch made their own version of the Florence golden florin (in Dutch: "gulden florijn"). Those two words were too long for everyday use. The coin was just called a gulden (guilder) and in the written language for a certain amount, say a 100 guilders, was written as Fl 100. (the FL stood for Florin).
All very similar to a 100 dollars, written $100.

In 1521 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (in Latin Carolus) introduced the golden Carolus gulden (guilder) and in 1543 the silver Carolus gulden.
This gulden was in use till 1680.

Therefore, the names used in literature for money in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th century -florijn, florin, gulden, guilder, Carolus gulden or guilder, Car. guilder- are all the same unit.

The gulden and the FL sign have been in use until 2002, when the Netherlands, with most European countries, changed their currency to the Euro. €.

What did people earn?
An outdoor laborer earned 6.50 guilders per week or just over 300 guilders per year.
A master carpenter earned 9 guilders per week or just over 450 guilders per year.
Wages did not change for 150 years.

A pastor earned 500 guilders per year. Rent free. We have an antique Dutch book and it describes the detailed living expenses of a pastor and his wife on a 500 guilders a year salary. They could not make ends meet. For Dutch readers, view the original pages here.

Today, economists find it difficult to express a meaningful correlation factor of cost of living between two very different cities e.g. Miami, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida, let alone find a factor for correlating cost of living between two countries over some 400 years. However, research on inflation and CPI over the period of 1600 to 2000, -as well as rate of exchange and purchasing power- gives us a workable factor of 60. That means that for the rest of this report we'll use: 100 guilders in the 1600s equals US $6,000 in today's money.

With that factor, let's review in detail the pastor's annual living expenses, expressed in today's US dollars. It shows that regular "burghers" paid over 50% of their income on food (no eating out at all). For clothing they paid a fortune. Therefore, they just had one good suit, two coats, two skirts, two sets of underwear and two sets of bed linen.

  Yearly   $    

- of which butter
- of which meat and fish
- of which 200 eggs @ $1.20 each
Heating and Light

Books, newspapers, paper, ink
Winter coat (every 20 years)
Man's suit (every 2 years)
Woman's skirt (every 3 years)
Undershirt with sleeves
Two pillow cases

One other aspect stands out: their drinking habits. The pastor and his wife drank two bottles of wine (26 fl.oz), plus 35 bottles of beer (12 fl.oz) every week. That must have been quite normal or otherwise he would not have spelled it out to his congregation.

Home prices
Real estate prices (and rents) varied considerably, depending on location. Mortgage interest rates were only 2 - 3 %.

Amsterdam or de Betuwe:

Slide 1 of 4. Photo from c. 1910. Click on the gray arrow to continue slideshow

Willem Hendrikse van Os(s)enbrugge (1672-1719)

In 1719 Willem buys a large farm named De Hope in Rijswijk
The pic on the right was taken in c. 1900.
We visited the farm in May 2012. There are no van Osnabrugges living there now. It is presently owned by an equestrian school. It has several stables and horses.

I made a slidehow of the farm. Click pic to view

In 1639 Rembrandt bought a very nice, big home in the middle of Amsterdam for 13,000 guilders ($780,000). Click left pic.

Our own great-great etc. grandfather's family were "leenmannen" and fruit growers in de Betuwe. They were first renting the farm for one guilder per week ($3,100 per year). Then in 1714 Hendrik Willem van Osnabrugge married and bought the farm for 1,060 guilders ($63,600). Click pic. on the right for a slideshow of then and now.

Willem van Osnabrugge

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