Playing-Card Money

The administration of New France counted on the arrival of cash from France in order to pay civil servants, suppliers, soldiers and clerks. There was confusion if the ship did not arrive until the end of the season, and even more if it did not come at all. In 1685 Intendant Demeulle invented a type of paper money with the purpose of meeting the expenses. He printed various face values on playing cards and affixed his seal to them. When the king's ship arrived, he redeemed this "card money" in cash. This system was brought to an end after 1686, but it was necessary to return to it during the period 1689-1719. In 1714, card money to a value of 2 million livres was in circulation, some cards being worth as much as 100 livres.

The King later returned to using card money in 1729 because the merchants themselves demanded it, this time using white cards without colours, which were cut or had their corners removed according to a fixed table. The whole card was worth 24 livres (which was the highest sum in card money); with the corners cut off, it was worth 12 livres; etc. In the 18th century card money was not the most important form of paper money. There was the certificat (certificate), a certified sum given to the supplier by the storekeeper. The ordonnance, a promissory note, was signed by the intendant on a printed form, and like cards and certificates, was redeemable by a lettre de change (bill of exchange) on the Naval Treasury. Finally, there was the lettre de change, or traite, used between private citizens to avoid a cash transfer, which the state also used, particularly to redeem paper money. After the Conquest Canadians still held some 16 million livres in paper money, of which only 3.8% was in card money.