Information on Exchange Rates of The Americas

Explanation of Exchange Rate

You have asked for the exchange rate between the United States dollar and a currency of another country of the Americas for a given year or years. The exchange rate is the price of the U.S. dollar in terms of the foreign currency: the number of units of foreign currency that it took to buy one dollar, or that one obtains in exchange for one dollar. A higher exchange rate denotes a stronger dollar; the dollar has appreciated (gained value) compared to the foreign currency. For example, considering Argentina, the dollar appreciates from GP 0.97 (0.97 gold pesos) in 1916 to GP 1.00 in 1917. A lower exchange rate denotes a weaker dollar; the dollar has depreciated (lost value) relative to the foreign currency. Again considering Argentina, the dollar depreciates from PMN 3.06 (3.06 pesos moneda nacional) in 1935 to PMN 3.02 in 1936.

The importance of the exchange rate is that it enables conversion of a foreign price or value into dollars, and also a dollar price or value into the foreign currency. The foreign magnitude is divided by the exchange rate to obtain the dollar equivalent; because the inverse of the exchange rate is the number of dollars per unit of foreign currency. For example, for Argentina in 1935, the inverse exchange rate, 1/(PMN 3.06) = $0.3268, is the number of dollars per peso moneda nacional. An Argentinian good that cost PMN 100 in that year would also be worth PMN 100 x $0.3268 = $32.68. Similarly, a dollar price or value can be expressed in Argentinian currency by multiplying the dollar magnitude by the exchange rate.

Foreign Currencies

Dollar exchange rates from 1913 (subject to data availability) are provided for all North, Central, and South American currencies for which Federal Reserve publications provide at least one annual exchange-rate observation in the 1946-1999 period. No Central American currency fulfills the criterion. Exchange rates are for two North American (Canada, Mexico) and six South American currencies (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela). The data are annual averages of daily exchange rates. Federal Reserve publications are the primary data source; but their coverage is insufficient. Therefore the International Monetary Fund is used as a secondary source.

There are two important respects in which the Fund exchange-rate data differ from those of the Federal Reserve. First, the market of quotation is New York for the Federal Reserve but the major financial center of the foreign country (for example, Mexico City for Mexico) for the Fund. Second, while the Federal Reserve data are always market rates, the Fund data are unambiguously market rates only since 1974. Prior to that year, the data are the fixed exchange rate (par value or central rate) if such a rate has been agreed with the Fund, a market exchange rate otherwise.

Changes in Currency Units

Of the eight countries, five-- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru -- experienced one or more changes in currency unit during the period spanning the observations for the country. The currency unit for the exchange rate in a given year is the unit in existence for that year. When a new currency unit is instituted at any time other than January 1, the exchange rate is expressed in the unit ruling during the greater part of the year; the full-year exchange rate experience is incorporated (data permitting), via conversion of the unit pertaining to the lesser part of the year. For example, the Peruvian monetary unit switched from the sol to the inti on February 1, 1985. For most of 1985, the inti was the monetary unit; therefore the exchange rate is expressed as the number of inti per dollar. Specific changes in currency units for each country are as follows.

Argentina: Federal Reserve quotations switched from the gold peso to the paper peso (peso moneda nacional) on December 13, 1933, where 1 peso moneda nacional = 0.44 gold peso. On January 1, 1970 the monetary unit of Argentina was changed from the peso moneda nacional to the peso, where 1 peso = 100 pesos moneda nacional. On June 1, 1983 the monetary unit became the (old) peso argentino, where 1 peso argentino = 10,000 pesos. On June 14, 1985 the monetary unit became the austral, where 1 austral = 1000 pesos argentino. On January 1, 1992 the austral was replaced by the (new) peso argentino, where 1 peso argentino = 10,000 australes. The exchange rate is expressed as gold pesos per dollar in 1916-1933, pesos moneda nacional per dollar in 1934-1969, pesos per dollar in 1970-1982, old pesos argentino per dollar in 1983-1984, australes per dollar in 1985-1991, and (new) pesos argentino per dollar in 1992-1999.

Brazil: In 1942 the name of the monetary unit of Brazil was changed from the milreis to the cruzeiro. On February 13, 1967 the monetary unit became the new cruzeiro, where 1 new cruzeiro = 1000 old cruzeiros; and on May 15, 1970, the new cruzerio was renamed the cruzeiro. On February 28, 1986 the monetary unit was changed to the cruzado, where 1 cruzado = 1000 cruzeiros. On January 15, 1989 the new cruzado was established, where 1 new cruzado = 1000 old cruzados. On March 16, 1990 the (again new) cruzeiro replaced the cruzado, where 1 cruzeiro = 1 cruzado. On August 1, 1993 the monetary unit became the cruzeiro real, where 1 cruzeiro real = 1000 cruzeiros. On July 1, 1994 the monetary unit was changed to the real, where 1 real = 2750 cruzeiros reais. The exchange rate is expressed as milreis per dollar in 1916‑1941, old cruzeiros per dollar in 1948-1966, (new) cruzeiros per dollar in 1967-1985, cruzados per dollar in 1986‑1988, new cruzados per dollar in 1989, (again new) cruzerios per dollar in 1990-1993, cruzeiros reais per dollar in 1994, and reais per dollar in 1995-1999.

Chile: On January 1, 1960 the monetary unit of Chile was changed from the (old) peso to the escudo, where 1 escudo = 1000 (old) pesos. On September 29, 1975 the peso replaced the escudo, where 1 peso = 1000 escudos. The exchange rate is expressed as old pesos per dollar in 1917-1959, escudos per dollar in 1960-1975, and pesos per dollar in 1976-1999.

Mexico: Federal Reserve quotations switched from the gold to the silver peso on July 30, 1931. Data prior to 1932 pertain to the gold peso, not compatible with the series from 1932. On January 1, 1993, the monetary unit of Mexico was changed from the old peso to the (new) peso, where 1 peso = 1000 old pesos. The exchange rate is expressed as old pesos per dollar in 1921‑1992 and pesos per dollar in 1993-1999.

Peru: On February 1, 1985, the monetary unit of Peru was changed from the sol to the inti, where 1 inti = 1000 soles. On July 1, 1991, the new sol replaced the inti, where 1 new sol = 1,000,000 intis. The exchange rate is expressed as soles per dollar in 1948-1984, intis per dollar in 1985‑1990, and new soles per dollar in 1991-1999.

Other Information

In some cases averages were calculated from data for only a portion of the year, or there was a change in the nature of the exchange rate (for example, between the official and free rate). For details, please see the source publications below.


The source for the exchange-rate series of the Americas is Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates,” in Susan B. Carter, Scott S. Gartner, Michael Haines, Alan Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright, eds., Historical Statistics of the United States, Millenial Edition, vol. 5 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). Federal Reserve data are used for all countries (1913-1941), for Canada and Mexico (all years) and for Brazil and Venezuela (1996 onward); International Monetary Fund data otherwise.

Detailed information on the source data is in (1) publications of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System: Banking and Monetary Statistics 1914-1941 (Washington, DC, 1943), Banking and Monetary Statistics 1941-1970 (Washington, DC, 1976), Annual Statistical Digest 1970-1979 (Washington, DC, 1981), Federal Reserve Bulletin, various issues, and Federal Reserve Statistical Release G.5A, January 7, 1997; and in (2) publications of the International Monetary Fund: International Financial Statistics, Yearbook, monthly, and CD‑ROM, various issues; and International Financial Statistics: Supplement on Exchange Rates, Supplement Series No. 9, 1985.

Information on changes in currency units is taken from the above Federal Reserve publications; International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics, various Yearbook and monthly issues; B. R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics: The Americas 1750-1988 (New York: Stockton Press, 1993), p. xiii; and Harold Edwin Peters, The Foreign Debt of the Argentine Republic (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1934), pp. 53-55.

Lawrence H. Officer
Professor of Economics
University of Illinois at Chicago


Lawrence H. Officer, "Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies",, 2007.

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