Chocolate Money Aztec Legal Tender

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Chocolate money, cocoa bean currency, was like gold to the Aztecs. They used it to buy food, slaves, etc. Spanish Conquest didn't stop them buying with beans.

A 1545 judicial ruling in New Spain clearly spells out their value.

It's a fascinating peek into the past. Check out the cocoa bean price list.

Then convert your bar to beans.

See what a bar of modern chocolate would have bought you then.

Return to the days when money really did grow on trees.




Cocoa Bean Price List

In 1545, New Spain, Judge Gomez de Santillan ruled on the buying power of cocoa beans (outreachworld.org).

Here's what you could buy with the beans in Tlaxcala, Mexico...

  • turkey hen cost 100 beans
  • hare or forest rabbit cost 100 beans
  • small rabbit cost 30 beans
  • 1 chicken egg cost 2 beans
  • avocado cost 3 beans
  • large tomato cost 1 bean
  • prickly pear cactus fruit cost 1 bean
  • chopped firewood cost 1 bean
  • 1 tamale cost 1 bean

It's a little difficult to appreciate the value of the beans until...




Chocolate Coins

You can figure out a way to compare it to today's prices. Albeit a rough comparison.

How? Convert a chocolate bar into beans. It takes about 12 cocoa beans to make an ounce of semisweet chocolate (California Academy of Sciences web site).

A 1.3 ounce Dove dark chocolate bar would be worth about 16 cocoa beans.

So take your chocolate money and jump into your time machine! Travel back to New Spain, 1545.

Here's what you could buy with the 16 beans from 1 Dove bar...

  • 8 eggs or
  • 5 avocados + 1 tomato, prickly pear fruit, firewood or tamale or
  • 16 large tomatoes or
  • 16 prickly pear fruits or
  • 16 bundles of chopped firewood or
  • 16 tamales

That bar would go pretty far.




Cocoa Beans Buying Power Today

Nearly 500 years later, what would those 16 beans buy you?

Your chocolate money would get you roughly...

  • 8 eggs (at $1.58 a doz.) or
  • 1 avocado or
  • 1 large tomato + 2 eggs or
  • 1 tamale +2 eggs

How? Each bean would be worth slightly over 6 cents or about 1/16 of the approximate one dollar cost of the candy bar.

Interestingly, eggs cost about the same now as then.




Chocolate money is still in use today. But now the cocoa bean currency has been converted to candy coinage. Can't use it to buy groceries anymore, but it just might buy a little love!

Today chocolate coins are very popular at Christmas and Hanukkah.






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