What is a 'Cambist'

A cambist is any individual considered to be an expert in foreign exchange rates. The term also refers to a currency exchange manual which lists exchange values.  The Cambist manual also listed various weights and measures and had a conversion table for calculations. From Latin, the word "cambiere" which means to exchange. With the advent of electronics and fast-paced trading, manuals and books detailing exchange rates fell out of favor. Today, the term is mostly a throwback to describe professional currency traders.


​​​​​​​Today, the only place you are likely to find the term cambist is on a crossword puzzle, but once this position was a requirement for any business involved in international commerce. Cambists have lost their jobs to the speed of the electronic age. However, the term still identifies a company which manufactures coin dispensers.

Using books with titles like the Universal Cambist and Commercial Instructor, those employed in the position would look up the information needed to conduct international commerce. Manuals listed the major cities and transfer points from around the globe, arranged alphabetically.

Details contained in the book included the names of each location's currency and if they were coins or banknotes. For coins, additional information included the quality of the gold or silver contained in the coin and the troy, diamond, and commercial weight for each domination of coins.

The books also described the type of measurement used by the local community. Measures included those for distance, land, and the ever essential, measure of wine and beer. 

Sections ended with a chart outlining the duties and allowances for a list of products commonly imported or exported from the location.

Cambist of Today

Currency traders trade in currency pairs on the foreign exchange (FX) market, also known as the forex. The forex market is the largest, most liquid market in the world, trading values which can reach trillions of dollars daily. Aside from the buying, selling, speculation, and exchanging of currencies, the forex market also supports currency conversion for international trade and investments.

There is no one central marketplace for currency exchange. Markets include those in London, New York, Tokyo, Zürich, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris, and Sydney.

Currency trading can be traced back to ancient times, but the current forex market was in part created as a result of modern foreign trade. When a seller in one country sells an asset to a buyer in another country, the seller earns in the foreign currency. For example, when a manufacturer in the United States sells auto parts to a retailer in China, the manufacturer earns Chinese Yuan. When BMW wants to build a factory in the US, it needs dollars and can then obtain them in the forex market.

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