Encyclopedia > Pound (currency)

  Article Content

Pound (currency)

This article should be merged with British coinage, which is more detailed and contains subsidiary articles for each denomination of English and British coin (ongoing work in progress)
As a unit of currency, the term pound originates from the value of a Troy pound weight of high purity silver.

The old British system of money, which evolved from mediĉval times, used a selection of coins known as guineas, pounds, Crowns, Half-Crowns[?], shillings, thruppence[?], pennys, half-pennys and farthings. Other currency units included a 'sovereign' and the 'groat'.

In modern times the pound has become the basic unit of currency. Inflation has steadily eroded the value of currency. The basic unit was once the penny. Originally a silver penny of 1.555 grams (1/240 pound troy) had the purchasing power of slightly less than a modern "pound".

The standard way of writing shillings and pence was

    • 5/6 for 5 shillings & sixpence
    • 5/- for 5 shillings only, with the dash to stand for zero pennies.
A penny was denoted by 'd' from the Roman 'denarius'.


Decimalisation in 1971 involved the replacement of the old pound, which had 240 pence, with a new decimal pound, made up of 100 pence. (See British coinage.)

The new units of currency were:

£1 = 100 pence ('p' replaced 'd')
50p = 50 pence or 1/2 of a £
10p = 10 pence or 1/10 of a £
5p = 5 pence (many pre-decimalisation shillings were used as 5ps, with many people calling the new 5p coin a shilling) or 1/20 of a £
2p = 2 pence or 1/50 of a £
1p = 1 penny or 1/100 of a £
1/2p = 1/2 penny or 1/200 of a £

The pound note was subsequently replaced by a pound coin introduced in 1983 - the Bank of England £1 note was discontinued in 1984 although the Bank of Scotland £1 note remains in production), while a 20p coin was introduced in 1982 and a circulating bimetallic £2 coin was also introduced in 1998 (first minted in, and dated, 1997) - there had previously been commemorative £2 coins which did not normally circulate. The 1/2 penny was discontinued in 1984.

In the UK, to distinguish the currency from the weight, and from other currencies, a pound is often referred to as a pound sterling or sometimes just sterling. The sterling was originally an old English silver coin made of sterling silver and weighing 1.555 grams (1/240th of a troy pound).


Ireland since 1826 also followed the British currency system. Like Britain it decimalised its currency in 1971, with the same range of coins used, of the same size and weight, albeit with different designs as had been the case since the introduction of the independent Irish coinage in 1928. In 1979, it broke from the British pound (also called the Pound Sterling). The Irish currency came to be called the Irish Pound[?] or in the Irish language the 'Punt'. Irish coins introduced after 1979 (20p and £1) were of a completely different size and weight from the equivalent British coins, as were the 5p and 10p coins after both countries reduced the coins in size in the early 1990s. On January 1 2002 it replaced the Punt with the Euro.

See also: ISO 4217 currency codes


The new decimal coins were denoted by the word 'New' (as in '10 New Pence', '5 New Pence', etc. The word new was dropped after ten years. Many of these 'New' coins, and indeed the pre-decimalisation coins that continued in use after 1971 alongside them albeit with new values, eg, shilling, were replaced by smaller coins in the early 1990s. So the word 'new' actually means the first post-decimalisation batch of coins which may not necessarily be still in use.

Pound sterling banknotes are issued by

  • the Bank of England in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50 (although only denominated as being in Pounds) accepted throughout the UK;
  • the Bank of Scotland[?] (generally accepted throughout the UK) in denominations of £1, £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100;
  • the Royal Bank of Scotland[?] and
  • the Clydesdale Bank[?] (generally accepted throughout the UK) in denominations of £5, £10, £20, £50, and £100;
  • and by several Northern Irish banks (rarely seen outside Northern Ireland).

Sterling banknotes are also issued by

  • the Government of the Isle of Man and
  • the States of Jersey and
  • the States of Guernsey, but their notes are not generally accepted off their own islands (although Guernsey notes can sometimes be found in Jersey and vice versa).

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
List of rare diseases starting with A

... syndrome[?] Aspartylglycosaminuria[?] Asperger syndrome Aspergillosis[?] Asphyxia neonatorum[?] Asthenia[?] Asthenophobia[?] Asthma Astrocytoma[?] ...

This page was created in 35.7 ms