was adopted as the official currency of the United Kingdom
) on February 15
- One Penny (£0.01), 1971-
- Two Pence (£0.02), 1971-
- Five Pence (£0.05), 1968-1990 and 1990-
- Ten Pence (£0.10), 1968-1992 and 1992-
- Twenty Pence (£0.20), 1982-
- Fifty Pence (£0.50), 1969-1997 and 1997-
- One Pound, 1983-
- Two Pounds (£2.00), 1986-1997 (special issues) 1997- (first proper issue)
- Five Pounds (£5.00), 1990- (special issues, not in common circulation)
Description of current British coinage
||milled, wire or flat edge
||milled, wire or flat edge
||milled with inscription
|milled with inscription
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
- Half Penny (£0.005), 1971-1984 - also known as a ha'penny, pronounced "haypnee".
£1 = 20 shillings.
1 shilling = 12 pence.
£1 = 240 pence (though it was rarely expressed in this way)
and a penny was further subdivided at various times, though these divisions vanished as inflation made them irrelevant:
1 penny = 2 halfpennies and (earlier) 4 farthings.
As the symbol, £, for the pound is derived from the Latin pound, the libra, so the old abbreviation for the penny, d, was derived from the Roman denarius, and the abbreviation for the shilling, s, from
the Roman solidus. The shilling was also denoted by the slash symbol,
also called a solidus for this reason. The English penny was derived from a small silver coin minted by Charlemagne which was in general circulation in Europe during the middle ages. The weight of this coin was originally1/240th of a troy pound, a weight known as a pennyweight[?] - around 1.555grams.
From the time of Charlemagne until the 12th century, the silver currency of England was made from the highest purity silver available. Unfortunately there were drawbacks to minting currency of Fine Silver[?], notably was the level of wear it suffered, and the ease withe coins could be "clipped", or trimmed by those dealing in the currency. In the 12th century a new standard for English coinage was established by Henry II, the Sterling Silver[?] standard of metal -- 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper used in coinage. This was a harder and longer wearing alloy , yet was still a rather high grade of silver. This went some way to discouraging the pactice of "clipping", though this practice was further discouraged and largely elimiinated with the introduction of the milled edge we see on coins today.
The standard way of writing shillings and pence is
- 5/6 for 5 shillings & sixpence
- 5/- for 5 shillings only, with the dash to stand for zero pennies.
Some pre-decimalisation coins became commonly known by slang terms. Perhaps the most well known being 'bob[?]' for a shilling, and 'quid' for a pound. Quid remains as popular slang for one or more pounds to this day in Britain.
Denominations of pre-decimal coins and their years of production.
- Note that the value of some coins fluctuated at different times in their history, particularly in the reigns of James I and Charles I. The value of a Guinea fluctated between 20 and 30 shillings before being fixed at 21 shillings in December 1717.
- Note that these are denominations of British, or earlier English, coins -- Scottish coins had different values.
- Five Guineas (originally 100/-, later 105/-) 1668-1753.
- Five Pounds (100/-) (Gold) 1826-1990.
- Triple Unite (60/-) 1642-1644.
- Fifty Shillings (50/-) 1656.
- Two Guineas (42/-) 1664-1753.
- Two Pounds (40/-) 1823-1937.
- Rose Ryal (30/-) 1604-1625.
- Guinea (21/-) 1663-1799, 1813
- Broad (20/-) 1656.
- Sovereign[?] (20/-) 1489-1604; 1817-1914, since 1914 a bullion coin.
- Laurel (20/-) 1619-1644?
- Unite (20/-) 1604-1619; 1649-1662.
- Spur Ryal (15/-) 1604-1625.
- Half Guinea (10/6) 1669-1813.
- Half Sovereign[?] (10/-) 1544-1553; 1603-1604; 1817-1937, since 1980 a bullion coin.
- Double Crown[?] (10/-) 1604-1619; 1625-1662.
- Halfpound[?] (10/-) 1559-1602; 1642-4
- Half Unite[?] (10/-) 1642-3.
- Half Laurel (10/-)) 1619-1625.
- Rose Noble or Ryal[?] (10/-, 15/- from 1553) 1464-1470, 1487, 1553-1603.
- Third Guinea (7/-) 1797-1813.
- Noble (6/8, raised to 8/4 in 1464) 1344-1464.
- Angel[?] (6/8) 1461-1643.
- Florin or Double Leopard (6/-) 1344. Demonetised within 1 year.
- Quarter Guinea (5/3) 1718, 1762.
- Crown (5/-) 1526-1965
- Crown of the Rose[?] (4/6) 1526-1547.
- Double Florin (4/-), 1887-1890.
- Half Noble[?] (3/4, increased to 4/2 in 1464); minted 1346-1438.
- Half Angel[?] (3/4, later 5/6), 1470-1619.
- Half Florin or Leopard (3/-) 1344. Extremely rare.
- Half Crown[?] (2/6), 1526-1969.
- Quarter Angel[?] (2/-), 1547-1600. Gold.
- Florin (2/-), 1848-1970, circulated until 1993 as the old Ten Pence coin.
- Twenty Pence (1/8 - 2/-) 1257-1265. Gold. Undervalued for its metal content and extremely rare!
- Quarter Noble[?] (1/8), 1344-1470.
- Quarter Florin or Helm (1/6), 1344. Gold coin demonetised within 1 year.
- Shilling[?] (1/-), 1502-1970, circulated until 1990 as the old Five Pence coin.
- Sixpence[?] (6d), 1547-1970
- Groat[?] (4d) 1279-1662, 1836-1862
- Threepence (3d), 1547-1970
- Half Groat[?] (2d), 1351-1662
- Twopence[?] (2d), silver (inc. Maundy) 1668- current; copper 1797-1798.
- Three Halfpence (1.5d), 1561-1582, 1834-1870 *
- Penny (1d), 757-1970
- Three Farthings (0.75d), 1561-1582.
- Halfpenny (0.5d), 1272-1969
- Farthing (0.25d), c. 1200-1960
- Half Farthing (0.125d), 1828-1868 *
- Third Farthing (0.08333d) 1827-1913 *
- Quarter Farthing (0.0625d), 1839-1868 *
Note: * = denomination issued for use in the colonies, usually in Ceylon, Malta, or the West Indies, but normally counted as part of the British coinage.
Note that the medieval florin, half florin, and quarter florin were gold coins intended to circulate in Europe as well as in England and were valued as much more than the Victorian and later florin and double florin. The medieval florins were withdrawn within a year because they contained insufficient gold for their face value and thus were unacceptable to merchants.
All British coins produced since 1662 have been milled, i.e. produced by machine; the first milled coins were produced during the reign of Elizabeth I and periodically during the reigns of James I and Charles I, but there was opposition to mechanisation from the moneyers who ensured that most coins continued to be produced by hammering.
In medieval times, the penny was a sterling silver coin. English silver pennies are a collectible, and are now quite rare.
On the value of British money...
In 1999 the House of Commons Library published a research paper
) (PDF document) which included an index of the value of the Pound for each year between 1750 and 1998, where the value in 1974 was indexed at 100. Reading this document, one is struck by the fact that the value of the Pound remained remarkably constant for the whole of the period until the First World War
, allowing for inflationary fluctuations in wartime and with many periods when prices declined. The value of the index in 1750 was 5.0, increasing to a peak of 16.0 in 1813 before declining very soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars to around 10.0 and remaining in the range 8.5 - 10.0 at the end of the nineteenth century. The index was 9.6 in 1914 and peaked at 24.8 in 1920, before declining again to 15.5 in 1933 and 1934 i.e prices were only about three times higher than they had been 180 years earlier. Inflation really kicked off during and after the Second World War
- the index was 20.0 in 1940, 32.9 in 1950, 46.4 in 1960, 68.2 in 1970, 243.0 in 1980, 458.5 in 1990, and 592.3 in 1998.
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