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Pre-decimal currency in Britain (before 1971)

In these days of the decimalisation of currency, it is difficult to understand the currency used in Britain before the country 'went decimal' on 15 February 1971 ("1971, year of the con"). The following chart may help to explain it. Another chart deals with British weights and measures

Money was divided into pounds (£ or l in some documents) shillings (s. or /-) and pennies (d.). Thus, 4 pounds, eight shillings and fourpence would be written as £4/8/4d. or £4-8-4d. The "L S D" stands for the Latin words "libra", "solidus" and "denarius".

There were
20 shillings in £1 - a shilling was often called 'bob', so 'ten bob' was 10/-
12 pennies in 1 shilling
240 pennies in £1
Pennies were broken down into other coins:
a farthing (a fourth-thing) was ¼ of a penny
a halfpenny (pronounced 'hay-p'ny') was ½ of a penny
three farthings was ¾ of a penny (i.e. three fourth-things). There was no coin of this denomination, however
Other coins of a value less than 1/- were
a half-groat (2d) 6 x 2d = 1/-
a threepenny bit (3d) made of silver; later, these were replaced by chunky twelve-sided bronze coins (thanks to Peter Hodges for that reminder!) 4 x 3d. = 1/-
a groat (4d) 3 x 4d = 1/-
sixpence (silver) - often called a 'tanner' 2 x 6d = 1/-
Coins of more than 1/- but less than £1 in value were
a two shilling piece (called a florin) 10 x 2/- = £1
a half-crown ( 2/6d) 8 x 2/6d = £1
a crown (5/-) 4 x 5/- = £1
ten shillings (a half-sovereign) 2 x 10/- = £1
a half-guinea (10/6d) 2 x 10/6d = £1/1/-
A £1 coin was called a Sovereign and was made of gold. A paper pound often was called a 'quid'.
Coins of more than £1 were
a guinea (£1/1/-)
a £5 coin

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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