If you were born after the UK’s coinage system turned decimal, or it’s simply been a while since you’ve thought about pre-decimal coinage, it can be a bit confusing!
From the farthing, to the Thrup’nny bit, there’s a lot of coins to get your head around. So, Change Checker is on hand with your guide to the UK’s pre-decimal currency!
The farthing equaled that of a quarter of a penny and it was issued for circulation for nearly 100 years (1860-1956).
This small but significant coin featured the portraits of 11 monarchs, including George I, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth II.
Suggestive of its name, the half penny was worth, literally half of a penny in value. Two farthings would therefore make a half penny!
The last half penny issued for circulation was dated 1967.
The pre-decimal One Penny, also known as 1d, held a lot less value than the modern ‘New’ Penny – there were 240 pennies in a pre-decimal pound!
They were used in circulation from 1714 and the last One Penny was struck in 1967, before the introduction of the ‘New’ Penny in 1971.
The 12-sided threepenny (or 3d) is fondly remembered for its individuality. There was quite literally nothing quite like it before, and it holds the proud title of Britain’s first non-circular coin since milled coins were introduced in the 17th century.
The unconventional shape and thickness of the new brass Thrup’nny Bit made it easy to identify amongst other coins in loose change and it quickly proved to be a very popular new addition.
Alongside this brass version of the threepenny, a silver 3d also circulated through the reign of King George V. It even sometimes circulated alongside the brass coin!
Its name derived from it’s value, being equal to exactly three pennies.
Also called a ‘Tanner’ the sixpence was equivalent to one-fortieth of a pound sterling, or half a shilling.
It was first minted in 1551, during the reign of Edward VI, and circulated until 1980.
Throughout centuries, the sixpence has been considered lucky, with fathers slipping one into their daughter’s shoe on their wedding day, and families hiding one in their Christmas pudding, in the hope it would bring prosperity and good fortune.
The sixpences continued to be legal tender until 1980 with a value of 2 and a half new pence. The public were so fond of the sixpence, that there was even a ‘Save Our Sixpence’ campaign!
A shilling (or 1/-) was worth 12 pennies and there were 20 in the pre-decimal pound sterling.
The shilling was technically replaced by the five new pence in 1968 in preparation for the decimal changeover in 1971 but they were used as five pence pieces until the 5p was made smaller in 1990.
The Florin (or Two Shillings, 2/-) was worth 24 pre-decimal pence or two shillings. It was introduced by Victorians in a step towards decimalisation because it was worth one tenth of a pre-decimal pound sterling.
The last Florin intended for circulation was dated 1967 but these coins were used as Ten new pence until the 10p was made smaller in 1990.
The Half Crown (2/6) was worth 30 pre-decimal pence (or two shillings and sixpence). There were eight Half Crowns in a pound sterling.
The last crown for circulation was dated 1967.
The English crown was introduced by order of King Henry VIII in 1544 but it wasn’t until 1707 that we saw the British crown. It was the successor to the English crown and the Scottish dollar, and it came into being with the Union of Kingdoms of England and Scotland.
It was worth 60 pre-decimal pence or 1/4 of a pound sterling. The legal tender value of the crown remained as 25p until 1990 when their face value was increased to £5 in view of its relatively large size compared to other coins.
With its large size, many of the later coins were primarily commemoratives. The 1965 issue carried the image of Winston Churchill on the reverse, the first time a non-monarch or commoner was ever placed on a British coin, and marked his death.
In 2010, Crowns (£5) were no longer available from banks or post offices and other distributors for face value. They are now reserved for significant anniversaries, birthdays or celebrations and are available to purchase from The Royal Mint and other distributors.
Half Sovereign and Sovereign
Sovereigns had a face value of 20 Shillings (or one pound) and Half Sovereigns of 10 Shillings. As they are made of 22ct Gold, they have a much higher metal value and have not been used as currency in recent years due to this.
Sovereigns are now reserved for flagship royal or historical anniversaries and are only available to purchase from The Royal Mint or official distributors.
Now that you’ve read your guide to the UK’s pre-decimal currency, do you have a favourite coin from the ones we’ve mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!
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