Did You Know This About Decimalisation? Top 10 Facts!

If you’ve been keeping up with Change Checker, then you’ll have seen we’ve been counting down to the 50th anniversary of Decimal Day, but if you’re new here and aren’t too sure what Decimal Day was all about, we’ve got you covered with our Top 10 Facts that you should know about Decimalisation!

  1. For centuries before Decimalisation, Britain’s coinage consisted of pounds, shillings, pence, farthings, crowns, half pennies… the list goes on.
  2. The decimal debate was first raised in 1847 by Sir John Bowring, who proposed a call for the UK’s currency to be changed to a currency based on units of ten.
  3. The first decimal coin, the florin, was issued before 1971 but it wasn’t until 1st March 1966 that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, James Callaghan, announced that pounds, shillings and pence would be replaced by a decimal currency, with a hundred units in a pound.
  4. The changeover was a huge task. Businesses and the general public needed all the necessary information prior to the change, in order to make the transition as smooth as possible. There were nationwide public information campaigns in place, from posters to television broadcasts.
  5. The changeover was so big, that The Royal Mint’s production capabilities at Tower Hill were not up to the sheer volume of coins required to be produced. So, decimalisation literally drove The Royal Mint to South Wales, where it’s been ever since!
  6. During the preparations for the changeover, almost six billion coins were struck at The Royal Mint’s site in Wales!
  7. The new 5p and 10p coins were introduced in 1968 and were the same size and value as the existing one and two shilling coins, to make the transition easier for the British public.
  8. It was in 1969 that the first seven sided coin – the 50p – was introduced to replace the 10-shilling note as a more economical alternative!
  9. On Monday 15th February, 1971, the transition was complete and the, 1p and 2p coins were also introduced. The Decimal Halfpenny was also introduced in 1971, but it was eventually demonetised in 1984.
  10. Since Decimalisation, we’ve seen over 75 50p designs, over 60 different £2 coin designs, and a complete re-design of our £1 coins specification, and of course not forgetting the very first commemorative 10p coins!

So, there you have it! Our top 10 facts about Decimalisation! Have you got any memories of D-Day? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. craig harley on March 2, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    What I remember most about the decimal changeover was the slogan used in the weeks running up to it to instruct people how to get their hands on the new coins. When you go shopping “Give more, get change”.

  2. michael stevenson on February 16, 2021 at 2:32 am

    I was 11 years old on decimal day, it was the day before my 12th birthday. The first decimal coins I got were a 1p and 1/2p change from my bus fare.
    The majority of people got used to the new system very quickly but one big complaint from people was the fact that most things went up in price overnight as most things were rounded up rather than down when changing from old to new wasn’t an exact conversion, especially smaller priced items like milk, bread, sweets etc .
    I wish I’d started collecting coins then but we never had much money to spare in those days, certainly not enough spare to put it away in a coin collection.

  3. Eddie Clark on February 14, 2021 at 10:13 am

    I was a Bank Cashier on D Day. The week preceding D Day was taken up with breaking into the boxes of bronze coins, counting them and then bagging ready for distribution on the 15th. The denominations of Two New Pence, One New Penny and Half NP arrived in sealed rolls within card board boxes. Not all coins were perfect and, because they were valueless, I was allowed to keep a blank 2NP and also a 2NP with a crescent bite out of the edge where it had been struck by the die. I still have both in my collection.
    The 15th was a difficult day as we all had to work with old and new coins side by side. This went on for months until, in particular, sixpences and half crowns disappeared. Naturally we were retaining these for return to our Cash centres and their eventual destruction.
    Us eagled eyed collectors built up impressive collections. We had to have our bosses consent to swapping coins out of the tills with those in our pockets. A cash shortage at the end of the day would have looked very suspicious. Tills had to be balanced to the penny, every day.

  4. Adrian Charlton on February 12, 2021 at 11:41 pm

    By a quick count there have been around 100 50p designs, quite a few more than 75. There were 30 Olympic designs alone. And this does not include the various 50 years of the 50p re-mints in 2019.
    The decimal designs were a poor replacement for the beautiful designs on the outgoing coins. In particular the 1/2 crown and florin had intricate reverse designs, which have seldom been matched with the decimal offerings.
    The removal of the 1/2 pence contributed in part to the high inflation of the 1980’s, the minimum price rise could only be 1p, not far off 2 old pence, and this was a big rise on the price of basic items at the time. A few years before decimalisation, I remember my parents filling up with petrol, and getting a penny h’penny change from a 10 bob note (10 shillings) = 50p. Imagine being able to fill up today for 50p. I particularly remember the 3 h’pence change because this was my bus fare to school.
    The second decimal coin was the double florin in 1887, you did a blog about this coin some time ago.
    Children benefitted from the 50p replacing the 10 shilling note though, since relatives started sending a pound note by post for birthdays etc, people didn’t like posting a coin.
    Another effect of decimalisation was to remove the chance of finding an old coin in your change. Overnight we had new coins, and coin collecting has never been the same since.

  5. Trevor Cooper on February 12, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    I remember buying a Mars Bar and a 4 Finger Kit Kat for a Bob (Shillingon my way home from school. Which is the same as 5p. How prices have gone up since my teenage years.

  6. Jim on February 12, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    I was a change-checker even back then – Decimal Day was an extra day off school, so at 9am I rushed up to my local corner shop with a Shilling to buy some sweets, which came to 3 new pence – came back home with a brand new 2p which I’ve kept ever since. Was really sad to see the old coins go but have grown to love our decimals.

  7. Marie Tassie on February 12, 2021 at 11:13 am

    I didn’t know the florin was decimal?? That was two shillings. I have just googled the reasoning behind this. However, it was part of pre-decimal coinage and was disbanded after Decimal Day so I wouldn’t think of it as decimal. I was ten and a half and still at junior school when the money changed. I remember there being farthings in the house but they went out I think when I was about four. I remember the heavy multi-sided threepenny bit, and we aklso had a few of the silver ones at home but I don’t remember using those. I remember when you could buy “penny stuff” in the sweet shop and it literally cost a penny, for a chew or a bubble gum or a jelly sweet or similar. Black jacks or fruit salads were four-a-penny. My mum refused point blank to shop in decimal currency and used to go around the grocers with her little plastic button-press calculator to add up everything and convert it into old money, and she would talk to the cashier in “old money” and refused to call the new pence “pennies” as she said it sounded like going to the toilet!! (Spending a penny) If I mention “old money” to someone under the age of about 50, now, they don’t have a clue what I mean! Someone once said, “do you mean, it was dirty and damaged?”!! I remember skipping school lunch and with my one-and-nine dinner money (we paid the school daily in cash in those days) I and my friends would go round to the row of shops at the other end of our estate, and spend 9d on a portion of chips each from the chippy. We’d then go next door to the sweet shop and spend most of the remaining shilling on “penny stuff”! My mum sometimes wondered why I was absolutely starving by the time I got home! I remember when a Mars Bar was 3d and then at some point it shot up to 7d. (3 1/2 p) Paperback books such as Penguins were 2/6d. Then they went up to 3/6d! oh horrors!! I used to get for pocket money the number of pennies for my year of age. So when I was 5 I got 5d a week. When I was 6, 6d a week…and so on. That would buy a comic (3d) plus some left over for “penny stuff”. When I was 8 I got a big increase and instead of getting 8d I got 9d a week!! I thought I was rich! By the time I was 10 I was on one shilling a week. A neighbour sometimes gave me two shillings for walking her dog. I would get half a crown (2/6d) from relatives as a birthday or Christmas gift, and on very rare occasions a whole ten shilling note. I could buy four books with that! (And often did!)

  8. Ethan Kealey on February 12, 2021 at 10:45 am

    why did the UK only start making commemorative designs in 2018 when they could have started in 1968 with the first 10ps being introduced

  9. Richard Ball on February 12, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Why is the 50th anniversary of D-Day being celebrated in 2021 if – as you say in your blog – the first decimal coins were actually introduced back in 1968? Shouldn’t it have have been celebrated back in 2018?

    • Alexandra Siddons on February 12, 2021 at 10:39 am

      Hi Richard,

      It’s being celebrated as the decimal changeover was complete in the year of 1971 🙂


  10. Christopher Kennedy on February 12, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Is this coin being released into general circulation any time soon?

    • Alexandra Siddons on February 12, 2021 at 10:43 am

      Hi Christopher,

      We’ve not heard of any plans just yet but as we saw two 50ps enter circulation in 2020, we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed we get some new commemoratives released for circulation this year too 🙂


  11. Karl Prescott on February 12, 2021 at 9:28 am

    On Fact 2
    How was a Farthing a decimal coin? Wasn’t it worth 1/4 of an old penny making it worth 1/960th of a Pound. Also it ceased to be legal tender in 1961 I think.

    • Alexandra Siddons on February 12, 2021 at 10:43 am

      Hi Karl,

      A little typo our end on this. We meant to say the florin. Good spot!


    • Peter Foster on February 12, 2021 at 11:15 am

      The farthing was discontinued in 1956, it was never a decimal coin, it was worth 1/4 of a penny.