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Thread: Britain's Pre-Decimal Coinage

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    Britain's Pre-Decimal Coinage

    On Decimal Day, 15 February 1971, Britain introduced a new division of its unit of currency, the pound sterling. In it, the penny changed from 1/240 pound to 1/100 pound, and intermediate values were changed to decimal-style multiples of pence: 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50, much as Britain's rebellious North American colonies had done nearly two centuries before.

    Pre-decimal money quantities were usually given as pounds - shillings - pence.

    The decimal-currency penny was 2.4 times the old penny, and a new-penny half-penny coin was issued for a while to help ease the transition.

    Coins of the pound sterling, List of British banknotes and coins
    Pre-decimal coins – What do you know about farthings, florins and groats?
    Pre-decimal currency in Britain (before 1971)

    From this table, one can easily discern a preference for multiples and reciprocal multiples, and also for powers of 2. I counted these prime factors in all its numbers: {{1, 112}, {2, 316}, {3, 92}, {5, 56}, {7, 24}}. The 1's are from numerators or denominators being 1. Doing this on every possible pairing of coin gives {{1, 744}, {2, 2414}, {3, 778}, {5, 490}, {7, 288}}. The 7's come from the guineas, and omitting them gives {{1, 96}, {2, 266}, {3, 60}, {5, 48}} for this table, and {{1, 546}, {2, 1702}, {3, 404}, {5, 344}} for all possible coin combinations.

    Coin Farthing Penny Shilling Pound
    Mite 1/6 1/24 1/288 1/5760
    Quarter farthing 1/4 1/16 1/192 1/3840
    Third farthing 1/3 1/12 1/144 1/2880
    Half farthing 1/2 1/8 1/96 1/1920
    Farthing 1 1/4 1/48 1/960
    Halfpenny 2 1/2 1/24 1/480
    Three farthings 3 3/4 1/16 1/320
    Penny 4 1 1/12 1/240
    Three halfpence 6 1 1/2 1/8 1/160
    Twopence, half-groat 8 2 1/6 1/120
    Threepence 12 3 1/4 1/80
    Groat 16 4 1/3 1/60
    Sixpence 24 6 1/2 1/40
    Shilling 48 12 1 1/20
    Florin 96 24 2 1/10
    Half-crown 120 30 2 1/2 1/8
    Double florin 192 48 4 1/5
    Crown 240 60 5 1/4
    Quarter guinea 252 63 5 1/4 21/80
    Third guinea 336 84 7 7/20
    Halfpound, half sovereign 480 120 10 1/2
    Half guinea 504 126 10 1/2 21/40
    Pound, sovereign, unite, laurel 960 240 20 1
    Guinea 1008 252 21 21/20
    Two pounds 1920 480 40 2
    Two guineas 2016 504 42 21/10
    Fifty shillings 2400 600 50 5/2
    Triple unite 2880 720 60 3
    Five pounds 4800 1200 100 5
    Five guineas 5040 1260 105 21/4

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    Wait, a guinea is only worth 5% more than a pound? What's the point of even introducing it?

    And while "mite" may seem like a useless coin, if "Pound Sterling" was still worth the same as a pound of silver, a mite would be worth the same as ~4 US cents. Not bad.

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    The Guinea (coin) was gold and the Pound sterling silver. The guinea was equal in value to the pound when it was introduced in 1663. But the prices of these precious metals fluctuated relative to each other, and in 1717, the guinea was set equal to 21 shillings, alongside the pound's 20 shillings. The guinea was officially dropped in 1816, but some items continued to be priced in guineas.
    Even after the guinea coin ceased to circulate, the name guinea was long used to indicate the amount of 21 shillings (£1.05 in decimalised currency). The guinea had an aristocratic overtone, so professional fees, or prices of land, horses, art, bespoke tailoring, furniture, white goods and other "luxury" items were often quoted in guineas until a couple of years after decimalisation in 1971.[9] The guinea was used in a similar way in Australia until that country converted to decimal currency in 1966, after which it became worth A$2.10.

    It is still quoted in the pricing and sale of livestock and racehorses at auction, at which the purchaser will pay in guineas but the seller will receive payment in an equal number of pounds. The difference (5p in each guinea) is traditionally the auctioneer's commission (which thus, effectively, amounts to 5% on top of the sales price free from commission). Many major horse races in Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia bear names ending in "1,000 Guineas" or "2,000 Guineas", even though the nominal values of their purses today are much higher than the £1,050 or £2,100 suggested by their names.[10]

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    The above is very theoretical. In practice during and after WW II the coins were

    Farthing
    Half penny also known or pronounced as a Heypenny
    Penny
    Threepence (in silver) pronounced as Thruppence aka as a Tikki in some colonies
    Threepenny bit - an octagonal coin in thick brass, commonly called An Aberdeen Half Crown
    Sixpence
    Shilling aka a Bob
    Two shillings aka Two Bob rarely called a Florin even though that name was on the coin
    Two shillings and sixpence coin aka Half-crown, Half Dollar or Two-and-a-kick
    A "pure gold" Pound called a Sovereign or a Guinea but valued by its gold content and never used in practice except for hoarding gold

    Notes

    Ten Shilling note --- Ten Bob
    Pound note aka a Quid
    Five Pound note --- a Fiver

    The Fiver was a large thick white paper (?parchment) note that was printed on one side only and you signed the other side before passing it on. No other trace but the signature, no phone number, address or anything, So unless people knew you they were reluctant to accept it. Never bothered me as I never owned one.

    Changes ensued.
    As one of my English friends said "I have seen many changes in my life and none of them was for the better". He, of course, pronounced 'better' as betteh', the way it should be pronounced.

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