The Change to Decimal Coinage

Prior to ‘D-Day’ on 15th February 1971 the English coinage system was based on the following relationships:

  • 2 Farthings = 1 Halfpenny
  • 2 Halfpence = 1 Penny (1d)
  • 6 Pence = Sixpence (often referred to as a tanner) (6d)
  • 12 Pence = 1 Shilling (often referred to as bob, e.g. six bob) (1/-)
  • 2 shillings = 1 Florin (or two bob bit) (2/-)
  • 2 Shillings and 6 Pence = 1 Half Crown (rarely referred to as half a dollar) (2/6)
  • 5 shillings = 1 Crown (5/-)
  • 20 Shillings = 1 Pound (often referred to as a quid) (£1)

Other terms much more rarely used include

  • 4 Pence = 1 Groat (4d)
  • 13 Shillings and 4 Pence (160 pence) = 1 Mark (13/4)
  • 21 Shillings = 1 Guinea (£1/1/-)

Note the way sums of money were written: 6/8 means 6 shillings and eightpence, while £2/19/11 was two pounds nineteen shillings and eleven pence. The use of d for penny may seem odd until you realise it is short for the Latin denarius.

The term guinea was (and is) used for 21 shillings (£1.05), especially in horse racing and by auction houses, although no coin of that value has been issued since 1813.

The Mark was traditionally used as a standard fine by the University of Cambridge during my own time there in the early 1960’s.

In advance of D-day the halfpenny and half-crown were withdrawn, and 5 new pence and 10 new pence coins were issued from 1968 to circulate alongside the existing shilling and florin coins. A 50p coin appeared in 1969 to replace the old 10 shilling banknote. The farthing had gone long before, in 1961.

After D-day the penny and threepence coins rapidly disappeared from use. The sixpence continued in use as 2½ pence for about nine years. The new halfpenny went not long afterwards. However, the old shillings and florins continued alongside the 5p and 10p coins until a reduction in size in the early 1990’s resulted in their disappearance from circulation. The 50p coin was also reduced in size in 1997.

Three new coins have been introduced since decimalisation – the 20p appeared in 1982 followed by the pound coin in 1983 and the two pound coin in 1998 (although 1997 versions are frequently found in change). Commemorative two pound coins were issued irregularly from 1986, but these early coins differ from the circulating version first issued in 1998 in that the latter is much thinner and is also bimetallic.

Source Coins Of the UK website, URL:  http://www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk/coins.html#dec