England badge English weights and measures Last edit: 02/May/2010
Money & coins: Pounds, Shillings and Pence - fun with Lsd.

Until 15th February, 1971, Great Britain had much more interesting system of money, known as the pounds, shillings and pence system, or Lsd - the L coming from the latin word libra, the d coming from the latin word denarius (a roman coin). The penny has been the basic unit of currency from about 775. In 1971 the system was changed to follow the Russian model - the pound being divided into 100 'new' pennies. Inflation followed...

The L is almost always written as a fancy pound sign or another pound sign, although it was common at one point to see it written after the amount as a lower-case 'L' like a lower case l this.

This symbol (£) is shifted above the 3-key on an English keyboard.

Basics
12 pennies = 1 shilling
20 shillings = 1 pound


At this point, I think it is a good idea to mention how Lsd values were written and pronounced. A few examples:
Amount Written as Pronounced as
two and a half pennies 2½d tuppence-ha'penny
two and three quarter pennies 2¾d tuppence three farthing
four pennies 4d fourpence
two shillings 2/- two shillings, or two bob
eight shilling and four pence 8/4 eight and fourpence


Until 1971, the coins in use were:
Half penny Known as a ha'penny
Penny  
Three pence Known as a threpney bit
Sixpence Known as a tanner
Shilling Known as a bob
Florin = 2 shillings
Halfcrown = 2 shillings and six pence


Other coins encountered occasionally were the crown (five shillings), and the sovereign.

There were many other coins in use over the years, the most notable being:
Farthing= a quarter penny, last made in 1956
PennyThe basic unit of currency from around 775 AD
Two penceOnly made in 1797
Three penceSilver until 1945, brass 1945-1967
Groats= 4 pence. Made from 1836 to 1888
Sixpence 
Shilling 
FlorinTwo shillings. Made from 1849
Half crownTwo shilling & six pence
Double florinFour shillings. 1887 - 1890
CrownFive shillings - still made
Half sovereign10 shillings. Gold
Sovereign1 pound. Gold
Two poundsGold
Five poundsGold
Farthings and half-pennies were usually pennies cut into two or four pieces until the coinage of Edward I (1272-1307).

In common usage, a guinea is 21 shillings - much used in auctions (the bidder pays in guineas, the vendor gets paid the same number of pounds - the auctioneer gets the rest) and as the prizes (and names) for horse races. The guinea was introduced in 1663, made in gold obtained from Guinea (Ghana) in Africa, its value being fixed at 21s in 1717 (before that date its value depended on the current price of gold). Coins of 5, 2, 1, ½, one-third and ¼ guineas were issued up to George III (most finished in 1813).

In George III's reign the Bank of England issued re-struck Spanish/American 8 reales as dollars, worth four shillings and nine pence (because of the amount of silver in them) , and in 1804 issued another dollar, worth 5 shillings, to their own design. At the same time, the bank issued 3s, 1/6d (one shilling & sixpence) and 9d coins - or rather 'bank tokens'.

The florin was introduced in 1849 as a first step towards decimalisation, which was achieved after only another 122 years. The coins of 1849 said 'one florin' and 'one tenth of a pound' on the reverse (tail). They were known as the 'godless' type, as they didn't say Dei Gratia on them. This changed with the next issue, when, with a sound grasp of the point of decimalisation, the date was written in roman numerals (mdccclii) instead of 1851. The writing was in a nice florid gothic script, so you couldn't read it anyway!

Take a look at history to see that this system was codified in 1266.
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