British currency -- additional historical remarks


Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Hugo S. Cunningham
first posted: 990327
last updated: 000516
latest minor change 20030825

Contents


Some obsolete medieval denominations and coins

English currency ("Sterling")Remark
6 2/3 shillings
(1/3 pound) =
1 noble obsolete medieval gold coin
(1344-1464)
6 2/3 shillings
(1/3 pound) =
1 angel obsolete medieval gold coin
(1465-1661)
13 1/3 shillings
(2/3 pound) =
1 markobsolete medieval denomination
more common in Scotland

More info on medieval English silver currency:
gol-br-feave.html


Medieval Scotland (to 1621)

Independent Scotland had used currency similar to England's. Starting around 1350, however, the Scottish currency began to be debased more, to a 1/2 ratio around 1430, 1/4 around 1480, then after 1560 inflating more rapidly: by 1616-1621, 12 pounds Scottish were worth only 1 pound sterling (English). As Scotland grew closer to England in the 1600s, the separate Scottish reckoning disappeared.
    Note on the difference between depreciation (inflation) of paper money and "debasement" of specie (bullion coins)--
    In late medieval Scotland, the government would from time to time officially recall all the silver bullion coins, melt them down, mix the silver with base metal in some fixed proportion, and then re-mint coins with the same face value, but lower silver content. There was more profit to the government this way, than simply issuing new debased coins while private citzens hoarded the older good ones. The process required more planning and organization than the modern equivalent of quietly issuing excess paper money.

British currency after 1914

The British pound more-or-less retained its value until World War II (1939-1945). Strict wartime currency controls were continued after the war by a socialist (but firmly anti-Communist) Labour government, until a major devaluation ($2.80 against a US dollar that had also inflated somewhat) on 18 Sep 1949. It was devalued again to 2.40 inflated US dollars on 18 November 1967. The Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates collapsed in 1971.

Britain minted its last general-circulation shillings and old pence in 1967, adopting a decimal system (100 new pence = 1 pound) in 1971.


Some British coins, 1816-1967

coin denomination approx. value (1815-1933) in gold ($20.67 = 1 troy ounce) namecontent dates minted for circulationRemark
1/16 d.
See note on fractions below.
$.00125 1/4 farthing copper, bronze1839-1852
1/12 d. $.00167 1/3 farthing copper, bronze1827-1885
1/8 d. $.0025 1/2 farthing copper, bronze1828-1856
1/4 d. $.005 farthing copper, bronze1806-1956
1/2 d. $.01 halfpenny;
"ha'penny"
copper, bronze1806-1967
1 d. $.02 pennycopper, bronze 1806-1967
silver1818-1881 collector's proofs and "maundy money" only
1 1/2 d. $.031 1/2 penny silver 92.5%1834-1862 overseas issue only
2 d. $.04 twopence;
"tuppence"
silver1817-1820 afterwards only collector's proofs and maundy money
3 d. $.06 threepence silver 92.5% 1817-1919
silver 50%1920-1944
nickel-brass1937-1967
4 d.$.08 groatsilver 92.5% 1817-1862
6 d. $.12 sixpencesilver 92.5% 1816-1920
silver 50%1920-1946
copper-nickel1947-1967
12 d. =
1 s.
$.25 shilling;
"bob," etc.
silver 92.5%1816-1919
silver 50%1920-1946
copper-nickel1947-1967
2 s. $.50 florinsilver 92.5% 1849-1919
silver 50%1920-1946
copper-nickel1947-1967
2 s. 6 p. $.625 half crownsilver 92.5% 1816-1919
silver 50%1920-1946
copper-nickel1947-1967
5 s. $1.25 crownsilver 92.5% rare before 1887;
1887-1902
silver 50%1927-1937
copper-nickel1947-1967 occasional collector's item
10 s.$2.50 1/2 sovereigngold 91.7% 1817-1915
20 s. =
1
$5. sovereign;
pound
gold 91.7% 1817-1925

Notes on this table (British coins):


Return to
Gold and Silver Standards, 1815-1914.


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