

Old Money 
£.s.d.  pounds,
shillings and pence 








Shown here: 

£ 

s 

d 









A five pound
note 

5 

0 

0 

A pound note 

1 

0 

0 

A ten shilling
note 



10 

0 

A half crown 



2 

6 

A two shilling
piece 



2 

0 

A shilling 



1 

0 

A sixpence 





6 

A threepenny
bit 





3 

A penny 





1 

A halfpenny 






½ 








Total 

6 

16 

4 
½ 









Six pounds, sixteen
and fourpence halfpenny 




The old currency now seems
rather odd with its 12 pence to a shilling and 20
shillings to a pound but there was a structure to
the system. There were three units of currency,
the pound, the shilling and the penny. The largest
unit was the pound (£1). There were multiples
of this, such as 5 pounds. Higher values were rare
before the 1960s. 

The pound
was divided in half (ten shillings). Half
of this was a crown, which was only issued
to mark special occasions. The half crown,
however, was in general circulation. So we
had £1, halved = 10/ or 10s (ten shillings),
halved again = 5/ or 5s (crown), halved once
more = 2/6d or 2s 6d (half crown). The middle
unit was the shilling. This too was halved
(6d), and halved again (3d). The smallest
unit was the penny (1d) which was halved (½d
or halfpenny) and had until 1960 been halved
again to a quarter of a penny (¼d called
a farthing). 


A farthing,
¼d. 


The odd one out was the 2 shilling
coin. This had been introduced in the nineteenth
century as the florin, a name that stayed in common
use, and was to have been the basic unit for a decimal
currency to replace the pound. In the event decimalization
did not occur until 1971 by which time inflation
had reduced the florin's value and it became the
10 pence piece (10p). 

Prices were sometimes shown
in guineas, a guinea being one pound and one shilling.
20 guineas looked less than the 21 pounds it really
was but there was no coin or note. Sums over a pound
might be expressed in shillings, for instance 50/
(fifty shillings) for £2/10/. In the 1950s,
when most tailors used guineas to imply quality,
one chain branded itself as The Fifty Shilling Tailor
in order to show its affordability. 

Causing confusion among foreign
tourists, counting in £sd was second nature
to those of us who grew up with it. No calculators
in those days, we did the sums in our heads! 


Two pennies, a threepenny bit
and a sixpence = elevenpence (11d). 


A penny, a threepenny bit and
two sixpences = one and fourpence (1/4d) (2x sixpence
= one shilling). 


Two half crowns (2 x 2/6 =
5/), two two shilling pieces (2 x 2/ = 4/), two
shillings (2 x 1/ = 2/), a sixpence (6d) and a
threepenny bit (3d)  total eleven and ninepence
(11/9d). 

Selling tickets and giving change. 



Two adults and three children
where the adult fare is 1/4d (one and fourpence)
is 2x 1/4d plus 3x 8d (eightpence) because 1/4d
is 16d making half 8d. We could add 2x 1/4d (2/8d
= two and eight) and 3x 8d (2/ = two shillings)
to get the total 4/8d (four and eight). Since the
child fare is exactly half the adult fare, the calculation
could equally have been 3x 1/4d (4/ = four shillings
because we know that two adults and two children
is the same as three adults, giving us three shillings
plus three fourpences which is another shilling)
and simply add the remaining 8d (eightpence) to
make 4/8d. If the passenger paid the exact fare,
it might look something like this (and then again
it might not): 

The coins here are 2x 2/ (two
two shillings), 6d (a sixpence) and 2x 1d (two pennies).
That is 2/ plus 2/ plus 6d plus 1d plus 1d = 4/8d.
If they paid with a ten shilling note (10/), I
would try to give them change using the highest
value coins available, like this: 

Ten shillings (10/) minus
4/8d is 5/4d (10 minus 5, the next highest shillings,
is 5 plus 4d to make the 8d up to a shilling). However,
my preferred method was to count the change up from
the total fare to the amount tendered. In this example
4/8d (four and eight) plus 1d (one penny) = 4/9d
(four and nine) plus 3d (threepence) = 5/ (five
shillings) plus 2x 2/6d (half crowns) is five shillings,
making ten shillings in all. Of course, if there
were no half crowns available I would have to use
a different combination of coins. 


You can check that this works
by adding all the coins together: Two and six (2/6d)
plus two and six (2/6d) is five shillings (2/ +
2/ = 4/ and 2x 6d = 1/ making 5/) plus 2/ =
7/ plus 2/ = 9/ plus 6d = 9/6d plus 3d = 9/9d
plus 1d = 9/10d plus 1d = 9/11d plus 1d = 10/. 

Coins remained in circulation
for many years, so there were several different
designs and monarchs' heads around at the same time. 

There were a lot of different
ways to express money, both verbally and in writing.
Written amounts in pence were always followed by
the letter d, such as 1d, 3d, 6d, 10d. Amounts in
shillings could be written as 1s or 1/, 14s or
14/. Combinations of shillings and pence were written
as 1/3d or 1s 3d (one and threepence), 15/6d or
15s 6d (fifteen and six) for example. Amounts including
pounds could appear as £1/19/11d or £1
19s 11d (one pound, nineteen and eleven).. 

When talking, people would
join the number of pence and the word pence together.
For example, tuppence (two pence), threepence (pronounced
thruppence), fourpence etc.. When shillings and
pence were used together, the word shilling was
generally dropped. So too could the word pence.
For example seventeenandsixpence or seventeenandsix
but seldom seventeenshillingsandsixpence. 

In addition, there were words
to describe certain amounts. A sixpenny piece was
often called a tanner, a two shilling piece two
bob and a ten shilling note ten bob. Scouts and
cubs held "bobajob weeks" where they
did odd jobs for small donations. Some things seemed
to fit a particular value, such as six pennyworth
of chips, a shilling for the meter  and spending
a penny cost exactly that. 

Decimalisation 

In February 1971, centuries
of tradition came to an end. Some people were against
the change, others feared it. There was concern
that the elderly would not be able to cope. In the
event, most people got used to the new coins quickly
enough. It turned out that counting in tens and
hundreds was not so bad after all! 

On the buses, we had practice
sessions handling the new coins before they were
released to the general public. Our problem would
be the first week after the changeover. The date
was set for the 15th of February, a Monday. However,
people travelling to work that morning would still
have the old coins and none of the new ones. 

The solution was that all bus
operators would continue charging fares in old money
until the following Sunday. This dealt with the
immediate problem but by Saturday everyone had new
money and we ran out of change. There were a lot
of free rides that Saturday night. 



It is interesting to note that
several other countries, such as Australia and New
Zealand, which also used pounds shillings and pence,
adopted a decimal currency based on ten shillings
becoming one dollar rather than keeping the pound.
This meant that two shillings became 20c, one shilling
became 10c and sixpence became 5c, avoiding the
confusion which existed in the UK with ten shillings
becoming 50p, two shillings becoming 10p, one shilling
becoming 5p and sixpence becoming 2½p, with
old and new money both being called pence. 



A "Decimeter"
converter, a useful item to check prices when
shopping. Use the two wheels at the top to
enter shillings on the left and pennies on
the right. The result (rounded to the nearest
half new penny) is displayed in two parts:
multiples of 5p (shillings) and new pence.
The two added together is the value in new
money. In this example, 17/6 (seventeen and
six) is exactly 87½p. 

