Bus Museum - Old Money page 1 of 2
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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 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 seventeen-and-sixpence or seventeen-and-six but seldom seventeen-shillings-and-sixpence.
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 "bob-a-job 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.
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.
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