Did You Know?

A Little Note about... Old UK Currency
(and coin equivalents)


UK Currency Equivalents
¼d a farthing equivalent to approximately one-eighth of a new pence (p). Two farthings made...
½d a halfpenny,
(pronounced 'hayp-ny')
approximately ¼ of a new pence. Two halfpennies made...
1d a penny slightly less than half a new pence
3d a three-penny piece,
(usually called a 'thrupny-bit')
worth exactly 1¼ new pence
6d a sixpence, or 'tanner' worth exactly 2½ new pence. Twelve pennies or two sixpences made...
1s one shilling,
(usually written 1/-)
worth exactly 5 new pence. 20 shillings made £1
2/- two shillings, a florin worth exactly 10 new pence
2/6 'Two and six', or half-a-crown worth 12½ new pence
5/- the 'Crown' This coin was too large for regular use, and was withdrawn from all but commemorative status before the second world war.


UK Currency Decimalisation

When UK went 'decimal' in 1971, all the above coins were replaced over a few years by the ½p ('half-p'), 1p, 5p, 10p and 20p coins. The half-p barely lasted twenty-five years before it was withdrawn as being too small a value for anything but throwing at Carnival floats and putting in collection tins. (It also cost more to make than it was worth!)

Paper Money

For values above 2/6, paper money was used, the most commonly used being the 10/- ('ten-bob'), £1 and £5 note, although £10, £20, £50 and £100 notes were available.

The 10/- note was replaced by the 50p coin, the £1 note by a £1 coin (except in Scotland, where Scottish bank issued £1 notes are still legal tender) and a £2 coin has also been introduced into circulation.

Gold Sovereign

In the early part of the 20th century the gold sovereign, worth £1, and the smaller gold half-sovereign were still common. These were withdrawn rapidly when Britain went off the gold standard in 1921, that is, when a sovereign contained more than £1 worth of gold, and a sovereign and a £1 note ceased to become directly interchangeable.


In earlier times there was also a 1 guinea gold coin, worth £1/1/- (one pound and one shilling). This coin is still commemorated in horse racing circles, two of the 'classic' races of the season being the One Thousand Guineas and the Two Thousand Guineas.