Saturday, 5 February 2011

How Britain converted to decimal currency

How Britain converted to decimal currency

Another anniversary that is fast approaching is the 40th anniversary of D-Day. No, not the invasion of France on 6th June 1944 but "Decimal Day" - the end of centuries of pounds, shillings and pence (or L.s.d) and the introduction on the 15th February 1971 of "New Pence", 100 of which would make £1.

This article from the B.B.C. gives some fine detail behind the decision to do away with pre-decimal currency and the effect the change had on the nation. We take the simplicity of 100p = £1 in our stride today, but I'm sure I am not alone in having parents and grandparents who remember with ease 12 pence to 1 shilling and 20 shillings (or 240 pence) to the pound. Sometimes even I wonder how they knew to work it all out but no doubt it was as easy to them as the modern system is to us. It is interesting to see how the changeover was handled, too. I have an example of the "introductory pack" (above) that was found in many homes of the time to help ease the transition, but it must have been a remarkable thing to have experienced.

Of course being something of a vintage obsessive, not to mention a dyed-in-the-wool coin collector, I rather envy them their experience of using old British sterling. Our coinage today seems so limited by comparison - the farthing, ha'penny, old penny, thrupenny bit, sixpence, shilling (one bob), florin, half crown and the 10-bob note all seem more favourable than the stuff we have today. All we get now are 8 little pieces, the odd redesign and a few commemorative £2 coins!

The link this old money provides to a bygone age and the images it conjures up are no doubt part of the attraction, although I would like to think that I could work things out using the old system (heaven knows I've been collecting the money for long enough!). Sadly (for the likes of us) this anniversary is proof of the decimal system's sense and longevity so it looks like its here to stay(!). Ah well, there's always my collection to look at...

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