Following on from yesterday’s post about the history of the Pound Sterling, we’re looking at the Decimalisation of the UK Currency.
On the 15th February 1971, the UK and Ireland decimalised their currency.
For years the pound was made up from 240 pence, which stemmed right back to the Anglo-Saxon period.
A Shilling would be 12 pence, therefore 20 shillings in a pound. A Half-Crown was worth two shillings and 6 pence and a farthing was one-quarter of a penny. Have we confused you yet, because it sure confused tourists and any computer programmes which were used to calculate.
Under new decimalisation the new Pound was divided into 100 pence. The 5p and 10p were introduced in 1968 and in 1969 the 50p was introduced, then the old 10 shilling note was withdrawn. In the first instance, some coins were the same size, such as the 5p and 10p but over the years different sizes differentiate the value of the coin.
The Banks closed for 5 days to enable to stock up on the new coinage. February was chosen as it was the quietest time of the year for retail and after the 17th, retailers would advertise products with the new price and old price so people could understand.
Decimal Day itself went very smoothly, the government hoped that people would relate to the new coins and “new pence” but people found that too long and shortened it to “pee”. Funnily the work “quid” pre-dates the decimal changeover. Some believe it comes from the latin saying “Quid pro quo” some believe it was named after the Royal Mint in Quidhampton.
Since decimal day coins have changed shape and colour on a regular basis, in the last 20 years we have seen the introduction of the new fiddly 5p and the smaller 50p. Pound coins were also re designed to interlock and commemorate events.