British money has an amazing and confusing history, especially for foreigners. Let us help clear some of the fog.
Before 1971 British money was populated with confusing currency with exotic names. We've attempted to simplify and explain them.
Please note that we are not experts in British currency. We do not deal in British coinage, nor are we able to recommend numismatic dealers. We cannot provide the value of British currency. This page is provided solely as a reference to better understand British money in an historical context.
Since 1971, British money has been calculated on the decimal system, with a standardized scheme of 100 pence to the pound. However, previous to 1971, there were many British coins with exotic names and confusing conversions. We've tried to list them all (there are over 50!) in the chart below, with their conversions into today's post-1971 decimal system in italicized text and their old (pre-1971) equivalencies listed in non-italicized text. Coins that had earlier and different values have those values listed with the time period to which the values are appropriate. Units of specie are listed alphabetically.
In pre-decimalization, a sum would normally be written pounds, shillings, pence (£sd). Thus, £2. 19s. 3d. would be 2 pounds, 19 shillings, 3 pence. This would be spoken as "two pounds nineteen and three." If dealing only in shillings and pence, a sum would be written as 2s. 6d., or 2/6, and spoken as "two and six." Coins after decimalization carried the term "New Pence" (removed in 1982) to differentiate them from the old, pre-1971 decimal coins.
All UK coinage carries (and has for centuries) the Latin inscription D.G. REG (or REX, when the monarch is a king), F.D., followed by the date. This stands for "Dei Gratia" ("by the Grace of God, Queen"), "Fidei Defensor" ("Defender of the Faith"), and the date. Coins minted during the British Raj have a bit more text: "D:G:BR:OMN:REX F:D:IND:IMP," which stands for the Latin "Dei Gratia Britanniarum omnium Rex, Fidei Defensor, Indiae Imperator," which translates to "By the Grace of God, King of Entire Britain, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India." This phrasing was dropped in 1947, when India was given independence. This inscription was not consistent throughout reigns; the penny of 1750 states only "GEORGIUS II REX."