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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."

Angel

80 pence, or 6 shillings and 8 pence, in the 15th century. 10 shillings. Equivalent to 50 pence in today's decimal coinage.

Former gold coin. Called an angel because it featured the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon on the reverse. The angel was introduced by Edward IV with a value of 6s 8d to replace the unpopular ten shilling ryal. Under Edward VI the value of the coin was increased to 10 shillings.  Angels continued to be produced under James I, with the final issue minted under Charles I in 1643. In the American colonies the Massachusetts ten shilling paper currency note from the October 14, 1713 emission was designated as an angel; this plate was reused several times for emissions until 1740.

Bob or Shilling

1 shilling

Slang term for a shilling, a former coin, removed from circulation in 1971. Abbreviated with an "s."  See Shilling for more information.

One_Shilling_1950.jpg

Broad

20 shillings, or 1 pound.

A former milled gold coin issued only in the year 1656 (during the Commonwealth). The obverse depicts the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, as a laureated Roman emperor, with the inscription OLIVAR D G R P ANG SCO HIB &c PRO (Oliver, by the Grace of God, Protector of the Republic of England, Scotland, Ireland, etc.), while the reverse shows a crowned shield depicting the arms of the Commonwealth with the inscription PAX QVAERITVR BELLO 1656 (Peace is sought through war, 1656).

Copper

1 pence

Slang term for a penny, which was once made of copper (since 1992 it's been made of copper-plated steel). The term is still heard today as slang for the 2-pence and the 1-pence (penny) coins. See Penny for more information.

Crown (also referred to as a "dollar" in slang)

5 shillings. 25 pence between 1971 and 1981. £5 since 1981.

Former coin. The English crown (not to be confused with the later British crown) dates back to Henry VII, when it had a value of 5 shillings and was made of gold. Edward VI struck the first silver crowns in 1551-53; these coins were over twice the size of the gold crowns. Both gold and silver crowns continued to be produced through the Commonwealth period. Oliver Cromwell struck the last hammered gold crowns (1649-57), as well as silver crowns (1649-56), and the first milled crown (in silver) in 1658. The regular series of milled silver crowns began in 1662 under Charles II. Gold crowns were discontinued in 1662 (at the time of the appearance of Charles II's new milled silver crowns); the new crown became the highest denomination silver coin. Successor to the English crown and the Scottish dollar, the British crown was introduced at the Act of Union in 1707 (the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland) and was removed from circulation after the 1971 decimalization act. The denomination continued as a 25-pence commemorative piece for the first ten years after decimalization. Four issues were made between 1971 and 1981; a characteristic of these versions is that they have no indication of value. The Royal Mint continues to issue proof crowns today for collectors. These pieces are minted primarily to celebrate royal occasions and have carried a value of £5 since 1981.

Crowns_1970-80s.jpg

Dollar

5 shillings

Slang term for a crown. See Crown for more information.

Double Crown or Half Laurel or Half Sovereign

10 shillings, or half-a-pound. Equivalent to 50 pence in today's decimal system.

Former circulating gold coin. See Half Sovereign for more information.

Double Florin

4 shillings, or 1/5 of a pound.

Former coin. The double florin was only issued once -- in 1887 -- to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Double Guinea or Two Guinea

40 shillings in the 17th century. 42 shillings in the 18th century.

Former gold coin. Minted between 1664 and 1753. Also called two guinea; see Two Guinea for more information.

Double Leonard or Florin or Two Shilling Piece

2 shillings. 72 pence, or 6 shillings in the 14th century. Equivalent to 10 pence in today's decimal system.

Former coin, also called a florin. See Florin for more information.

Farthing

¼ penny (pence)

Former copper coin. Removed from circulation in 1960.

Copper_Farthing_1847.jpg

Five Guinea Piece or Five Pound Piece

105 shillings, or 5 pounds and 25 shillings.

Former gold coin. Minted from 1668 until 1753.  During the 17th and 18th centuries it was also known as a five-pound piece. The value of the guinea fluctuated over the years, ranging from 20 to 30 shillings; a Royal Proclamation of December 1717 fixed the value of the guinea at 21 shillings. The five guinea piece was the largest denomination of the milled gold coins and is considered by numismatists to be one of the most impressive pieces of British coinage ever produced.

Florin or Double Leonard or Two Shilling Piece

2 shillings. 72 pence, or 6 shillings, in the 14th century. Equivalent to 10 pence in today's decimal system.

Former coin.  After the 1971 decimalization act the florin was reclassified as being worth 10 pence and the coin continued to circulate. In 1993 the florin was withdrawn from circulation; it had been replaced in 1992 by the new, smaller 10 pence coin, which is still in circulation today. An earlier version of the florin existed in the 14th century; it was a gold coin introduced by Edward III in 1344 in an attempt to produce coinage suitable for use in Europe as well as in England. The gold used to strike the coins was overvalued, which resulted in the them being unacceptable to merchants, and the florin was withdrawn after only a few months in circulation; it was replaced the same year by the noble. The florin was based on a French coin and ultimately was probably based on the fiorino, a gold coin struck in Florence in 1252. Few specimens survive of the English florin, a coin that numismatists regard as one of the most beautiful medieval English coins ever produced.

Forty Shilling Piece or Two Guinea

40 shillings in the 17th century. 42 shillings in the 18th century.

Former gold coin. Minted between 1664 and 1753. See Two Guinea for more information.

Gold Penny

20 silver pence in the 13th century

Former gold coin. Issued from 1257 until 1279. Henry III introduced the gold penny, which was twice the weight of a silver penny and valued at 20 silver pence. It was not a popular coin.

Groat or Twopence

4 pence, or 1/3 of a shilling.

Former silver coin. Issued from the 14th to the 17th century. Later used as Maundy Money (see Twopence for more information on Maundy Money).

Guinea

1 pound and 1 shilling, or 21 shillings.

Former gold coin that was originally made of gold from the Guinea coast of Africa, thus the name! The guinea came into existence in 1663, under Charles II; when first issued the coin was worth one pound, or twenty shillings. The value of the guinea fluctuated over the years, ranging from 20 to 30 shillings. A Royal Proclamation of December 1717 fixed the value of the guinea at 21 shillings. In the Great Recoinage of 1816, the guinea was replaced as the major unit of currency by the pound. Although the last guinea was minted in 1813, the guinea as a monetary unit continued until decimalization in 1971. Auction houses, in particular, used to denominate all their bidding in guineas, primarily because it was considered to be a more aristocratic way to conduct business.

Half Angel

40 pence, or 3 shillings and 4 pence in the 15th century. 3 shillings and 9 pence in the 16th century. 5 shillings and 6 pence in the 17th century. 

Former gold coin. The half angel was introduced during the restoration of Henry VI (October 1470 - April 1471) with a value of 3s 4d. In 1526, under Henry VIII, the value was increased to 3s 9d. Production of the coin continued through James I, with the value raised to 5s 6d in 1612. The final issue of half angel coins was minted in 1619.

Half Crown

2 shillings and 6 pence

Former coin. The half crown, valued at 2s 6d, was first issued in 1547 under Henry VIII. Production of the hammered gold coin continued into the reign of James I, who minted gold half crowns 1603-19 and also produced a larger sized silver half crown. The minting of hammered silver half crowns continued through Charles I';s reign; the last hammered half crowns were produced between 1660 and 1662, during the reign of Charles II. The milled silver half crown was first produced by Oliver Cromwell, in 1656 and 1658, during the Commonwealth, but the first standard regal issue occurred during the reign of Charles II in 1663. The half crown was removed from circulation in 1970 as part of the conversion to the decimal system. 

Half_Crown_1914_Silver.jpg

Half Farthing

1/8th of a penny (pence) or 1/1,920th of a pound.

Former copper coin originally produced for circulation in Ceylon (then a British colony, today the independent nation of Sri Lanka). The half farthing was minted intermittently between 1828 and 1856. On June 13, 1842 the coin was made legal tender in Britain, as well as Ceylon.

Half Florin or Leopard

36 pence, or 3 shillings, in the 14th century.

Former gold coin. Introduced by Edward III in 1344, the half florin, or leopard, was not popular; it was removed from circulation the same year as its issue.

Half Guinea

10½ shillings

Former gold coin. Minted from 1669 until 1813. 

Half Groat

2 pence in the 14th and 15th centuries

Former silver coin. Introduced circa 1352 and minted until the early 17th century.

Half_Groat_Elizabeth_I_1582-60_Silver.jpg

Half Laurel or Half Sovereign or Double Crown

10 shillings, or half a pound. Equivalent to 50 pence in today's decimal system.

Former circulating gold coin. See Half Sovereign for more information.

Half Noble

40 pence, or 3 shillings and 4 pence, in the 14th century. 50 pence, or 4 shillings and 2 pence, in the 15th century.

Former gold coin. Introduced circa 1352. 

Half Pound Note (also called "a bob note" or "half a quid" in slang)

10 shillings Equivalent to 50 pence in today's decimal system.

Former banknote. In circulation between 1928 and 1962. 

Half Penny or Half Pence (also called a "ha'penny" in slang)

Half-a-penny (pence)

Former copper coin. Removed from circulation in 1984. 

Half_Penny_1978.jpg

Half Ryal

60 pence, or 5 shillings, in the 15th century.

Former coin. 

Half Sovereign or Half Laurel or Double Crown

10 shillings, or half a pound. Equivalent to 50 pence in today's decimal system.

Former circulating gold coin. The half sovereign, half laurel, or double crown had a value of 10 shillings. The double crown was first produced by Henry VIII and continued being minted until 1662, when the last of these hammered coins was produced by Charles II. Some larger sized silver double crowns were produced under Charles I. The modern half sovereign, first struck in 1817, had a value of half-a-pound. Today half sovereigns are gold coins minted as proof coins for collectors only.

Half_Sovereign_Gavin_Ashworth_BLACK_02_CREDIT_LINE.jpg

Helm or Quarter Florin

18 pence, or 1 shilling and 6 pence, in the 14th century.

Former gold coin introduced by Edward III in 1344; also called a quarter florin. See Quarter Florin for more information.

Jacobus

25 shillings

Former gold coin of the reign of James I. The name of the coin comes from the Latin inscription surrounding the King's head on the obverse of the coin, "JACOBUS D G MAG BRIT FRA ET HI REX" ("James, by the grace of God, of Britain, France and Ireland, King"). Isaac Newton refers to the coin in a letter to John Locke: "The Jacobus piece coin'd for 20 shillings is the 41th: part of a pound Troy, and a Carolus 20s piece is of the same weight. But a broad Jacobus (as I find by weighing some of them) is the 38th part of a pound Troy."

Laurel

20 shillings, or 1 pound.

Former gold coin. The laurel was the third British gold coin with a value of 20 shillings minted during the reign of King James I. It was named after the laurel that the king is portrayed as wearing on his head. The coin was produced during James I's third coinage (1619-25).

Leopard or Half Florin

36 pence, or 3 shillings, in the 14th century.

Former gold coin introduced by Edward III in 1344, also called a half florin. See Half Florin for more information.

Mark

2/3 of a pound, or 13 shillings and 4 pence.

Although never minted as a coin, the British used a mark as a unit of account.

Noble

80 pence, or 6 shillings and 8 pence, in the 14th century. 100 pence, or 8 shillings and 4 pence, in the 15th century.

Former gold coin. It replaced the florin in the 14th century and was the first English gold coin produced in large quantity. The noble was replaced by the ryal in 1465.

Pence

There were 12 pence to a shilling and 240 pence to a pound before decimalization. There are 100 pence to a pound in today's decimal system.

Pence is the plural of penny. Since 1971 there have been 100 pence to a pound. The abbreviation of a "d" for a pence comes from the Latin denarius, a small silver coin of ancient Rome originally equivalent to 10 bronze asses.

Penny (also referred to as "a copper" in slang)

1 pence

A coin in circulation today. Pre-1992 the penny was made of bronze; since 1992 it's been made of copper-plated steel. Since 1971 there have been 100 pence to a pound. The term penny is singular; pence is plural. The abbreviation of a "d" for a pence comes from the Latin denarius, a small silver coin of ancient Rome originally equivalent to 10 bronze asses.  The word penny is probably Germanic in origin.

Penny_1935.jpg

Pound or Pound Sterling (also referred to as "a quid" in slang)

20 shillings, or 240 pence. Equivalent to 100 pence in today's decimal system.

A one pound coin has been around for centuries -- silver £1 coins were issued during the reign of Charles I in the 17th century. In 1983 the nickel-brass £1 coin was introduced, roughly coinciding with the removal from circulation in 1984 of the £1 note (introduced in 1797). The nickel-brass £1 coin has the Latin phrase "Decus Et Tutamen" inscribed on the edge, which translates as "An ornament and a safeguard." The phrase first appeared on British coins in the 17th century and refers to the inscribed edge as a protection against the clipping of precious metal. (See the entry for Sterling for more information on the derivation of that term). A pound once referred to a monetary unit of Scotland used before the Union with England and Wales (1707). The Scottish currency was called a pound Scots and was worth a fraction of the pound Sterling. The pound was also the basic monetary unit of various dependent territories of the United Kingdom. The term comes from the Middle English po(u)nd, which derives from Old English pund, which originated with the Latin pondo. The pound abbreviation symbol of £ derives from the Latin libra, which was a unit of weight in ancient Rome corresponding to a pound.

One_Pound_Coin_2002.jpg
One_Pound_Banknote_1970-77_Obverse_and_Reverse.jpg

Quarter Farthing

1/16th of a pence, or 1/3,840th of a pound.

Former coin produced for circulation in Ceylon (then a British colony, today the independent nation of Sri Lanka) between 1839 and 1853. The coin is considered to be part of British coinage because it has no indication of what country it was minted for, being made in the same style as the contemporary third farthing. Its value was considered too small to be used in Britain.

Quarter Florin or Helm

18 pence, or 1 shilling and 6 pence, in the 14th century.

Former gold coin introduced by Edward III in 1344. The coin was not popular and was removed from circulation the same year as its issue.

Quarter Guinea

5 shillings and 3 pence

Former gold coin. Minted only twice: in 1718 and then again in 1762.  

Quarter Noble

20 pence, or 1 shilling and 8 pence, in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Former coin. Introduced circa 1352. 

Quarter Ryal

30 pence, or 2 shillings and 6 pence, in the 15th century.

Former gold coin.

Quid

1 pound

Slang term for a pound, probably from the Latin Quid Pro Quo. A Quid has always, pre- and post-decimalization, referred to a pound. See Pound for more information. 

Ryal or Rose Noble

120 pence, or 10 shillings, in the 15th century.

Former coin. The ryal was a gold coin with a value of 10 shillings introduced in 1465 by Henry VI to replace the noble (which had been valued at 6s 8d). The ryal was unpopular and was replaced by the angel by Edward IV. Mary I and Elizabeth I struck a 15-shilling ryal. James I produced a rose ryal, which was actually a two-ryal piece (valued at 20 or 22 shillings) and a spur ryal valued at 15 shillings (increased to 16s 6d in 1612 as the price of gold increased).

Shilling or Testoon (also referred to as "a bob" in slang)

12 pence. There were 20 shillings to a pound. Equivalent to 5 pence in today's decimal system.

Former coin. The silver shilling dates to the late 15th century, when it was called a "testoon." By the early 17th century it became an important coin, with several issues minted. The first milled shillings were struck in 1658 during the Commonwealth. The final hammered shillings were produced by Charles II between 1660 and 1662; the regular series of milled shillings began circulating in 1663. After the 1971 decimalization act the shilling was reclassified as being worth 5 pence and the coin continued to circulate. In 1990 the shilling was withdrawn from circulation and formally replaced by the new, smaller 5 pence coin, still in circulation today. Shilling derives from a Saxon word; however, the "s" with which it was abbreviated comes from solidus, a Roman coin.

Silver_Shilling_1883.jpg

Sixpence or Sixpenny Bit (also referred to as "a tanner" in slang)

6 pence Equivalent to 2½ pence in today's decimal system.

Former coin. The silver sixpence was first minted in the mid-16th century during the reign of Edward VI. The first milled sixpence were produced by Elizabeth I between 1561 and 1571; Elizabeth also authorized a hammered version, which was continued under later monarchs. Large quantities of sixpence were produced by Charles I; the final hammered version occurred 1660-62 during the reign of Charles II (milled sixpence were produced in 1658 by Cromwell). The regal series of milled sixpence started in 1674 under Charles II. The sixpence remained in circulation after the 1971 decimalization act, but was reclassified as being worth 2½ pence. The coin was not minted in the new classification and was withdrawn from circulation in 1980.

Sixpence_1949.jpg

Sovereign

1 pound

Former circulating gold coin, first struck in 1489 for Henry VII and last struck for circulation in 1932. Today gold sovereigns are minted as proof coins by The Royal Mint for collectors only. The sovereign was carried as emergency bargaining power by airmen of the Royal Air Force during World War II and soldiers of Britain's Special Air Service (SAS) during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Soveregin_1985.jpg

Sterling

From the formal term "pound sterling." Though less used today, the term is still found, e.g., "payment must be made in sterling," to indicate that the only currency acceptable for payment is the British pound. The word may have its origins from the Middle English starling ("small star"), which refers to the small star on early Norman silver pennies. Probably from Old English steorling.

Tanner or Sixpence

6 pence

Slang for sixpence, a former coin removed from circulation in 1980. See Sixpence for more information. 

Ten Shilling Note

10 shillings

Former banknote introduced in 1928 and removed from circulation in 1969. 

10_Shilling_Note_1949-55.jpg

Testoon or Shilling

12 pence. There were 20 shillings to a pound. Equivalent to 5 pence in today's decimal system.

Former coin. Introduced in the 15th century, the coin was more commonly called a shilling, which see for more information.

Third Farthing

1/12th of a pence, or 1/2,880th of a pound.

Former coin minted exclusively for use in Malta (then a British colony, now the independent Republic of Malta) between 1827 and 1913. The coin is considered to be part of British coinage because it has no indication of what country it was minted for, being made in the same style as the contemporary quarter farthing. Its value was considered too small to be used in Britain. The third farthing was originally made of copper; however, by the time of the mintage of 1866 the coins were made of bronze.

Third Guinea

7 shillings

Former gold coin. Minted from 1797 until 1813. The third guinea coin is unique among British gold coinage in having been produced exclusively in the reign of one monarch: George III.

Three Farthings

3/4 of a penny (pence)

A former silver coin introduced by Queen Elizabeth I during her third and fourth coinages (1561-82) and closely resembling the three halfpence and threepence coins, differing only in the diameter.

Three Halfpence

1½ pence

A former silver coin introduced by Queen Elizabeth I during her third and fourth coinages (1561-82). The three halfpence closely resembles the three farthings and threepence coins, differing only in the diameter. No three halfpence coins were produced after 1582. 

Threepence or Thruppenny Bit

3 pence

Former coin, removed from circulation in 1971. The silver threepence coin first appeared in English coinage during the fine silver coinage of Edward VI (1547-53). The threepence was changed to a nickel-brass composition in 1937 and ceased to be legal tender after August 31, 1971. Threepence is pronounced "THRUP-ence."

Silver_Threepence_1913.jpg

Triple Unite

60 shillings

The triple unite was the highest denomination gold coin produced during the hammer strike era. It was produced under the reign of Charles I, from 1642 until 1644.

Two Guinea or Double Guinea or Forty Shilling Piece

First issued in 1664, when it had a nominal value of 40 shillings and was known as a forty shilling piece. After the Proclamation of 1717 settled the value of a guinea at 21 shillings, the two guinea piece became worth 42 shillings. 

Former gold coin. Minted between 1664 and 1753. The value of the guinea had fluctuated over the years from 20 to 30 shillings. A Royal Proclamation of December 1717 fixed the value of the guinea at 21 shillings.

Two Pence

2 pence

A coin in circulation today. Pronounced "TUP-ence." Pre-1992 the two pence was made of bronze; since 1992 it's been made of copper-plated steel.  Also a former silver coin that, since 1662, has only been minted for use on Maundy Thursday. The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony which has its origin in the commandment Christ gave after washing the feet of his disciples on the day before Good Friday. The commandment, or mandatum, was "that ye love one another" (John XIII 34). It appears to have been the custom as early as the 13th century for members of the royal family to take part in Maundy ceremonies by distributing money and gifts, and to recall Christ's simple act of humility by washing the feet of the poor. Maundy money was first issued in 1662 during the reign of  Charles II, with an undated issue of hammered coins. In the 18th century the practice of washing the feet was discontinued; in the 19th century money allowances were substituted for the various gifts of food and clothing.

Two_Pence_1980.jpg

Two Shilling Piece or Florin or Double Leonard

2 shillings. 72 pence, or 6 shillings, in the 14th century. Equivalent to 10 pence in today's decimal system.

Former coin whose primary name was florin. Originally introduced in the 14th century, the florin was removed from circulation in 1993.  See Florin for more information.

Two_Shillings_1965.jpg

Unite

20 shillings, until 1612; thereafter, 22 shillings.

Former gold coin. The unite was the second British gold coin with a value of 20 shillings minted during the reign of King James I. It was the equivalent of a pound and was named after the legends on the coin indicating the King's intention of uniting his two kingdoms (England and Scotland). The unite was valued at 20 shillings until 1612, when the increase in the value of gold caused it to be raised to 22 shillings. The coin was produced during James I's second coinage (1604-19). The unite was replaced in James's third coinage by the laurel.