Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UK Decimalization

On February 15, 1971, the United Kingdom went through a process of decimalization of its currency.  Before Decimal Day, the money was divided in to pounds (£), schillings (s. or /-) and pennies (d.).




There used to be 20 shillings per pound.  And there were 12 pennies per shilling.  So, a pound was actually made up of 240 pennies while a penny was made up of two halfpennies or four farthings (a quarter penny).  

2 farthings = 1 halfpenny
2 halfpence = 1 penny (1d)
3 pence = 1 thruppence (3d)
6 pence = 1 sixpence (6d) Called a "tanner".
12 pence = 1 shilling (1s) Called a "bob".
2 shillings = 1 florin (2s) called a "two bob bit".
2 shillings and 6 pence = 1 half crown (2s 6d)
5 shillings = 1 Crown (5s) 

In shops, prices were given as pounds/shillings/pence.  If you saw "2/4d" then it cost 2 shillings, four pence.  If you paid 1 pound then you received 17 shillings and 8 pence back in change.  How on earth did the UK ever have an empire?  This system would completely do my head in.  

I guess if this was all you knew then it made perfect sense.  However, with the age of computers it became very difficult to deal with monetary calculations.  I believe that this was the main driver for switching to decimal.  Here's an old UK public service spot that I found out on YouTube.  



After moving to decimalization, the pound was made up of 100 pence (p).  Now when someone tells me that something costs 50p (pee) then I know exactly how much that is.  Although, at least now I can better understand the monetary situation in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.



Current UK coins
Many people I've talked have told me that by moving to decimal just caused everything to become more expensive.  I've heard the same thing in Slovakia.  Apparently when the Slovaks adopted the Euro, shops rounded up the prices in Euros so that things became more expensive then they had been in Slovak Crowns.  Unfortunately, salaries didn't get rounded up to match.

EDIT:  Ireland decimalized  its currency, the Irish Pound, on the same day that the UK did.

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