Decimalisation - 1971

On Monday 15 February 1971, Britain went decimal. The old money - pounds, shillings and pence was replaced by a new system with 100 pence in the pound and no shillings.  It seems simple to us, but at the time people were worried about it.  Imagine the confusion though, if we were to go the other way now!

Decimal currency - 1971

For a while the old and the new currencies ran hand in hand. People could pay in pounds, shillings and pence and get new pence in their change. There was an original intention to keep the old money in circulation for eighteen months, but in the end, the old penny, halfpenny and threepenny bits were no longer legal tender by August 1971. There were also a handful of shops that refused to switch, resolutely clinging onto the past, but eventually even they had to change.

The big controversy with decimal currency was that people thought the shops used it as an excuse to put up prices.  This may have been true, as many changed their prices when the new money came in, but inflation was quite high at the time and no doubt prices would have risen anyway.

The coins themselves showed a remarkable evolution in design from the originals first minted in 1953 (see old money).  Although they depict similar motifs there is a much more contemporary feel to them.  "New Pence" and "New Penny" have now gone - to call anything from 1971 "new" is stretching it a bit!

Britain's first Decimal coins

If you want a souvenir of the Britain's first decimal currency you can buy an original set of coins from 1971 for around £1 on eBay. See

 
 

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