Old money - pounds, shillings and pence

"Old money" or pounds, shillings and pence or appropriately for the sixties, LSD (that's Libra, Solidus, Denarius, not lysergic acid diethylamide) was in use for the whole of the fifties and sixties. All this changed on 15 February 1971, when D-Day - Decimal Day, came and Britain switched over to the new decimal currency we know today, where 100 pence made 1 pound.

From then on people asked: "What's that in old money?"

How much is a sixpence in new money?

Answer 2½p or 2 and a half new pence.

The sixpence was allowed to remain in circulation for several years after decimalisation in 1971. It was finally withdrawn in June 1980 and sadly missed ever since!

Other old money conversions

  • One shilling (or 'bob') - 5p
  • Half a crown (2 shillings and sixpence) - 12½p
  • One guinea - £1.05

Coins and Notes

If you wanted to survive in the fifties and sixties you would have to know about the old money system of pounds, shillings and pence:

10 shilling note 1966

four farthings made a penny (1d); twelve pence made a shilling (1s or 1/-) or 'bob' as in 'bob a job'; five shillings made a crown, although there was no such thing except on special occasions, such as to mark the Queen's Coronation in 1953, the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 and for no apparent reason in 1960; you could have spent a half crown - that's 2/6 (two shillings and six pence); 20 shillings made a pound and there were notes for 10 shillings as well.

So there were 240d (that's pence) in £1 that's 12 (pence in a shilling) x 20 (shillings in a pound) - easy isn't it? I don't know why they ever changed it! If you needed to add up in pounds, shillings and pence you needed three columns.

Buy old money

If you want to buy a set of 'old money', the best way is to buy a complete set from a specific year. They can make great birthday present, if you can find a set dating from the year the person was born. They are not as expensive as you might think. A complete set of coins from a specific year from the 50s or 60s should cost no more than £ 25 and often a lot less. Look for:

Banknotes

Banknotes started at 10 shillings (50p) in today's money. The ten shilling or ten bob note disappeared in 1971, being replaced by the fifty pence coin.

Guineas

Oh, and I haven't mentioned guineas. One guinea was 21 shillings - that's one pound and one shilling. There were no guinea coins, but you might still find bills in guineas from solicitors, accountants and other professionals, and if you went on holiday you might have to settle your hotel bill in guineas. It was a way of sounding posh and also making a bill seem a little bit smaller than it actually was - a bit like £9.99 instead of £10! 1967 appeared to be the last year in which the old coins were minted. However, the Royal Mint pulled a trick to stop people hoarding the last of the old money. All coins minted in old denominations from 1967 to 1970 were dated 1967.

New money

Starting from 1968 they started to mint 'new money'. In fact they started with coin denominated in 'New Pence' of values 5 and 10. These fitted in well with the old system as they were direct replacements for the one and two shilling pieces. In those days today's pence were 'new pence' and that was what was on the coins.  In 1967 you might have had any of the following in change.

Halfpenny Penny Threepence
Half Penny Penny Threepence
1/2d 1d 3d
Sixpence or tanner One Shilling Two Shillings Half Crown - Two Shillings and six pence
Sixpence One Shilling Two Shillings Half Crown
6d 1s or 1/- 2s or 2/- 2s 6d or 2/6

How much did it cost?

So how much was a can of baked beans then?

These are some typical prices from 1965:

English butter per lb 3/-
Baked beans lb 9d
Kellogs Cornflakes 12oz 1/5
Nescafé 2oz 2/3
Omo washing powder per lb 1/11
Find out about pounds and ounces

So what's that in today's money? Translating the prices at face value, they work out at 15p for a lb of butter, 4p for the baked beans, 7p for the cornflakes, 11p for the coffee and 10p for the Omo.

But what about inflation?  According to the retail price index, prices have gone up by a factor of twelve since 1965.  So taking inflation into account, these prices would have been £1.25 for a lb of butter, 48p for a lb of baked beans, 84p for 12oz of cornflakes, £1.32 for 2oz of Nescafe and £1.20 for a lb of Omo (remember Omo?).

Pounds, Shillings and er...plastic?



A 1960s Barclaycard

Credit and chargecards had just started to be used in the sixties. Originally they were used mainly by businessmen for travel expenses, but all this changed when Barclaycard was launched in 1966. It was subsequently sent free to one million Barclays' customers. From the beginning, Barclaycard customers were encouraged to use the card for "ordinary shopping".

By the late sixties, there were just four general chargecards in common use, Barclaycard, American Express, Diners' Club and Eurocard. I use the word "charge" rather than "credit", because only Barclaycard gave credit.  Barclaycard was Britain's first credit card. The first ever chargecard was Diners' Club, which was started in the USA in 1950.

Bills for Diners' Club, American Express and Eurocard had to be settled by the end of the month. They also charged an annual fee of between £3 and £4 and American Express and Diners' Club members were expected to earn at least £2,000 per annum - quite a lot in the sixties. Barclaycard had no fee and was aimed at people of more modest means. Barclaycard's reputation for being accepted at more places around the world than other chargecards was yet to be earned.  In 1968 you could use it in the USA, but in Europe you were limited to the UK, Gibraltar, Malta and the Republic of Ireland.

Acceptance of any of these cards in shops and restaurants, even in the UK, was patchy. Barclaycard was most useful for paying for petrol. In theory it could be used in any kind of shop, but according to a 'Which' report, very few of the large department stores, chain stores or supermarkets accepted any chargecards, apart from their own. Barclaycard remained unchallenged in the UK until Access was launched in 1972 by a group of banks, including Lloyds, Midland and National Westminster.

As well as the general chargecards, there were also store cards which were given to account customers at well-known department stores in the sixties. There was also a GPO card, similar to the cards issued by BT today. Customers could, for a fee of 5s per quarter, have telephone calls charged to the account whenever they were made. They would need to telephone the operator and ask for the call to be charged to the account. Unfortunately, operator transferred calls often worked out more expensive than STD calls (STD was new in the sixties - read more about telephone service). One other advantage, mentioned by 'Which', of having a GPO card was that you could make calls from vandalised telephone boxes. More of a problem in the sixties, than it is today.

Credit cards were very new in the sixties and the 'Which' report referred to above warned people to be careful of overspending, particularly when they first got the card.

Add your comments

"what is six pence in the 60s" kymcoats 29/05/2012
"Six pence was 6d or six old pence in the 60s. In today's money it would be 2 and a half pence." Steve 29/05/2012
"Can anyone tell me what "The Horizon" means in old money please?" bill street 28/06/2012
"The only thing I can think of is the horizon on the one penny piece, where the sea meets the sky behind Britannia." Steven 28/06/2012
"i have alot of pence 1955 and older. just would love to know if can sell them i am from Antigua. would u like me send you some pictures." Deno Chritian 28/01/2013
"Does anyone know where online we can see the official conversions that the Government published at the time? I remember well that they had this available everywhere - there was a table of exactly how you should convert every penny value up to a shilling, and of course they had to include the new halfpenny. I know we can calculate it, but I'd love to see what was actually published at the time." Nevilley 05/04/2013
"My father was a coin collecter for years an has a lot of very old coins an book sets of coins do you know were the best place for me to get a guide to what they would be worth or where I should try to sell them. Thanks may" may 05/07/2013
"Please let me know how can someone exchange old chilling money to get current currency?" Fatema Miah 22/07/2013
"I think you are a little too late for that. We've had decimal currency in the UK since 1971. More than likely pre 1971 coins and banknotes are worth more than their face value anyway to collectors." steven 22/07/2013
"I am looking to buy a few pennies from 1959 as it was the year of my birth. Are you able to help me please?

Kind regards,

Penny Main" Penny Main 12/09/2013
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