What could you buy for a half crown in 1969?
As Britain prepared for decimalisation, some of the old coins were withdrawn. The half crown or two shillings and sixpence coin was withdrawn on 1 January 1970. 1969 was the last year that you could spend one.
The half crown was first issued in the reign of Henry VIII in 1526. A crown was five shillings, so half a crown or a half crown was two shillings and sixpence.
Many people kept the last half crowns in their change.
The last half crowns in circulation are dated 1967. But the Royal Mint issued a commemorative proof set in 1970 with highly polished bronze and silver coins. All the coins in that set are dated 1970. So the last half crown was actually dated 1970.
What did a half crown look like?
A half crown was a large silver coin. It was larger than the old 10p or two shilling coin. In the past they had been made from solid silver, but those in circulation in 1969 were more likely to be cupro-nickel or a silver alloy.
How much was a half crown worth?
A half crown was two shillings and sixpence, 2s 6d or 2/6. It was worth 12½p in the decimal system. Prices were a lot cheaper in 1969. For a quick comparison think of a half crown having the value of £1.50 in today's money.
What could you buy for a half crown?
A gallon of petrol?
No. People bought petrol in gallons in 1970. A gallon of petrol was 6s 6d. You would need two half crowns and an extra 1s 6d to buy a gallon of petrol.
Post a parcel?
Yes. Postal rates in 1969 were the same as they were in 1968. The Post Office revised them in 1971 for decimalisation. For half a crown you could send a 1lb 4oz parcel.
A parking charge of half a crown for five hours was common in 1969 .
Half a crown would go quite a long way purchasing food in 1969. You could get any of these food items for 2/6 in 1969.
- Co-op red sockeye salmon 3¾oz
- Sainsbury's Australian pears 29oz tin
- Del Monte tinned peaches 29oz
- Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate ½lb bar
- Galaxy chocolate 8oz bar (Sainsbury's)
- Mazola corn oil 16 fl oz (Tesco)
- Sainsbury's minced beef and onions with gravy 15oz
- Sainsbury's beef and vegetable casserole 15½oz
Read more about food prices in 1969.
- Kleenex kitchen towels 2 pack (Tesco)
- Radox bath salts 323g (Tesco)
- Bar of soap from Fine Fare
A respectable tip
The passing of the half crown was more than just a coin being replaced. It was the end of a culture. A half crown had a certain place. It was a respectable tip. It was a sizeable coin and it had a sizeable place in popular culture.
A half crown was a suitable tip to leave for waiters, taxi drivers or hairdressers. It was also common to leave half a crown on the collection plate in a church. Some feared customers and parishioners might substitute the half crown with the decimal 10p
Toys and games
Half a crown did not go far in toytown in 1969.
- Beach ball (Woolworth's)
 'Now the axe falls on Henry VIII's half crown' by Shona Crawford Poole, published in the Daily Express, 12 December 1969, page 10
By Steven Braggs, January 2021