Old money - FAQ
How many shillings in a pound?
Under the pre-decimal system there were 20 shillings in a pound.
How many pennies in a shilling?
There are 12 old pence, or 12d, in one shilling.
How much is a shilling in today's money
A shilling is worth 5 new pence. Shillings remained legal tender until 1990.
What about allowing for inflation?
A shilling in 1971, when the UK adopted decimal currency, would be worth about 55p at today's prices.
Was there a coin worth two shillings?
Yes. There was a two shilling piece which was minted from 1849 until 1967. It was known as a florin. The first florins were marked 'one florin - one tenth of a pound'. It was an early attempt at decimal currency.
Florins remained legal tender until 1993 and were worth 10p. The florin was the last old money coin to be in circulation in the UK.
How many old pennies were there to one pound?
There were 240 old pennies, or 240d, in a pound.
Crowns and half crowns
How much was a crown?
A crown was five shillings (25p today) or a quarter of a pound. Crowns were usually only minted for special occasions. People kept them as souvenirs rather than spent them.
Pre-decimal crowns were minted on the following occasions:
- 1935 - King George V - Silver Jubilee
- 1937 - Coronation of King George VI
- 1951 - The Festival of Britain
- 1953 - Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
- 1960 - No particular reason given
- 1965 - To commemorate the life of Sir Winston Churchill
How much was 'two and six'?
'Two and six' was two shillings and six pence. Two and six is 12½ new pence. It was also known as half a crown and there was a coin labelled 'half crown' which was worth two shillings and six pence.
What is a farthing?
A farthing is one quarter of an old penny. Today it would be worth a tenth of a modern penny. It was Britain's smallest coin and carried a picture of Britain's smallest bird, the wren.
The Royal Mint issued the last farthing in 1956 and withdrew it from circulation on 31 December 1960.
In 1959 a farthing was still a very small sum, the worth one and a half new pence. You could not buy much with a farthing. You might get a farthing in change for goods whose price ended with 11¾d or 1 farthing short of a shilling. Many people refused them or put them in the charity box. Once the farthing disappeared, prices ended with 11½d.
One restaurant customer found a farthing tip was the ideal way to reward bad service.
How many farthings in a guinea?
A guinea is one pound one shilling, or twenty-one shillings. There are twelve pence in a shilling and four farthings in a penny. So one guinea is:
21 x 12 x 4 = 1008 farthings
How many farthings in a pound?
By the same logic there are 20 shillings in a pound so:
20 x 12 x 4 = 960 farthings in a pound.
Article by Steven Braggs, March 2018
Add your comments
"Can old english moneys be exchanged for new English money in Northern Ireland" Mary kearns 18/07/2018
"I'm not sure I understand the question. Pre-decimal UK money is no longer legal tender in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The whole of the UK including Northern Ireland moved to decimal in 1971 and various old money coins were phased out at the same time in all countries of the UK." Steven 19/07/2018
"Sorry I meant bringing old money to bank in Northern Ireland to get new money, my uncle has some lying around his house which we are clearing out and we came across it and I am travelling to North Ireland shortly and was going to bring to bank in Belfast to change, thank you" Mary kearns 20/07/2018
The Bank of England (in London) will exchange any old money notes at face value. Other banks may do this, but you would need to check.
You can't do much with coins.
Having said that. Most banknotes and coins will sell for more than face value on eBay. Obviously condition plays a part as this is a collector's market.
My advice would be to look on eBay and see what they sell for first, then try some local banks.
All the best" Steven 21/07/2018
"Why were there 12 pence in a shilling?" Janice 05/10/2018
Our system of pounds, shillings and pence was based on a system introduced in France by Pepin the Short in AD755. Under that system there were 240 denarii (Latin for pennies) in a pound. There was a link between weight and money. As 1 pennyweight of silver was 240th of Troy pound.
The shilling (known as solidus at the time) was an accounting unit of one twentieth of a pound. So there were 12 denarii or pennies in a solidus or shilling.
The basic idea behind it was that weights of coins corresponded to their value and that you could also easily divide quantities.
Twelve divides into 2, 3, 4 and 6. Whereas 10 only divides into 2 and 5. So it was easier to split quantities without cutting coins in halves quarters or thirds. (They did this by the way)
I hope this helps." Steven 05/10/2018
"what happens if someone dips into savings their parents started for them in the pre decimal era would it still be legal tender for them to claim say in a death, in a bank or even money left under a mattress or in a caddy in the kitchen shelf up top ?" Carol 12/10/2018
"All bank accounts were converted to decimal for 15 February 1971, so accounts in £sd should not be an issue even if you don't have any statements in decimal. With money left under the mattress most of it will not be legal tender. However, the Bank of England will exchange all bank notes for current ones. However, they may be worth more than face value to a collector." Steven 12/10/2018
"The crown was nicknamed a "Dollar" 4 crowns to the pound when the pound was worth 4 dollars" Peter Baker 10/06/2019
"An interesting aspect of this is the metal used in the coins. The copper value of the Finnish old copper 5 penni (pre Euro) is today 21 penni. Note, also that the Euro 5 cent is not copper, it is believe or not only plated :) This only shows the dishonesty of the people how manage the monetary systems." Kean 16/07/2019