What could you buy for a shilling in 1970-1971

One shilling coin, 1963
One shilling coin, 1963

In 1971 Britain replaced the pounds, shilling and pence system with decimal currency. I was wondering what you could buy with a shilling before we went decimal.

How much was a shilling worth?

A shilling was 12d or 12 old pence. It had the same value as 5p or 5 new pence. The new 5p coin was exactly the same size and weight as the one shilling coin.

In real terms, a shilling or 5p was worth a lot more in 1970 than it is today. For a quick comparison imagine one shilling as 50p today.

What could you buy?

A litre of petrol?

Not quite. People bought petrol in gallons in 1970. A gallon of petrol was 6s 8d. One shilling would get you 0.7 litres of petrol in 1970.

Post a letter or a parcel?

One shilling postage stamp, 1968-70
One shilling postage stamp, 1968-70.

Yes. Postal rates in 1970 were the same as they were in 1968. The Post Office revised them in 1971 for decimalisation. From 1968-1970 you could post a letter Second Class for 4d or First Class for 5d. For a shilling, you could send a small parcel. For one shilling you could send an 8oz package First Class, although Second Class was better value. For one shilling you could send a 12oz parcel.

A phone call?

Yes. In 1970 you could call anywhere in the UK and talk for three minutes for one shilling. The one-shilling rate only applied after 6pm weekdays and Saturday or all day on Sunday. It also only applied to direct-dialled calls. Some calls still needed the operator's assistance in 1970. They cost more.

Food

A pint of milk?

Yes. A shilling would buy a pint of milk delivered by the milkman in 1970. Prices for some essentials, such as milk, bread and newspapers, were fixed by the government in 1970.

A loaf of bread

Not quite. A small 14oz unsliced white loaf cost 1s ½d in 1970. Sliced bread was dearer, as was brown.

What other food could you buy?

In 1970 you could buy these items for one shilling:

Source: Shaws - The Standard Guide to Fair Prices, November 1970

A can of Heinz baked beans was a little cheaper at 11d.

Soft drinks

You could buy these drinks for one shilling

Beer

Canned beer was more expensive. A can of Skol lager cost 1s 9d. A can of Watneys Red Barrel Export or Ind Coope's Long Life was 1s 11d.

Source: Shaws - The Standard Guide to Fair Prices, November 1970

Sweets and chocolates

A shilling went much further in the confectionary world. You could get all of these for one shilling

Source: Shaws - The Standard Guide to Fair Prices, November 1970

Comics and children's magazines

The Beano cost just 4d in 1970. The more educational, Look and Learn Weekly, cost one shilling.

Read more:

By Steven Braggs, December 2020

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