OK it isn’t crazy to me; I’m English. But for those of you are aren’t privileged to be subjects of the Queen, let me explain:
I sometimes talk to people about how the English monetary system worked before decimalization. It is hard to imagine there was a time when currency in England was not 100 pence to the pound. When I was young during the Stone Age it was actually 240 pence (to be accurate: “d”) to the pound.
To make it easy, there used to be 12d to the shilling (told you it was easy), then we had 20 shillings to the pound (hence 20 x 12 = 240d to the pound).
Going way back, there was a farthing (¼d), a ha’penny (½d), one penny of course, then we had thruppence (3d), sixpence (or a tanner as it was called – 6d), one shilling (or a bob as it was known – don’t ask me how it got that name – 12d). So far so good. See how easy this was. After that, there was the 2 bob – AKA a florin (yes 2 shillings – 24d), half a crown 2 shillings and sixpence – written as 2/6d) That was about it for coins.
Now we go onto the notes – one of my favorites was the 10 bob note (10 shillings or 10/-). In my day, that was some serious money. The next was the pound note (written as £1) affectionally known as a quid (don’t ask) then the fiver – yes 5 pound note – a tenner, which was a 10 pound note, and finally a 20 pound note (don’t think there was a name for this, as I don’t ever remember seeing them as a youngster). As you can see, England still has a pretty consistent set of notes, with the addition of a 50 pound note (I don’t think they ever seriously issued a 100 pound note into circulation – of course that could be different now).
Some interesting old currency terms:
Guinea was a gold coin worth 1 pound and 1 shilling. I believe it was named after the region it came from. It was commonly referred to as the “gentleman’s payment”. One paid one’s tailor in pounds, but a barrister in guineas. I believe they still sell horses priced in guineas.
Some slang terms for English money using Cockney Rhyming slang:
Lady Godiva (a fiver), Pony (25 Pounds), Half ton (50 Pounds), Ton ($100) and a Monkey was 500 pounds. Not money related, but my favorite Cockney rhyming slang is Trouble and Strife (wife)!
To bring us up to date, and at the time was so confusing, is the conversion from pre-decimal money to decimal money.
Basically, they had to make 24d into 10 pence, and 240d into 100 pence. So a bob went from 12d to 5p. So something that cost 2/6d in old money was now appx 13p (12½ to be exact, but there was no new ha’pennies – guess which way the prices went?)
So hopefully, this really helps as a useless piece of trivia. However, it still seems amazing to me that up until 1971, when the rest of the world had decimal currency. It just seems so hard to imagine how it worked so well for so long – and the amount of resistance there was to decimalization.
England, of course, is not the only country with strange denominations. Burma (Myanmar) also has a unique set of banknote denominations: 15, 30, 45, 60, 75 & 90 Kyats.
Thanks again for reading, and as they say in Cockney Rhyming slang:
Go down the “apples and pears” to your “jam jar” to get your “barnet fair” cut, so you look good for your “skin and blisters” party, I suggest some “tom foolery” as a good gift.