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Pre-Decimal Currency

Prior to Decimalisation in February 1971, Britain’s currency featured an eclectic range of coins much loved by the nation, though visitors from overseas were often baffled by certain aspects of an eccentric system.

One pound (£1) comprised 240 pennies, a shilling (commonly known as a ‘bob) equalled twelve pennies, and there were twenty shillings in a pound.

The ten shilling note was the one of lowest value (the ‘ten bob note’). The green £1 note was a little larger in size.

The penny was the key to the system, with Britannia proudly seated on its reverse. A halfpenny (or ha’penny) had a ship on its reverse, while the little-used quarter of a penny was called a farthing and featured Britain’s smallest bird, the wren. Farthings ceased to be legal tender at the end of 1960.

The threepenny bit was a brassy gold colour and had twelve sides, while the sixpence (or ‘tanner’) was the smallest of the silvery coins.

Next up from the shilling was the larger two-shilling coin (also known as a florin) and then the impressive half-crown (or ‘two-and-six’).

The Queen’s head did not appear on the pound or 10/- note until the beginning of the 1960s, but from 1953 all coins bore her head, replacing that of her late father, George VI.

Of course, the sovereign’s head from previous reigns continued in circulation, so pockets and purses maintained a link with the country’s history back to Victorian times.