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Simple Economics - a Child's Impression

Updated on September 30, 2008

Conversion Of Our Unit of Currency

Way back when I was very young, the government over and above deciding to change our identity by becoming the Republic Of Southern Africa, then had to fiddle around with not only our currency, but also our units of measure.

This was the birth of decimalisation, and was also a valuable lesson in just how economics worked in that grown up world around us.

Prior to decimalisation we had Pounds, Shillings and Pence, good old LSD.

  • Post decimation we had Rands and Cents.
  • Prior we had a pints, quarts, and gallons
  • Post we ended up with liters
  • Prior we were also informed by pamphlets and press and radio, that the change over was very simple.

  • A rand was 10 Shillings
  • A pint of milk was now a liter of milk

Simple and easy to comprehend, even to us children,

The Impact of the Rand and Cents

When I received my weekly pocket money, I would try and get the the pocket money in pennies rather than the new decimal money.

If I could not get the pocket money in old money, I would act as a money merchant and try to convert it into the old currency as a matter of economic survival.

As there was always, a small group of kids in the playground who always had to have the latest of what was going around, even then at that early age there was quite a few that would gladly exchange.

Our sweets and Bubblegums

This is were it really counted, the universal money of the playground as well as the classroom.

  • A penny would buy you 4 Chappies or 2 Wicks bubblegums,
  • sixpence would then give you 24 Chappies or 12 Wicks

  • Now a cent would buy 4 chappies,
  • a five cent would buy you 20 Chappies or 10 Wicks

So when you are were a kid in those days, you might have tickey a day, and if you had a new 2 1/2 cent coin, you lost out on a whole 2 Chappies. Boy was it rough growing up then.

There were a few ways we could reduce our losses if we had ended up with new money.

Going into the shop and buying one Wicks with the 2 and a half cent coin, and only accepting 2 pennies or a mix of hap-pennies and farthings. You lost a Chappies, though.

However when this happened we would get someone else to go into the shop and exchange the Wicks, for the Chappies, however the shopkeepers all new us and cottoned onto that scam fairly quickly.

Then it finally dawned on us, that unless, we got our pocket money in pennies, we would loose, and mark it down, to one of those lessons in life.

Decamilisation devalued our buying power

The lesson in economics that we learnt at that tender age all those years ago was as follows.

The price stayed the same it just cost you 2 cents more in every shilling.


being able to view it again from a different perspective
being able to view it again from a different perspective


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    • Just_Rodney profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodney Fagan 

      10 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      It is only as you get a bit older that these flashbacks of memories occour, sometimes a bit unexpected but it happens. It was while writting about the marbles and reading about the bus tickets that brought about that bit of memory.

    • ccordell profile image


      10 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Childhod econimics... brilliant mind to figure out the exchanges. I love that you remember so vividly how much got you what and what you were losing by changing currencies. Thanks for the history lesson as well.

    • Just_Rodney profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodney Fagan 

      10 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Thanks for the comments

    • glassvisage profile image


      10 years ago from Northern California

      I"ve never heard of decimalisation... thanks for the education on the term!

    • sixtyorso profile image

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Great Hub. I was not that smart on the decimal conversion side. But still I had the bus ticket and sandwich trick ( in my hub Schoolyard economics).

    • Just_Rodney profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodney Fagan 

      10 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Karen, our gas prices are reviewed monthly and currently are at R9,83 for a liter, with speculation of it rising another 50 plus cents next month. It is playing hell with the general food prices. Bought a few items yesterday, and Mayo has climbed a Rand in a couple of months.

      We all, no matter were we are, are having to take extreme measures to survive.

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 

      10 years ago from Central Oregon

      Hi Rodney, How are you?

      I think you had to have a young mind to follow - and figure out - how the exchange of the new money all worked. It sounds like it was a bit confusing at first. I've heard talk of our country as well as Canada and Mexico changing our money to Ameros. Much like the Euros of Europe. I do wonder what that might do to our economy, which has really taken a turn for the worse lately with gas prices so high - it effects everything. I suppose other countries are feeling that pinch as well. How are the gas prices in South Africa?

    • Just_Rodney profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodney Fagan 

      10 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Thanks, yes we had to get by quite early as we actually lived through some interesting times. We grew up fairly street wise, none the worse for it though.


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