ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

OLD ENGLISH COINAGE

Updated on October 1, 2012

Understanding The Coins

People reading older English literature will come across mention of unfamiliar coins like the farthing or the groat. This article is to help you understand what the coins were worth.

Throughout much of history there has been a shortage of coinage. The old Roman Emperors produced coins, but there never were enough coins produced for the needs of trade. The development of the Rome economy and of the Roman Empire was perpetually inhibited by a shortage of coin. Traders were forced to barter much more than they wished to do. Roman soldiers were frequently paid in salt, from which the word "salary" derives. For someone to be "worth his salt" meant he was worth his pay.

Coins were originally made of gold or silver - the precious metals. Over time currencies were debased by criminals who shaved or trimmed or clipped coins and melted down the gold or silver trimmings for sale as gold or silver. Over time, governments learned how to adulterate coinage by introducing base metals into the coins as they were cast. This was hugely profitable for the King’s mint, but of course was unpopular with the people who found the value of the coins they held was effectively devalued even if they were not actually debased. It caused inflation. Some Kings tried to rescue their finances by further debasement of the coinage. Each debasement gave a short term improvement to the King’s personal finances but ruined his currency and hence the economy of his country.

The old English coinage was based on the "shilling" named after the German "schilling" and the penny. There were twelve pennies to the shilling.

The smallest coin in common usage was the "groat", worth one eighth of a penny. A "farthing" was worth two groats, or one quarter of a penny.

"You owe me three farthings" said the bells of Saint Clements (Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme)

A "halfpenny" was half a penny. A halfpenny did not buy much in the early part of the twentieth century. A "ha’porth" was a halfpenny worth, so not very much in quantity. A small child being silly (or "daft") might be described as "a daft ha’porth".

The penny was quite a large coin. The early bicycles had a large front wheel and a small back wheel, and were often called "penny farthings".

"Half a pound of tu’penny rice

Half a pound of Treacle

That’s the way the money goes

Pop goes the Weasel."

Rice was two pence or "tuppence" a pound. The weasel was a tailoring tool. a flat iron..

There was no two penny coin, but "tuppence" was the abbreviation for two pence or two pennies.

The three penny coin. "thruppence" or "thrupenny bit" was an amazing coin because it had flat edges. It could stand on its flat edge.

The next coin was a sixpence or "tanner".

Twelve pence made up a shilling. The shilling was also called a "bob".

The next coin was the two shilling piece, or "florin".

The next coin was two shillings and sixpence, or two and a half shillings. This was the "half crown" or sometimes called "two bits" or a "dollar".

Two half crowns made a "crown".

Two crowns made ten shillings. There never was a ten shilling coin, but there was a ten shilling banknote.

The "mark" was not a coin, but a unit of account. At various times it was worth 100 pennies ( 8 shillings and four pence – 8/4d, or 160 pennies (13 shillings and eight pence – two thirds of a pound sterling).

The next coin was the pound sterling coin, called a "sovereign". This was worth twenty shillings. The "sterling" was to distinguish it from foreign "pounds".

The guinea was twentyone shillings.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Charles James profile imageAUTHOR

      Charles James 

      6 years ago from Yorkshire, UK

      It msay be helpful to know that the British National Archive web site has a conversion facility telling you the current value of an amount of old currency or vice versa.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)