This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Decimalisation of our currency. On 15th February 1971, known as Decimal Day (or D-Day), the country switched to the decimal currency (based on multiples of 10 and 100) that we are familiar with today. But what happened on that day, and why is it important to collectors?
Before then, Britain used a monetary system that dated thousands of years back to the Roman Empire! The problem with the old Pounds, Shillings, and Pence system (sometimes called ‘old money’) is that it was based on multiples of 12 and 240. This made it quite confusing – there were 12 pennies in a shilling and 240 pennies in a pound, and 20 shillings made a pound – certainly not easy to add up in your head!
We get a lot of questions about Decimalisation, so before we celebrate the anniversary next month, we’ve answered some of your top questions about the biggest change to UK currency ever!
What were the coins called before Decimalisation?
The Pounds (£), Shillings (/-) and Pence (d) system included lots of coins with very different names to today’s coinage. A lot of these coins were given slang nicknames, such as ‘thrupence’ or ‘thrupny bit’ for a threepence, or a tanner for a sixpence. A Shilling was sometimes called a ‘bob’, and a ten shilling note would often be referred to as a ‘ten-bob‘ note.
|Pre-decimal Coin||Amount||Decimal Equivalent|
|Halfpenny||½d.||5⁄24p ≈ 0.208p|
|Penny||1d.||5⁄12p ≈ 0.417p|
Who was the first country to go decimal?
Did you know the UK wasn’t the first country to go decimal? In fact, as early as 1704 Russia introduced the Ruble which was equal to 100 Kopecks, making it the first country to have a decimal coin. It was followed by France which introduced the Franc in 1795. Although the UK was one of the last to turn decimal, discussions first started in Britain as early as the 1820s, but the idea didn’t take off well with the public so it wasn’t until 150 years later that it actually happened.
When were the first decimal coins issued?
The first new decimal coins were actually issued before decimal day in 1971 – three years earlier in fact! In 1968 the plans for decimalisation were set in motion. To try and help the public acclimatise to the new decimal coins, the 5p and 10p, were issued, followed by the 50p a year later in 1969. This meant that the coins circulated alongside their pre-decimal siblings (Shilling, Florin, and 10 bob note) and were used interchangeably. By 1971 when the pre-decimal coinage ceased to be legal tender, only 3 new coins would be introduced (Half pence, one pence, two pence), making the jump to decimal currency a little easier for the public.
Why did the banks close for four whole days?
In 1971, very few banks used digital systems so on 10th February the banks closed for four days until Decimal Day. This allowed all outstanding cheques to be cleared in old money and all customers accounts to be converted into decimal coinage – and because most banks weren’t computerised, this had to be done manually! February was actually chosen as it was the quietest time of year for banks, shops, and public transport. It’s hard to imagine the banks closing for four days in a row now!
How did people compare between the two currencies?
Many people worried about shopkeepers inflating the prices of products during the changeover, but with a public information campaign that ran for almost 2 years prior, many people already had some idea of the conversions. And to help, currency convertors were made available to people, and shops displayed the prices in both currencies before and after Decimal Day. People could also continue to pay in old money, but they would receive their change in new money.
It took some time, but soon the decimal currency became familiar to everyone and continues to be the biggest change to UK coinage in thousands of years. In the lead up to the 50th anniversary, we’ll be issuing a series of blogs telling you all you need to know about this iconic moment in numismatic history, so make sure to stay tuned!
If you’re interested:
You can commemorate the 50th anniversary of Decimalisation now with the Historic Decimal Coins Collection! Including an ORIGINAL Decimal Coin Wallet, BRAND NEW BU 50p, and a FREE replica booklet. Click here to secure your Historic Decimal Coins Collection for JUST £29.99!
Happy new year and most importantly… HAPPY NEW COINS! 🎉
Join me in our latest video, where I take a closer look at the FIVE brand new Royal Mint 2021 UK Coins!
If you’re interested…
Each year, The Royal Mint marks important British anniversaries, events or accomplishments on our coins and today I’m delighted to reveal the UK’s new coin designs for 2021.
What’s more, you have the opportunity today to secure them in a variety of different presentations or specifications – I’m sure there is something for everyone.
Simply read on to discover how you can be one of the first UK collectors to add these coins to your collection…
FIVE new UK commemorative coins
The Royal Mint has just announced the five new commemorative coins for 2021, issued to mark a variety of occasions and landmark anniversaries that we’ll see over the coming year:
- The Queen’s 95th Birthday £5 – marking Her Majesty the Queen’s 95th birthday which she’ll celebrate on 21st April 2021.
- Sir Walter Scott £2 – celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth and his literary legacy.
- H. G. Wells £2 – commemorating the life and works of the renowned sci-fi author in the 75th anniversary of his passing.
- John Logie Baird 50p – marking the 75th anniversary of his passing as well as his ground-breaking contributions to science.
- Decimal Day 50p – a tribute to the greatest biggest change in British currency in over 1,000 years that took place 50 years ago.
The five new commemorative coins are accompanied by the eight definitive coins from the 1p to the £2, all newly dated for 2021. The coins in the set feature the Jody Clark effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, all except for one…
Special Decimal Day 50p obverse
In this landmark year where we celebrate the 50th anniversary of decimalisation, the Decimal Day 50p in the Annual Set has a very special and nostalgic design feature, which is sure to excite collectors.
You see, this coin – the only one in the set – features the Arnold Machin effigy on its obverse. This is the second effigy of the Queen to feature on UK coinage, and was introduced specially for the first decimal coins – it’s a fitting tribute to decimalisation!
Significantly, the only way you can own this special coin is by owning the complete Annual Set – you won’t find it anywhere else.
UK 2021 Annual Coin Set BU Pack
To give as many collectors as possible the chance to own these highly sought-after coins, The Royal Mint has issued them in Brilliant Uncirculated quality, which is coveted by collectors as it means each coin is free from any marks you would find on circulated coins.
In this BU Pack you’ll find the five brand new commemorative coins alongside the eight definitive coins from the 1p to the £2, all newly dated for 2021.
Each one is protectively encapsulated in its attractive original packaging from The Royal Mint to preserve its quality for generations to come. What’s more, you can secure this BU Pack for The Royal Mint’s official issue price of just £55 (+p&p). Click here to find out more >>
This set of coins is also available as a CERTIFIED BU Commemorative Coin Set for £40 (+p&p). Click here to find out more >>
UK 2021 Annual Collector Proof Coin Set
Whilst being struck from base metal, the coins in this set have been struck to a stunning superior Proof finish. This set also includes the five new commemorative coins alongside the eight definitive coins from the 1p to the £2, all newly dated for 2021.
Just 7,000 sets have been released worldwide in this limited edition presentation – that’s under half the edition limit of previous issues that have completely sold out. So, it’s expected this set will be extremely sought-after.
You can order the UK 2021 Annual Collector Proof Coin Set here with a down payment of just £31 (+p&p) followed by 4 further interest-free instalments – that’s the Royal Mint issue price. Click here to find out more >>
UK 2021 DateStamp™ Specimen Set
The most limited way to own the five new 2021 commemorative coins is by securing the UK 2021 DateStamp™ Specimen Set. In fact, JUST 995 collectors worldwide can own this unique set.
What truly sets the 2021 Specimen Year Set apart from all other 2021 Annual Sets is the fact that it is forever set in time by the official Royal Mail postmark that marks the coins’ first day of release – 1st January 2021.
Each coin is struck to the highly desirable Brilliant Uncirculated quality, and come individually presented in tamper-proof capsules. What’s more, each set has a unique serial number, confirming its place in the tiny edition limit, and you can even register your set online to guarantee its provenance!
This annual set has a track record of completely selling out within a matter of days, so if you want to secure a set for yourself you’ll need to be quick. You can reserve yours with a deposit of just £22. Click here to find out more >>