In 1971 the UK switched to a decimal currency, leaving the old £sd (pounds, shillings and pence) behind and introducing the decimalised coins we know today. You might even remember decimal day yourself, or using conversion charts and rhymes to learn the new currency. And if you’re like me, then you’ll probably remember the excitement of seeing the new coins in your change.
But decimalisation actually started under Queen Victoria, when two new decimal denominations were introduced. These were coins that were blamed for sickness, famine, and the unemployment of barmaids. In fact, they were so controversial that decimalisation had to be delayed for over a century!
The Godless Florin
The florin first appeared in 1849 with a value of 1/10th of a pound, or 10 pence. It was rumoured to have borrowed its name from a similar shaped coin from the Netherlands and was issued as a test to help the public warm to decimalised currency. However, its introduction didn’t go as well as hoped.
The Gothic Head portrait of Victoria was used on the first florins that were issued, and it featured the monarch wearing a crown for the first time in over 200 years. Another unusual design change was the exclusion of the abbreviation “D.G”, meaning “by the grace of God”. In a society where religion was important, the coin was thought to have angered God, so it became known as the ‘Godless Florin’ and was reportedly blamed for Cholera outbreaks and famine at the time.
The Godless Florin was quickly withdrawn from circulation in 1851 and was replaced by a Gothic florin, which had the same design, but included the “D.G” inscription in an attempt to appease the public.
The Barmaid’s Ruin
Attempt number two at decimalisation came in the form of a double florin, equivalent to 1/5th of a pound. It was introduced in 1887 and featured the new Jubilee Head portrait of Queen Victoria, but it was withdrawn by the end of 1890 making it one of the shortest circulating denominations in British history.
One of the features that makes the double florin stand out in history is that it was almost indistinguishable from the crown coin. Neither carried the denomination and the only difference between the two, apart from the value, was that the double florin was 2mm smaller – not something that was easy to spot by eye.
This meant that the coins were easily confused, and the story goes that crafty patrons would trick barmaids into accepting the double florin as a crown. The double florin then became known as the ‘barmaid’s ruin’, because this act resulted in barmaids losing their jobs.
The first attempts at decimalisation happened over 170 years ago, and although the double florin was withdrawn from circulation after just four mint years , the florin was much more successful, surviving until 1993 before it was demonetised. It circulated alongside the 10p coin, which was introduced in 1968 to try and help the public warm to decimalisation – this time it was finally successful!
The Victorians experienced monumental changes in culture, industry, technology, and empire in their time, but it seems they just weren’t ready for the change of their currency.
If you’re interested…
Own a piece of history with the ‘Barmaid’s ruin’, the coin that caused barmaid’s to lose their jobs. Click here to order it today>>>
Videos going viral is nothing new; most will remember ‘Charlie bit my finger’, ‘Fenton’ or ‘Star Wars kid’.
However, perhaps the one video most did not expect to be a hit around the world was ‘The Classic Tetris World Championship Final’ (yes, there’s a Tetris World Championship).
I’ll set the scene.
Joseph Saelee, just 16 years old and a huge underdog, was facing 7 times World Champion Jonas Neubauer. Nobody gave him a chance.
After 26 minutes of playing, Neubauer, as expected, takes the lead. However, after a rare mistake, he crashes out.
Saelee needs another 108,120 points to win…just 3 Tetris’ will do it. He holds his nerve and with lightning fast reactions, upsets the odds and takes the title.
The skill of the players is remarkable, I mean truly remarkable.
See the video for yourself, nearly 7 million others have watched it, you won’t be disappointed:
What’s so interesting is that when I showed this to some of my colleagues in the office they were initially not at all interested…30 seconds in they were hooked!
They loved the fact that such an old game, invented by a Russian back in 1984, was still so popular today and they couldn’t believe that the players were using an actual Nintendo Entertainment System from 1983.
One said, “I love how retro it is!” and I couldn’t agree more.
Retro has made a comeback and in a big way. In particular retro arcade games.
Our Space Invaders coin, that we launched last month, SOLD OUT in record time. Had we been able to source more, it would have sold double!
It proved how incredibly collectable retro themed coins are, especially when their box is a replica of the original gaming machines.
The Official Tetris Silver Coin has just been released worldwide. If retro is your thing, I’d suggest snapping one up quickly.
If you’re interested
Issued in 1oz .999 Silver, to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Tetris, the coin features the Tetris games icon Tetriminos on a chequered, Proof background, and appears as if the blocks are falling, much like in the game itself. Click here to secure yours>>
It’s surprising, in this new digital age, just how ‘hands-on’ designing a coin is. In fact, it’s very much the job of a master craftsman.
Never was this more evident than when the Isle of Man Treasury chose to mark the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria with three new coins, each with a brand new portrait.
The man they turned to was renowned sculptor Luigi Badia and here’s the remarkable process of how these coins were developed.
First Stage – Pencil designs
Like most products across all industries, designing a coin starts with pencil sketches. These are then amended, potentially many times, until a final sketch is produced and approved.
Second Stage – Plaster modelling
The second stage is arguably the most visually stunning. The sculptor, Luigi Badia in this case, will turn their sketches into a 3D ‘Plaster’ design. The skill involved in this process is really very impressive as every tiny detail must be modelled.
The plaster is far larger than the actual coin size to allow for this detail to be captured. The design will be resized in the next step of the process.
Third Stage – Digital Modelling
It’s during this stage where technology has certainly helped the design process. The 3D ‘Plaster’ designs are scanned and a digital file, called a greyscale, is created.
An engraving machine then uses this file to cut the design into a piece of steel that’s the actual size of the final coin. This will then be used to make the dies that will actually strike the coins.
Fourth Stage – Coin Striking
This final stage is when the physical coin comes to life. The specially prepared die is used to ‘strike’ the design onto a metal ‘blank’. The metal used for the blank can vary widely, from cupro-nickel to silver and gold.
Only once the mint is perfectly happy with the quality of the struck coins will they be issued.
The Queen Victoria Silver Antique £5 Set
This set is the only way to own all three of these stunning, specially commissioned Antique Silver £5 Coins.
Just 495 of these stunning sets are available worldwide and exclusive to The Westminster Collection.