February 15, 1971: It is Decimal Day in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Britain’s monetary system was, prior to this day, based on the pound worth 240 pence. Pence was designated in writing with the letter d for the Latin word, denarius. There were 12 pence in each shilling and 20 shilling (denoted by the letter s for the Latin word solidus) in a pound. With this base 12 method of money, it was extremely difficult to do monetary calculations and make change. It also confused visitors since things like a “half-crown” were wroth 2s 6d or one eighth of a pound. The penny was the same size as a US half-dollar but was of little value and the farthing (one-fourth of a pence) went out of use in January 1961 since with inflation it was truly obsolete.
There were several different coinage systems in place from abound 600 AD on. The French franc went to a decimal system in 1795 and prompted the first legislation introduced to Parliament by Lord Wrottesley in 1824. It was rejected. The Decimal Association was founded in 1841 to promote both decimalization of coins and the metrication of other measuring systems. With the Great Exhibition in 1851, the importance of international trade was brought home and support for a standard measure was boosted. The first report, the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage (1856-57) considered both the benefits and costs to the issue but made no recommendations. Nothing happened.
The Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage (1918-20) thought the only feasible way to go was to divide the pound into 1000 mills but it would be too inconvenient. Again, nothing happened. In 1960, a report by the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce noted the success of decimalization in South Africa and the government set up the Committee of the Inquiry on Decimal Currency. Their report came out in 1963 and on March 1, 1966, it was announced. The Decimal Currency Board was created to manage the transition from the old 240 per pounds to 100 per pound challenges.
The day went smoothly overall but there were some glitches. After this day, businesses continued to accept the old coins but always gave change in the new version. On this day, the new ½p, 1p, and 2p were introduced. Within two weeks, the penny (1d) and threepenny (3d) coins had left circulation. The decimal halfpenny, ½p, was taken out of circulation in 1984. The 50p piece was reduced in size in 1997 after the success of smaller 5p and 10p coins. The only coins minted in 1971 that are still valid money today are the 1p and 2p although newer coins have changed in composition and are also in use. The last design change came in March 2014 when the £1 coin was revamped to combat the 45 million forgeries in circulation.
Silver and gold are not the only coin; virtue too passes current all over the world. – Euripides
Every side of a coin has another side. – Myron Scholes
Many gold and silver experts will recommend you buy numismatic coins – rare and old coins. If you are not a rare coin expert, I’d encourage you to stay away from them. New investors often pay too much for rare coins that are not really rare. – Robert Kiyosaki
The ‘crownd’ is still the unit, the favourite coin of the labourers, especially the elder folk. They use the word something in the same sense as the dollar, and look with regret upon the gradual disappearance of the broad silver disc with the figure of ‘St. Gaarge’ conquering the dragon. – Richard Jefferies
Also on this day: Teddy Bear – In 1903, the first official teddy bear was introduced.
Oh, Canada! – In 1965, Canada adopted a new flag.
Hemlock – In 399 BC, Socrates drank hemlock.
Video – In 2005, You Tube went online.
DEWy Eyes – In 1954, the Distant Early Warning Line was agreed upon.