Old money or proper money as my mother would say, refers to the pounds, shillings and pence system where two hundred and forty pence made one pound. This system was used in the UK until 15 February 1971, when on that day Britain switched to the decimal system that is used today, where one hundred pence make one pound.
Let us now take a trip down memory lane and take a look at the old system or the pound, shilling and pence system – LSD.
There were three basic units of currency: the pound, the shilling and the penny.
One pound or £1
One Shilling or 1s, or 1/-
One Penny or 1d
There were 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. So that made:
12 x 20 = 240 pence in a pound.
The British system used the abbreviations £ for pound, 's' for shilling and 'd' for pence.
They are abbreviations for the Latin words libra, solidus and denarius, or LSD.
Libra meant pound, solidus meant shilling and denarius meant penny. Solidus and denarius were Roman coins, libra was a Roman pound, so the origins of pounds, shillings and pence go back to ancient times.
The other common abbreviation was the '/' symbol to divide amounts in shillings and pence. So 12 shillings and 3 pence was 12s 3d or 12/3. If there were no pence you could use /- for a quantity in shillings, so 10/- for 10 shillings.
For example, a jar of instant coffee might cost 2/6 - 2s 6d or two shillings and six pence or half a crown.
Now things begin to get a little more complicated, because the above basic units of pound, shilling and penny were sub divided into other units of currency as follows:
British Pre-Decimal Coins of the 1900's
Farthing (¼d) - quarter of an old penny (not legal tender after 1960)
Halfpenny (½d) - half an old penny or ha'penny - pronounced ˈheɪpni'
Threepence (3d) - or threepenny bit or 3d bit - pronounced thruppence or thruppenny bit
Shilling (1s or 12d)
Two shillings or florin (2s or 24d)
Half crown ('Two and six' 2s 6d)
Before 1937 the threepenny bit was silver. There was a tradition of putting a threepenny bit or a silver sixpence in a Christmas pudding for a lucky child to find.
The sixpence, shilling, two shillings and half crown coins were silver. They were made from real silver before 1920.
There was also a crown coin which the Royal Mint issued on special occasions.
For larger amounts, there were paper banknotes
Ten Shillings or 10s
One pound or £1
Five Pounds or £5
Ten Pounds £10
Fifty Pounds £50
Then There Was The Guinea
Slang Terms For Old Money
Lolly, readies - money
Coppers – farthing, halfpenny, penny coins
Joey – threepence or 3d
Tanner – sixpence or 6d
Bob - shilling
Half Dollar – half crown or 2/6d
Dollar – five shillings or 5s
Quid – one pound or £1
Tenner – ten pound note or £10
Score – twenty pounds or £20
Pony – twenty five pounds or £25
Monkey – five hundred pounds or £500
Grand – thousand pounds or £1000
Some Old Money Expressions
Things that are said to be two a penny or ten a penny are not valuable or interesting because they are very common and easy to find.
Take A Penny Leave A Penny
Take a penny, leave a penny (sometimes Give a penny, take a penny, penny tray, or penny pool) refers to a type of tray, dish or cup meant for convenience in cash transactions.
A Penny For Your Thoughts
You have been quiet for a while, or you seem pretty serious.
Spend A Penny
UK old-fashioned polite phrase for to urinate. It originated from the time when toilet doors could only be opened by putting an old British penny into a slot to operate the door opening mechanism.