Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

My topic for Blogathon has been Funny Money. Is there anything funnier than the old (pre-decimal) British monetary system? Is there an American alive that understands it? I’m an avid reader, and my head swims when money is mentioned in Dickens or Austen or Thackeray. The wikipedia article on British coinage features a bewildering array of pre-decimal coins.

No fear! Get Rich Slowly is here to make things clear. Simply print and clip this handy chart of 18th century values and tuck it in your copy of David Copperfield. Refer to it as needed.

Basic Units Value Coin Paper Slang
  1,000 pounds   1,000-pound note  
  500 pounds   500-pound note  
  200 pounds   200-pound note  
  100 pounds   100-pound note  
  50 pounds   50-pound note  
  20 pounds   20-pound note  
  10 pounds   10-pound note tenner
  5 pounds   5-pound note fiver
  21 shillings guinea    
One Pound 20 shillings sovereign 1-pound note quid
  10 shillings half sovereign ½-pound note  
  5 shillings crown   bull
  2½ shillings half crown    
  2 shillings florin    
One Shilling< shilling shilling   bob, hog
  6 pence sixpence   tanner, bender
  4 pence groat    
  3 pence threepence   thruppence
  2 pence wopence   tuppence
  1 pence penny   copper
  ½ pence half penny   ha’pence
  ¼ pence farthing    
  1/8 pence half farthing    

Note: Some of these denominations are no longer in use. Also, the British monetary system has moved to a decimal base. Thank god.

According to the book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew:

Sovereigns and half sovereigns were gold; crowns, half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpences, and threepences were silver; pence, ha’pence, and farthings were copper until 1860, after which they were bronze.


To abbreviate their money, Britons used the symbol £ for pound, s. for shilling, and d. for pence, although five pounds, ten shillings, sixpence would be written £5.10.6. “Five and six” meant five shillings and sixpence, and it would have been written “5/6″.

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