The (English) Coins In My Pocket… Circa 1966

We never miss things until they are gone.

Take the (pre-decimal) English coins from the “reigns” of Victoria, Edward, George, another George and Elizabeth in the 1960s. I would guess that fifty per cent of coins were Elizabeth, twenty five per cent her immediate predecessor, ten per cent the older George and maybe five per cent Victoria and Edward. I dont suppose there were any coins during the short “reign” of the guy who married the divorced American lady. Maybe ten per cent of coins were Irish.

Certainly in “Northern Ireland”, Irish coins mingled with English coins. And likewise in the Republic of Ireland, English coins were accepted.

I still cant think of myself as a Coin Collector. I have most Irish “small change” from 1928. Florins and Half-Crowns are mostly out of my league.

Most stalls at Collectable Fairs and Collectables Dealers have boxes of circulated coins. Typically five coins for just £1….but even more typically ten British Pennies for £1, twenty British Half-Pennies for just £1. The Threepenny Piece and Sixpence available at say five for £1.

Allowing for the fact that some “dates” are rare and I am totally unconcerned about condition, it is easy to recapture the coins that were in my pocket when I was a child.

For a “historian” like myself, there is another dimension. I am increasingly intrigued by the period 1900-1922, a traumatic period in the history of Ireland. The coins of the three earlier “reigns” are in a way a very real reminder of that period.

A lot of Collecting is actually about Nostalgia. This is my fairly random collection of English coins from pre-Decimal era.

image image

From the left, Farthing, Halfpenny, Penny, Threepence, Sixpence, Shilling, Two-Shillings (Florin) and Half-Crown.

For the record, although farthings were issued in the Elizabeth years, I have never seen one in circulation. i recall a teacher showing one to my class. It was a quarter of a penny. Half-penny and Penny from all five reigns were often seen but the two earliest reigns Victoria and Edward were often smooth thru decades of circulation. The octangular threepence was considered “new” as it had only been introduced in the late 1930s. Although silver threepences were in use alongside the new version in the 1940s, I never had a silver threepence in my pocket.

In real life, I was only familiar with sixpences, shillings, florins and half-crowns issued under Elizabeth and her father. As the name “half-crown” implies, there was a “crown” (five shillings) but I never saw one in circulation.

I never realised how complicated the oldd sterling currency was until a few weeks ago when I tried to explain it to my sons (32 and 29). A pound was made up of twenty shillings and each shilling was made up of twelve pennies.

The concept of non decimal currency …two hundred and forty pennies and four hundred and eighty halfpennies making up a pound was simply baffling to my sons. As baffling as the introduction of decimal currency was to the elderly in 1971.

For me…this is about Nostalgia….rather than History or Collecting.

These old coins are the coins that did not make it back to the banks when Decimal Day dawned. They were lying in purses, piggy banks, drawers and buried in armchairs. Now they are cheaply sold in flea markets.

But even Nostalgia needs to be organised. Best way to acquire new English coins is to have a plan. Maybe one week …concentrate on Sixpences. Next week …Shillings.

Of course there will be Duplicates…and they can be traded for coins, stamps or postcards from United States.


About John

Dia Duit! Hello. My name is John. I am retired. I live in Ireland. I am on a five year mission to visit every city, town, village and place of historic and scenic interest in Ireland.
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