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Coins and Paper Money
UK History

What coins did they have in the Victorian times?

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November 24, 2012 5:08PM

It depends on which country. For the UK you've got the standard pre-decimal coins, to most people under 40 (or who have grown up without using pre-decimal currency) it seems odd, but the system was:

A pound is equal to 20 shillings, each shilling was made out of 12 pence (the plural of penny), each pence was equal to two half pence, and each half pence was equal to 2 farthings. So a farthing was equal to 1/4 of a penny, and a sixpence would be equal to half a shilling.

The main coins that circulated in the UK at the time (there are some other coins that did not circulate widely but were produced, especially for the use of collectors such as the 5 pound gold coin, or the colonies such as the third farthing, but they weren't used much in the UK itself)

The sovereign was a gold coin equal in value to 1 pound.

The half sovereign was a gold coin equal in value to 10 shillings, or 1/2 of a pound.

The crown was a large silver coin (about the size of a modern 5 pounds coin or a silver dollar) equal to 5 shillings, or 1/4th a pound.

The half-crown was a silver coin slightly bigger than a modern half dollar (or about the same size as an early, large size 50p like the ones released in the 1970s) worth 2 shillings and 6 pence, or one half of a crown.

The florin was a silver coin equal to 2 shillings. This was an early attempt at decimalization because one florin would be equal to 1/10 of a pound.

The shilling was a silver coin equal to 12 pence, this coin was the size of an old 5p piece or about the size of a US/Canadian quarter.

The sixpence was a silver coin equal to 6 pence, this coin was about the size of a US/Canadian dime, or a modern British 1p. Two sixpence made one shilling.

The groat was a silver coin equal to 4 pence. This was not widely used, but did circulate in early Victorian times, it was about the size of a threepence but slightly thicker. The groat was used because the fare for a cab (horse-drawn of course!) was traditionally 4 pence, however this proved to be unpopular with the cab drivers because they were usually paid with a sixpence and were told to keep the 2 extra pence as a tip!

The threepence was a very small silver coin worth three pence. Two threepence made one sixpence.

For the copper coins, there are 2 major series of them. The copper coins were produced until 1860, they were much larger and thicker. The bronze coins were produced from 1860 onwards. These bronze coins were much lighter and smaller. Since the bronze coins were much more common during later Victorian times, the descriptions below will be for the smaller bronze coins.

The penny was a large copper coin about the size of a US/Canadian half dollar.

The half-penny was a smaller copper coin about the size of a US/Canadian quarter, two half-pennies made one penny.

The farthing was a copper coin about the size of a US/Canadian penny or about the size of a modern UK 1p. Four farthings made one penny, or two farthings made a half-penny.

Of course, there were other denominations such as the half-groat, five pounds, two pounds, etc. But they weren't widely used.