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Making Sense of British Currency

Guest Author - Karyn Johnson

If you've never been to Great Britain before, yet plan to visit, it might be helpful to understand the currency before you go. Here is a brief tutorial, so that you can be prepared.

* British currency is in pounds sterling (abbreviated to GBP, Great British Pound, or nicknamed quid by the British). The symbol for this currency is £.

* Just like the dollar is split into 100 cents, the pound is divided into 100 pence (abbreviated as p). If you purchase something that is 95 pence, for example, you will probably be told that the amount is "95 pee" rather than 95 pence. You will see amounts written this way: "95p" or "£0.95."

* Banknotes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, and £50. They will each be a different size and a different color to allow you to tell them apart more easily. Queen Elizabeth II is on all the bills.

* Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pence, as well as 1 and 2 pounds.

For images of the current British coins, consult this website by the Woodlands Junior School. They also provide images of banknotes.

Generally, a pound is worth more than a US Dollar ($) or a Euro (€). For current exchange rates, you can visit The Universal Currency Converter.

Old British Money

Now, for a very basic tutorial on old terms for British currency, since movies and literature still refer to shillings, guineas, and crowns. What does all this mean?

* Prior to 1971, a pound was divided into 20 shillings. Each shilling was divided into 12 pennies (also known as pence). For those of you who can't do the math, that's 240 pennies in a pound. A shilling, by the way, is called a bob in slang.

* A guinea was 21 shillings (or one pound, 1 shilling). In other words, 252 pence.

* A crown was worth 5 shillings. A half-crown was worth 2 shillings and 6 pence.

Confused yet?

It gets worse.

A farthing is only worth a quarter of a penny, and a half penny…well, that’s self-explanatory.

And that's not all! But these are probably the most commonly referenced, so I'll leave it at that.

Looking at this confusing lexicon of old currency, aren't you glad they don't use it anymore?
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Content copyright © 2014 by Karyn Johnson. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Karyn Johnson. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Asha Sahni for details.

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