web analytics

Pre-decimal mental math

I pinched the illustration off this person on Pinterest. I hope she regards the link as sufficient payment.

You want to see a wrinkly British face light up? Bring out some pre-decimal currency. Britain switched to a decimal system in 1971, but before that they had a base 12 currency. Everything’s ones, threes, sixes, twelves and twenty-fours. It’s fiendishly hard if you’re used to decimal.

They can rattle it off like nothing. AND they remember what things cost back then, too. We ran across a bag of old money in the archives today, and off they went!

If something costs one pound, two shillings and sixpence you could pay with a sovereign, a florin and a sixpence OR ten florins, two shillings, two tuppences and two pence OR two crowns, two half crowns, a thruppenny bit, a ha’penny and two farthings. You get the idea.

Try it yourself! In pennies (d), it’s:

Farthing: ¼d
Ha’pence: ½d
Penny: 1d
Tuppence: 2d
Threepence (thruppenny bit): 3d
Groat: 4d
Sixpence: 6d
Shilling AKA ‘bob’: 12d
Florin: 24d
Half crown: 30d
Crown: 100d
Sovereign: 240d (£1)
Guinea: 240d (£1)

You ought to see how they beam over a train timetable.


Comment from Brunnhilde
Time: February 3, 2023, 8:18 pm

Someone posted a link to Breitbart that the UK government is going to start fining British citizens if they use wood to heat their homes. Is that true??!

Comment from OldFert
Time: February 3, 2023, 8:30 pm

Reminded me of that old Christmas favorite by Bing Crosby:
Christmas is a comin’ and the geese are getting fat.
Would you kindly put a penny in the old man’s hat?
If you haven’t got a penny then a ha’penny will do.
If you haven’t got a ha’penny then go to hell.

Or something like that.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 3, 2023, 8:47 pm

Brunnhilde: No – they are just tightening the regulations on new wood burning stoves in an attempt to reduce smoke pollution. Or so they claim.

It’s the thin end of the wedge, of course.

As for our proper money – now you know how the British Empire came into being. You had to be smart even to work in a greengrocer’s shop. Actually, to be serious, it’s worth bearing in mind that usually we took our currency with us so all sorts of native people in all parts of the world were able to handle it too. I think the poverty of low expectations has a bearing on this..

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 3, 2023, 9:23 pm

I like your version, OldFert.

Comment from durnedyankee
Time: February 3, 2023, 10:09 pm

(To the tune of Rule Britannia)
Singing Rule two Tanners! Two Tanners make a Bob.
King George never never never shaves his….


We have a Pence here I’d be happy to send you postage due.

Comment from Jason
Time: February 4, 2023, 2:14 am

Lindybeige on Youtube discusses the utility of the base 240 system of pence to pounds (highly fractionable, that’s a word, right?). Good stuff, and a good reminder, for me at least, that our ancestors were not idiots and there is much to learn from our hoary old ancestors. Just don’t tell them I called them hoars.

Comment from tomfrompv
Time: February 4, 2023, 3:03 am

Uh oh. Methinks sweasel made an error. As I fea all, a Guinea was worth 1 pound, 1 shilling. Or a little more than a quid. Wiki seems to agree with me. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_(coin)

I like base 12 things. And SAE measures. Foot pounds and seconds. Metrc is too French, IMO.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 4, 2023, 9:19 am

Yes, tom, I saw that. But elsewhere, it says a pound but in gold. Some of these coins are confusing and most of them changed value over time.

Comment from OldFert
Time: February 4, 2023, 3:49 pm

British coins changed value over time?
Same goes over here. The dollar is worth less and less every day.

Comment from Allen
Time: February 4, 2023, 5:29 pm

I used to love the thrupence coins when I was but a lad, the angular sided ones. They provided a marvelous tactile experience for me. Quite heavy for such a small denomination and running your thumb over the edge was thought provoking. I know, I know, but when you’re a 8-year-old boy from Southern California dropped into such a dreary seeming place you’ve got to take pleasure where you can find it.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 4, 2023, 7:14 pm

All I know is that Beer is really expensive in English money:

“A pint’s a Pound the world around”

Comment from AliceH
Time: February 4, 2023, 7:59 pm

While an English Lit undergrad, I used to have a decent grasp of the old system. Except half crown. My brain consistently refused to accept that a half crown was not only not half a crown but was no other evenly divisible fraction. Still bothers me tbh.

Comment from thefritz
Time: February 5, 2023, 1:43 pm

So where does ‘quid’ fit in the mix?

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 5, 2023, 3:27 pm

Lyrics for
The Mighty Quid

Everybody’s building a chicken shed or coop
Some are building monuments
Others are just tackin’ up a roof
Ev’rybody’s in despair
Every girl and lad
Cause for a Quid in English currency
Only one small egg can be had
No eggs about anywhere, prices through the lid
You’ll not buy nothin’ for less than a Quid

[Verse 2]
I like to do just like the rest, I like scrambled eggs on the side
But poaching them up fancy or sunny side up
I ain’t got that much pride
Fred is out neath the trees
Feeding chickens up on a limb
But for a Quid a piece for for them darn eggs
It’s oatmeal for the likes of him
No eggs about, prices through the lid
You’ll not buy nothin’ for less than a couple of Quid

[Verse 3]
A cat’s meow and a cow’s moo, I can do a rooster’s call
Just tell me where yer egg money’s hid
And I’ll tell you who to call
Nobody can get no eggs
Unless you know the Egg Man’s cousin
But when egg prices finally fall again
Ev’rybody’s gonna wanna a dozen
Come all without, come all within
You’ve not see price like one egg for a Quid

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 5, 2023, 3:30 pm

Why yes, we HAVE been trapped in the house for a couple by all the freezing rain we’ve had, and yes we DID run out of eggs, which currently can sell for $8.00 a dozen.

Why do you ask?

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: February 6, 2023, 1:31 am

@Someveg – check Costco in Lewisville, just before the storm we got 2 dozen for $3.00 a dozen (ridiculous, but better than $8.00).

You obviously survived the miserable crappy weather, good job that!

Comment from tomfrompv
Time: February 8, 2023, 4:34 am

It looks great!

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny