Understanding British Currency Prior to 1971

To help us understand the many different types of money in the era of Pygmalion, we must first frame it in today’s terms. The primary unit of the British financial system prior to 1971 was the pound (£). As of the writing of this piece, the English pound is valued at approximately 1.5 Canadian dollars ($).

However, due to differences in regional rates as well as a significant amount of inflation between now and the time period in which Pygmalion is set, the value of one pound was much greater than what it is today.

To begin, it is important to understand the ways that the pound was divided, similarly to the ways nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies comprise a dollar.

20 Shillings (known in slang as a bob) made one pound.


240 pennies (or pence) made one pound.

240 pennies made one pound because originally, 240 silver penny coins weighed 1 pound (lb).

Sovereign: equal value to 1 pound, distributed in coin form, made of gold.

Crown: equal value to 5 shillings

Half-a-crown: equal value to 2 shillings and 6 pence

Tuppence: two pence

Guinea: 1 pound and 1 shilling (or 21 shillings)

If you’re still finding it difficult to wrap your minds around how much purchasing power these denominations held during their time, estimates put the value of a pound in 1910 to approximately 76£ today. That’s around $120 CAD.

Learn more at the following websites:

Conversion/inflation tool: http://www.measuringworth.com/ppoweruk/

References to British currency before 1971:



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