Monday, 28 March 2011

Mo' Money Mo' Problems Part 2: Old Timey Money

Recently, loyal reader Wiley requested an explanation of what exactly "tuppence" is.  Old timey British money always sounds really cool to me: farthing, tuppence, ha'penny, sixpence, shillings, guinea, crowns.  I always imagine Dick VanDyke saying the words in the world's worst "British" accent.

Prior to February 15, 1971 British money was much more dissimilar to American money.  A pound was made up of 240 pence.  This certainly makes the use of a sixpence coin more understandable- as 240 is divisible by 6. A pound was made up of 20 shillings and a shilling was made up of 12 pennies.  A penny was subdivided even further.  A penny was made up of 2 ha'pennies or 4 farthings.  Tuppence specifically applies to a quantity of 2 of these pre-decimal pennies, though some people still use it with current decimal pennies.'

A guinea is an interesting amount of money.  It was 1 pound and 1 shilling.  It was considered a "gentlemanly" amount and was used to pay artisans for their wares.  Sort of like a built in tip or commission.  It's still used today for buying and selling race horses.

Fun/Slightly Weird Fact:
Tuppence and ha'penny are also slang for a young girls private parts.
Old timey mothers and governesses might caution their wards to "Keep your hand on your ha'penny."
This means that they should guard their virtue.  They might find themselves "expensively" involved if they don't...

So does that clear things up?
Any other reader requests?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where I'll talk about cockney rhyming slang and money. Fun!


  1. Excellent! Though I need a nap after the video.

    Have you read The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles?