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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Regency Money

As I read a Regency romance, I inevitably reach a scene that involves money. All those pounds and pence and shillings are indecipherable to my American mind. So, I translate, or try to. I see "pound" and read "dollar". Even 200 years ago, a British pound never was equivalent to an American dollar. So, what was British money in the Regency?

Money came in the forms of notes and coins. In general, notes were for larger denominations, up to 1000 pounds, and coins were for the smaller denominations. In Regency times, the lowest denomination of notes was 1 and 2 pounds. For smaller amounts, coins were used.

The Royal Mint issued coins, and a bank issued notes. The Bank of England had issued notes from its inception in 1694, and until 1844, regional banks could also issue notes.

From What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, some of the most common money terms in Regency novels:


21 shillings--guinea

20 shillings--sovereign (1817 and later) -- pound

10 shillings--half sovereign (1817 and later)

5 shillings--crown (slang term--"dollar")

2 1/2 shillings--half crown

2 shillings--florin

12 pence--shilling

6 pence--sixpence

3 pence--threepence

2 pence--twopence

1 pence--penny

1/2 pence--halfpenny

1/4 pence--farthing

Here's a good link with most of the above information.

Guineas, sovereigns and half-sovereigns were gold. Crowns, half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpence and threepence were silver. The pennies and farthings were copper.

This link shows some coins minted during the reign of George III, which includes the Regency:

Most Regency financial transactions involved coins, even though one and two pound notes were available. Why? Because a Regency pound was a lot of money. The Worth of Regency Money is my next post.

Note: the picture above shows the newest designs of British money.

Thank you all,



Anonymous said...

The English penny is very big. Has it always been this size?
MOney is always fascinating.

Lindsay Townsend said...

The English penny was this large from the Victorian age, possibly earlier.

I remember shillings, sixpences (called 'tanners') half-crowns. My parents knew guineas. There were also farthings and silver sixpences that would be put in Christmas puddings.

Thanks for this, Linda! (PS if you want to put this on the pink blog, please feel free to so so. Just check the calendar - travel week is coming up fast.)

Judy said...

Fascinating information, Linda! I often wonder about actual values when I see them included in a story. Thanks for the nice little chart. I'll be looking forward to the next post.

Linda Banche said...

Anonymous, I've only ever seen British money in pictures. Lindsay is British, so she knows what these actual coins look like.

Lindsay, thanks. Looks like some of the older coins were still around for a while. Kind of like I remember real silver dollars from when I was a kid.

Judy, I can see I'm not the only one who wondered. The chart is useful for relative values, ie, that a shilling is worth more than a penny. And next week, approximately what Regency money is worth now.

Nancy said...

Linda, thank you for this post! I read lots of Regency, Georgian, and Victorian set books, and never keep the money straight. :) Your article and the links will help!


Linda Banche said...

Hi Nancy, glad I was able to help you. Enjoy!

Jane Richardson, writer said...

What fun! I remember the same British coins as Lindsay, and getting a sixpence for pocket money. ;-) I also love to spot the old paper notes in British moves from the 30s or 40s, when they were enormous and had to be folded up to go in your wallet. We have a tiny collection of old Victorian pennies, and my kids are fascinated by them. They're HUGE!

Jane x

JaneB said...

Down here in New Zealand we had pounds shillings and pence up until about 1969. So changing from a 12 pennies to the shilling mathetmaics i.e. the 12 x table, to a 10 x table was really easy. One thing we had as an abreviation though was...2 pence--twopence - was known as tuppence.

JaneB said...

ooop, i forgot another one.
a shilling was also nicknamed as a 'bob' i.e. 1 shilling - 1 bob
you would ask how much something was, and the reply wud be 10 bob (10 shillings) But these were the days when we could go to the movies for sixpence.