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". 200 years ago, as today, 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.
From What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, some of the most common money terms in Regency novels:
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 pence--twopence (pronounced "tuppence")
1/2 pence--halfpenny (slang "ha'penny")
Note that a guinea is more than a pound.
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.
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