Saturday, April 2, 2011

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". 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.

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 (pronounced "tuppence")

1 pence--penny

1/2 pence--halfpenny (slang "ha'penny")

1/4 pence--farthing

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.

Thank you all,


Linda Banche

Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!


Grace Elliot said...

Fascinating post.
Grace x

L M Gonzalez said...

Liked your post, Linda.

British money always confuses me.

But now I know what the phrase, "doesn't have two farthings to rub together" mean. :)