Sunday, April 22, 2012

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 was never 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 has 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, here are 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 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. From Wikipedia.

Thank you all,


catslady said...

Interesting. I never understood the guinea. Why make a coin that is worth 21 shillings where there is a pound for 20 - seems strange lol.

Gerri Bowen said...

Interesting post, Linda. I still forget what they're worth when I'm reading.

Linda Banche said...

Hi catslady. The guinea was the original coin, and its value fluctuated until it was set at 21 shillings. The paper note and the sovereign coin came later, and were set at 20 shillings.

Hi Gerri. If you don't grow up with British money, getting used to it is a little difficult.

catslady said...

Oh well now that makes sense - thanks!