Decimalisation, or Decimal Day as it is most known, occurred in 1971 after the pre-decimal system was deemed too complicated with pounds, shillings and pence. Initially, the plan was to make the new decimal currency into cents and dollars (known more in the USA), but this was reconsidered, and pounds and pence were the chosen coinage.
Then in 1817, the ‘new sovereign’ made its debut with a newly imagined design featuring St George slaying the dragon. The new design was created by Italian gem engraver Benedetto Pistrucci and was destined to become one of the world’s most loved coin designs.
In Britain, the original grading scale classed every coin as either ‘Fine’ or ‘Extremely Fine’ – these were the only options. As times changed, extra steps were added into that scheme: ‘Good’ and ‘Very Good’, both below Fine, and ‘Very Fine’, below Extremely Fine. That created five grading steps, which was even further expanded over time by dealers by adding ‘Almost’ or ‘Good’ to any of those grades, with ‘Almost Fine’ being less than Fine and ‘Good Fine’ being better than Fine, but less than ‘Almost Very Fine’.
For over one hundred years this was the grading scheme in Europe, and it didn’t include the grade ‘Uncirculated’, for the simple reason that it was considered that any coin that came from circulation couldn’t be ‘uncirculated’.
The Gold Quarter Sovereign in particular, features a design that pays tribute to the MV Royal Daffodil, a passenger vessel that undertook no fewer than seven trips to the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 and rescued up to 9,500 troops. On the final trip, a bomb went right through her hull and exploded beneath her; the hole was plugged with a mattress and she made it home. After the War she was refitted and proudly bore a plaque that commemorated her as a ‘Dunkirk Little Ship’.
We are taking a closer look at the Troopship Royal Daffodil and everything you need to know.
There were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. There were also Half Crowns, Three Pennies, Sixpences and Farthings. Prior to the decimal era, many had problems dealing with the complicated system, with Sir John Bowring, a Member of Parliament at the time, being one of the first calling to change to a currency based on units of ten.