Gold, Silver and other pre-decimal coins

This gold blog will take some of our more mature readers back in a time when the coinage we used was actually worth something if that makes sense!

The specification of gold coins has remained unchanged since 1820, they were made of 22ct gold (916.66 parts per thousand) the remaining metal (83.33 parts per thousand) being copper. There was a five pound coin of 39.94g. (diameter 36.02mm); £2.00 coin 15.9761 g (diameter 28.4mm); £1.00 coin (Sovereign) 7.9881g (diameter 22.05mm); £0.50 (Half Sovereign) 3.9940g (diameter 19.30mm).

Silver coins

Before 1920 (i.e. up to and including 1919) these were made of 925 parts per thousand silver; before 1947 (i.e. up to and including 1946) 500 parts per thousand. From 1947 'silver' coins contain no silver but comprise cupro-nickel - 75% copper and 25% nickel.

Copper and brass coins

Brass 3d:                            79% copper, 1% nickel, 20% zinc
1d, 1/2d and 1/4d:                 Pre -1923    95% copper, 4% tin, 1% zinc                                          
                                           1923-1942 951/2% copper, 3% tin, 11/2% zinc
                                           from 1942 97% copper, 1/2% tin, 21/2% zinc

A wealth of information can be found via the Royal Mint website at or

By the way for those younder readers Britain changed to decimal coinage on 15th February 1971. By 1971 the halfpenny was worth so little that even the banks excluded it from calculations and brass threepences were collected by children as curios. The new halfpenny was demonetised in 1984; the one pound coin was introduced in 1983, the one pound note was withdrawn in 1988 and the £2.00 coin was introduced in 1998.

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