Predecimal Currency

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#1
Nowadays we're pretty much all used to having a decimal currency. But it wasn't always the case. The Russian Ruble was the first currency in Europe to be decimalised in 1704, with 1 Ruble being subdivided in 100 Kopeks. Next were the French Franc, Dutch Gulden etc. The British Pound Sterling and the Irish Pound probably held on the longest, being decimalised only in 1971.

While there's no reenventing of hot water with decimal currencies, as they're usually divided in 100 subunits (sometimes 1000) or have no subunits at all but still have bills like 10, 100, 1000, 10.000 of itself and so on, that's not really the case with predecimal currency. Those can be divided very differently and often seem quite somplicated nowadays.

Feel free to tell us about how one or more of those non-decimal currencies worked, what the subunits were, where and when it was used. You can also post photos of the coins or bills if you want.



I'll start with the Austrian-Hungarian Gulden. This currency actually has 3 names: Gulden, Florin and Forint (the latter used in Hungary). The Gulden became the currency across Habsburg lands in 1754. It was defined as 1/2 of a Conventionsthaler and 1/20 of a Cologne mark (weight meassurement) of silver. It was divided in 60 Kreuzer. The Gulden got decimalised and set up to a new, slightly debased standard in 1857, when the Vereinsthaler replaced the Conventionsthaler in the German Confederation.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,212
#2
Spanish currency was in pieces of 8. 8 reales was a silver dollar, slightly less than an ounce of silver. It was the standard currency in the US before and after independence, in China, and elsewhere. The US dollar and Chinese yuan were originally similar silver content and other specs to a Spanish dollar.

The US and Canada still do not entirely use decimal coinage. The quarter dollar is still used and originally corresponded to 2 reales coins.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
34,479
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#3
Pre-decimalisation British currency:

1 pound =
4 crowns =
8 half crowns =
20 shillings =
40 sixpence =
240 pence =
960 farthings

A half crown was worth 2 shillings and sixpence (30 pence).
A shilling was worth 12 pence.

Prior to the 19th century, the guinea also existed, which was officially worth 21 shillings.

The crown coin exists today with a value of 5 pounds.
 
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Likes: Futurist

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
34,479
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#4
Premodern Japanese currency:
1 ouban =
10 koban =
20 nibuban =
40 ichibuban =
80 nishuban =
160 isshuban =
40,000 mon

The ouban was not in common use. The koban was the highest denomination commonly encountered, and was worth one ryo, which was a unit of value.

The bu and shu coins were minted in both silver and gold, and were worth the same, although the silver and gold ones were obviously different sizes.
 
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Nemowork

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
8,405
South of the barcodes
#5
Spanish currency was in pieces of 8. 8 reales was a silver dollar, slightly less than an ounce of silver. It was the standard currency in the US before and after independence, in China, and elsewhere. The US dollar and Chinese yuan were originally similar silver content and other specs to a Spanish dollar.

The US and Canada still do not entirely use decimal coinage. The quarter dollar is still used and originally corresponded to 2 reales coins.
Thats mostly because they were using Spanish dollars, the Chinese economy managed to suck in virtually every silver coin in the western hemisphere.
 
Dec 2011
2,950
Late Cretaceous
#8
One penny piece from 1936:



There was a threepenny piece, (thruppenny bit). A two pence coin did appear after decimalisation.

 
Last edited:
Apr 2014
161
Liverpool, England
#9
Decimalisation was planned for Britain around 1848. That is when the florin was introduced and labelled as being one tenth of a pound. The mint put so much effort into this that they left out the 'D.G' - 'Dei Gratia' or by the grace of God Queen. Hence it was known as the godless florin. Decimalisation then fell through,
but the two-shilling coin remained in production till 1971 alongside the half crown = two shillings and sixpence.

There is a lot to be said for a currency that can be divided by numbers like three, six and twelve as well as five and ten.
 

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