Predecimal Currency

Dec 2011
2,961
Late Cretaceous
#21
Hence, "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's ass"?
It looks like one ass wasn't worth very much, but I guess it was better than a half ass. Though in Roman Republic times a half ass was probably better than none.
Moving quickly along,

around 140BC the value of the Ass changed to 16 ass = 4 sesterces = 1 denarius.

The sestersius rather than the denarius seems to be the currency used to value property, eg Crassus was said to have estates worth 200 million sesterces.

Useful little link with tables of wages and prices at various times during the Republic and Empire:

Roman Economy - Prices & Cost in Ancient Rome

wiki:

Crassus's wealth is estimated by Pliny at approximately 200 million sestertii. Plutarch, in his "Life of Crassus," says the wealth of Crassus increased from less than 300 talents at first to 7,100 talents. This represented 229 tonnes of gold, or about 7.4 million troy ounces, worth about $9 billion US dollars today, accounted right before his Parthian expedition, most of which Plutarch declares Crassus got "by fire and war, making the public calamities his greatest source of revenue."
 
Last edited:
Dec 2011
2,293
#22
Moving quickly along,

around 140BC the value of the Ass changed to 16 ass = 4 sesterces = 1 denarius.

The sestersius rather than the denarius seems to be the currency used to value property, eg Crassus was said to have estates worth 200 million sesterces.

Useful little link with tables of wages and prices at various times during the Republic and Empire:

Roman Economy - Prices & Cost in Ancient Rome
It wasn't the "ass" it was called the "as" (schoolchild ribaldry is one thing, but if it makes you get your facts wrong, not good), and as you state it was 1/16th of a denarius.

The British currency was partly based on the Roman system. Pounds, shillings and pence (called LSD) were based on Libra (one pound in weight - of silver theoretically) divided into 20 shillings (based on the Roman solidus - the later version of the denarius) and pennies (shown is D for denarius).
 

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,698
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#23
It wasn't the "ass" it was called the "as" (schoolchild ribaldry is one thing, but if it makes you get your facts wrong, not good), and as you state it was 1/16th of a denarius.

The British currency was partly based on the Roman system. Pounds, shillings and pence (called LSD) were based on Libra (one pound in weight - of silver theoretically) divided into 20 shillings (based on the Roman solidus - the later version of the denarius) and pennies (shown is D for denarius).
Was the French Livre based on a similar system as well?
 
Mar 2015
1,427
Yorkshire
#24
Decimalisation came in when I was a mere 7 years old, yet I can still remember all the coins and notes.

There was the ha'penny, penny, thrupenny bit, tanner, bob, two bob, half a crown, five bob, ten bob note, pound note, five pound note.
(Or - half penny, one penny, threepence, sixpence (my pocket money!), one shilling, two shillings, two shillings and sixpence, five shillings, ten shillings, one pound, five pounds.
(We weren't that well off to have ten pound notes!)
12 pennies = 1 shilling; 20 shillings = 1 pound.
Prices were marked as 3/7d (3 shillings and 7 pence) for example meant how many pennies in thrupennys and bob bits?

After decimalisation we had a halfpence, penny, twopence, fivepence, tenpence, fifty pence, one pound note, five pound note.
100 pennies = 1 pound.
Prices were marked as £1.17 (1 pound and 17 pence) or 117 pennies. Somewhat easier?

And still old ladies used to get confused.
Old ladies never got confused when using the old system. It was the new fangled system that gave the problem since it took time to convert the sum to old money in case if you had been cheated. Everyone was brilliant at mental arithmetic - now nobody could exist without a calculator.
 
Feb 2011
1,068
Scotland
#27
I remember when the new money came in, I was 10. It was certainly much easier to work with.

My parents were convinced that we were cheated in the shops. 1 shilling in old money was 5p in decimal money. They said this process effectively doubled prices, as many items that were say 5d in old money (about 2p in new money) suddenly became 5p (12d in old money, 1 shilling). To retariff an item at the same number of pence from old to new pennies would effectively double the price.
 
Likes: Shtajerc
Dec 2011
2,293
#28
I remember when the new money came in, I was 10. It was certainly much easier to work with.

My parents were convinced that we were cheated in the shops. 1 shilling in old money was 5p in decimal money. They said this process effectively doubled prices, as many items that were say 5d in old money (about 2p in new money) suddenly became 5p (12d in old money, 1 shilling). To retariff an item at the same number of pence from old to new pennies would effectively double the price.
Inflation was starting to get really high then (only a decade previously, any increase in the price of any staple, such as a loaf of bread, was big news, but in the 1970s prices marched ever upward) and people wanted to know why. The government insisted the "world prices" was the cause but I remember some older people insisting that the decimalisation was to blame.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
34,578
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#29
Virtually all premodern units of currency originated as weights, probably of precious metals.

The pound, obviously.
The shekel was a unit of weight amongst western semitic people.
The Chinese tael had several standards, but was approximate 40g. In various forms, it was used throughout the Sinosphere, including in Japan, where it was called the ryo (see above).
The Thai baht and saleung were originally weights of silver, and are still used to weigh gold in the Thai gold industry.

One notable exception is the dollar, whose name derives from the German thaler, meaning valley.
 
Sep 2012
1,618
London, centre of my world
#30
Old ladies never got confused when using the old system. It was the new fangled system that gave the problem since it took time to convert the sum to old money in case if you had been cheated. Everyone was brilliant at mental arithmetic - now nobody could exist without a calculator.
To be fair to the old dears, 2 new pence looked like an old penny and 5 new pence was equivalent to 1 shilling (12 old pence - 12d). However, 10 (new) pence looked like a two bob bit (2 shillings, or 24d) and that's where the trouble started.

I remember my Grandad gave me a silver thrupenny bit that was about the size of a modern 5p. I hope they aren't rare, because I can't flipping find it now.
 

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