Prior to February 15th 1971 the British currency system was known as pounds,
shillings and pence. In the system used at that time 12 pennies was equal to one
shilling and 20 shillings was equal to one pound. After February 15th 1971 the
UK moved to a new system called decimalisation and brought the currency into
line with the metric systems used in Europe which are based on a logical system
of 10 or factors of 10's. So with decimalisation came a system of pounds and
pence doing away with shillings altogether. UK currency is known as BRITISH STERLING
Under this system 100 pence is equal to one pound making working with the UK
currency far easier. The symbol used for pounds is: £
or is sometimes shown as GBP
(Great Britain Pounds)
and the symbol used for pence is: p
So two pound forty pence would be written: £2.40
or GBP 2.40
Twenty pence would be written 20p
Currently the currency in use is as follows:
1 penny, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, one pound, 2
pounds. The 1 penny and 2 pence piece are bronze, the 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence pieces
are silver and the 1 and 2 pound coins are gold. All coins carry the Queens head
on the front.
5 pounds, 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 50 pounds. Front view.
Like the UK coins the notes all carry the Queens head. They also carry a
watermark that is visible to the eye only when held up to the light. The
watermark is the Queens head and shows in the egg shaped white space on all the
above notes. There is also a silver strip that shows when held up to the light
along the width of the notes.
New Fifty Pound
On the 2nd August 2011 a new £50, designed by Chris Salmon, was issued. The note as usual shows the
Queen on one side while the other side shows Matthew Boulton and engineer James
Watt. Matthew Boulton was a business entrepreneur from the 18th century while
James Watt was an engineer perhaps best known for his part in inventing the separate condenser, an improvement on the Newcomen steam engine.
Known as an 'F' series note, the first of which was the twenty pound note issues
in 2007 (see below). This is the first bank note in the UK to feature two
portraits on the reverse side.
New Twenty Pound Note
On the 13th March 2007 a new £20 note was issued by the bank of England. The
last time this note was replaced was 1999. When new notes are issued the old
ones continue to be legal tender for a considerable time. Even after that you
can still exchange the old notes for new ones at UK banks. In this case the
older style £20 note was withdrawn on June 30th 2010.
The new style note shows the image of Adam Smith (eighteenth century economist) which makes him the first Scottish citizen to be shown on a UK bank note. The changes over the last £20 note include a lighter shade of purple and several security enhancements. For example raised lettering and larger hologram and a new security colour tag which shows up under ultra-violet light.
Interestingly the £20 note is the most commonly used note.
The UK is does not use the same currency as much of Europe contrary to the
belief of many first time visitors. While many countries of the European union
use the Euro which came into being on January 1st 1999 the UK has so far decided
to continue with its own currency.
Confusingly while the Currency above is issued by the Bank of England and is the
official currency for the UK, other banks do issue their own notes. This applies
to Scotland and Northern Ireland with the banks issuing notes being:
Scotland: Clydesdale Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland
The Bank of Ireland
First Trust Bank
These banks produce £100 notes which are not produced by the Bank of England.
Many people outside of
Northern Ireland and Scotland are not familiar with these local notes and they
are sometimes refused as acceptable payment in England. However they are
perfectly acceptable as payment anywhere in the UK.
An often used slang term used to refer to UK pounds is quid.