World of Coins

Modern European coins except the euro => UK and Ireland => Regular circulating decimal coins => Topic started by: <k> on August 05, 2017, 05:20:31 PM

Title: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 05, 2017, 05:20:31 PM
Those Brits who experienced the decimalisation process will remember that the predecimal sixpence was retained after decimalisation. It was used as the equivalent of a 2½ pence piece until the end of June 1980. Apparently it was widely used in parking meters, and sixpence was also a common fare when buying Tube tickets from self-service machines, believe it or not. That was the rationale for keeping it.

After decimalisation, shopkeepers grew to dislike it, because it took up an extra space in tills but was not a useful denomination in decimal terms. Nor was it popular with the public. As half a shilling it had been popular, but in the decimal era, a denomination ending in a half penny just looked messy. I wonder just how troublesome it would have been to ditch the sixpence in 1971. Admittedly, increasing a fare from 2½p to 3p would have represented a 20% hike, and at a time when prices were still so low, a decimal half penny was not to be sniffed at. However, since the ticket machines had to be converted anyway, surely they could have handled a 2p and a ½p, or two pennies and a ½p? Or was the ½p simply never used in slot machines, etc. ? Is there anybody old enough here to be able to answer that question? That's assuming they can remember such a relatively insignificant fact in the first place. Do we have any parking meter fans or experts in the forum?  :D
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 06, 2017, 02:13:35 AM
I find it bizarre that there was actually a "Save Our Sixpence" campaign in 1970, and this was so successful that the coin was allowed to remain in circulation for nine years after decimalisation.  I was only eight years old when it was finally withdrawn, and I don't remember ever encountering one before then.  It's a sign of the times, I suppose, that housewives of the time supposedly loved the denomination.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 11, 2017, 02:30:53 AM
The "Save Our Sixpence" campaign was just one factor, and probably the least of it. London Underground's plea probably had most to do with it. Just think of the role the Tube plays in the country's economy, getting all those Londoners to work every day, not to mention the importance of "the City". And parking meters for cars throughout the country - yes, the car contributed to the economy - important to keep motorists happy.

If you could fool the housewives that THEIR plea was the one that had been instrumental - or allow them to fool themselves - well, that was an excellently devious ploy for a politician.  >:D

I became interested in coins again in 1979, after hearing that the sixpence would be demonetised. Late that year, I got some from a bank, and decided that the poor beasts should enjoy a little freedom before being melted. I bought something for 10p in the student union shop and proffered four sixpences to the lady behind the counter. She looked late 50s, maybe early 60s. She looked at the coins and groaned, but with a smile on her face. "THOSE horrible things!" she said. "You've been saving them up - haven't you?!" Just to show you how quickly sentiments change. The coin and its design (or designs) just looked out of place among the decimal system. The 5p could have been reduced earlier, had the 6d not occupied the approximate slot needed. And no, they didn't turn up in change often at all. Shopkeepers didn't like them, and they quickly became unpopular with the public, once their value was a messy 2½p and not a nice half shilling.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 11, 2017, 01:18:21 PM
As a child in the 1960s, I was very fond of the sixpence, because of all the sweets it could buy. And it was a small coin, but not too small.

Once into the 1970s, and a sixpence / 2½p, would buy you less and less, and nothing really worth having, as high inflation ate away at its spending power.

Once my sentimentality about the coin disappeared, I saw how poorly it fitted into the decimal system. Its designs in particular were out of place, and the reverse of the QEII versions was especially cluttered.



(http://www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk/pics/g6/6d/6d46.jpg)



(http://www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk/pics/g6/6d/6d50.jpg)



(http://www.coins-of-the-uk.co.uk/pics/qe/6d/6d53.jpg)

The sixpence, which masqueraded as 2½p in the 1970s.

 
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 11, 2017, 03:07:52 PM
I wonder how many people (foreign tourists or anyone not familiar with £sd coins) got confused by the "Sixpence" on them and thought they were worth a penny more than Five Pence?  It wasn't so bad with the shilling and florin because they didn't carry any amounts in pence.  It's probably something I'm assuming happened but may not have done very often.

I think I'd have preferred a sixpence in change than a 2p and half penny, but as with shillings and two-shilling pieces, I wouldn't really have understood why they were still in circulation or what they were once a part of.  And I think I would have been confused by the "Sixpence" if I had ever encountered one.  Fairly certain I never did though.  Learning about £sd coins in the early 90s, I was especially surprised to find out that it circulated in my lifetime, and for nine years of it at that.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: FosseWay on August 11, 2017, 03:08:45 PM
The 5p could have been reduced earlier, had the 6d not occupied the approximate slot needed.

In theory the 5p could have been reduced earlier, but in practice would it have been? They waited a whole 10 years after the sixpence was demonetised - longer than the sixpence actually circulated under the decimal system - before reducing the 5p.

I agree that the 5p (and 10p) should have been reduced earlier. The powers that be seemed to have more get-up-and-go around the end of the 1970s and start of the 80s with regard to modernising the currency, whereas later in the 1980s the approach was rather simply to stop making denominations that the public found cumbersome. But if they had seriously wanted to reduce the 5p in the 1970s, they could easily have scrapped the sixpence earlier.

I suspect that the sixpence held on as long as it did for much the same reasons as you gave for the Irish halfpenny - lethargy and having other more pressing things to do. If it (the sixpence) was important for Tube fares in 1971, then it presumably wasn't by 1975, never mind 1980, as inflation must have increased the fares.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: FosseWay on August 11, 2017, 03:14:35 PM
I wonder how many people (foreign tourists or anyone not familiar with £sd coins) got confused by the "Sixpence" on them and thought they were worth a penny more than Five Pence?  It wasn't so bad with the shilling and florin because they didn't carry any amounts in pence.  It's probably something I'm assuming happened but may not have done very often.

I think I'd have preferred a sixpence in change than a 2p and half penny, but as with shillings and two-shilling pieces, I wouldn't really have understood why they were still in circulation or what they were once a part of.  And I think I would have been confused by the "Sixpence" if I had ever encountered one.  Fairly certain I never did though.  Learning about £sd coins in the early 90s, I was especially surprised to find out that it circulated in my lifetime, and for nine years of it at that.

I'm slightly younger than you, but I don't remember seeing or using any sixpences in circulation either.

On the other hand, I didn't particularly question why the shillings and florins were still in use; I took them as an interesting fact of life. In fact it was those old coins - both in absolute terms and in terms of them representing the previous system - that first fascinated me and got me into coin collecting in the first place.

New Zealand kept its old denominations where they matched in size and value with the new as well, until the coins were resized. I remember getting some holiday change from a family friend who'd been to NZ and noting that one of the "20 cent" coins was actually a George VI florin. Australia avoided this "problem" or "point of collecting interest" because its £sd "silver" was actually silver and disappeared quickly from use once the Cu-Ni alternatives were issued in the late 1960s.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 11, 2017, 03:17:19 PM
The only coins they stopped making in the 1980s were the 10p and 50p, but that was only because there was a huge surplus of 10p coins thanks to the introduction of the 20p, and the 50p was similarly affected as £1 coins could be used in slot machines.  It is probably for this reason though, that a reduction in coin sizes wasn't made earlier.  They'd probably never have had to issue the 10p again if they'd kept the old size.  Re-issuing as a smaller coin was perhaps seen as an unnecessary expense for years. 

(The 5p also ceased circulation production for dates from 1981 to 1986 inclusive, resuming in 1987, but as the size of this coin was related to that of the 10p, it put this size reduction on hold as well).
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 11, 2017, 03:18:22 PM
In theory the 5p could have been reduced earlier, but in practice would it have been?

We can only speculate. In practice, they had quite a wish list by 1979. More 10p coins were needed, so the 20p was introduced first to reduce this need, along with the excessive weight of the total coins in circulation. Inflation made the round pound necessary, and retailers and London Underground wanted a pound coin that could be used in machines. Had the sixpence and halfpenny gone earlier, then a smaller 5p in that approximate slot was also a possibility. As you say, there seems to have been some inertia after the round pound was introduced. But you can see that tackling the wish list in different ways would have produced different outcomes, and maybe including a round pound that was the size of the large 10p - which some influential people in government and the Royal Mint would have preferred to the actual version that was issued.

   
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 11, 2017, 03:20:41 PM
The only coins they stopped making in the 1980s were the 10p and 50p, but that was only because there was a huge surplus of 10p coins thanks to the introduction of the 20p, and the 50p was similarly affected as £1 coins could be used in slot machines.  It is probably for this reason though, that a reduction in coin sizes wasn't made earlier.  They'd probably never have had to issue the 10p again if they'd kept the old size.  Re-issuing as a smaller coin was perhaps seen as an unnecessary expense for years. 

(The 5p also ceased circulation production for dates from 1981 to 1986 inclusive, resuming in 1987, but as the size of this coin was related to that of the 10p, it put this size reduction on hold as well).

Good points. I'd never thought of that.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 11, 2017, 03:29:17 PM
I wonder how many people (foreign tourists or anyone not familiar with £sd coins) got confused by the "Sixpence" on them and thought they were worth a penny more than Five Pence?

Probably some did, but then the UK is a strange country in many respects, compared to the Continent. I told you the tale elsewher, of a German friend who got the idea that all predecimal coins were legal tender and tried to spend a couple of threepences and a sixpence in 1987. "These are FOREIGN coins!" said the bemused young shop assistant.

Between getting a sixpence in change or a halfpenny and a 2p, I wouldn't have been bothered. The latter option would hardly have weighed me down and worn my pockets out.  ;)

Ideally we should have got rid of sixpences, shillings and florins much sooner than we did, but the "ideal" option isn't always a priority, and sometimes the money or minting time aren't available.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 20, 2017, 03:09:01 PM
Here is another poll for you to consider. The sixpence was retained after decimalisation, as we know, and circulated as 2½p, while becoming more irrelevant every year. Apparently it eased the transition to decimalisation, because many parking meters accepted 6d coins (a common parking fee) and also London Underground lobbied for it, because many Tube fares cost sixpence and the ticket machines accepted the coin.

IMV, the "Save our Sixpence" campaign was silly, as were the campaigns by whichever "popular" newspapers. So, I would have forgotten those nostalgics and focused on the work in hand, namely:




The retention of the sixpence into 1980, to please the nostalgics, was an error. It should have been given a shelf life from the outset. Retaining it showed the "muddling through" side of the UK, rather than the modern, go-ahead side. The coin had no place in a decimal system after a generous transition period.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 21, 2017, 10:19:19 AM
Well, I'd posted this topic in the main UK board, which is neither decimal nor predecimal in nature, but I thought it was a useful place for crossover subjects such as this. Well, it was languishing there and getting no attention, so I've moved it into the decimal sub board. My reasoning is that the sixpence was now functioning as a decimal coin, in effect as the equivalent as 2½p.

So, now, you members who remember this coin from the decimal years, what did you think of that strange situation? Have a vote and let us know.  :)
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Figleaf on August 21, 2017, 11:45:06 AM
Haven't you forgotten the option: "it was a splendid idea, but it should have replaced the tuppence"? The Daily Mail will get you for that oversight.

Peter
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 21, 2017, 12:02:18 PM
A sixpence but no decimal 2p? Oh no!  :help:
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 21, 2017, 06:31:17 PM
I voted for neutral on the matter.  What was London Underground's plea then?  And parking meters?  For how long were these concerns relevant?  There must have been a reason why it lasted the nine years?  Therefore I'm not sure I could make a judgement until I know the facts.

Coinage seems to be more about evolution than revolution, doesn't it?  Radical plans never quite come to fruition and changes are usually a compromise. 
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 21, 2017, 06:48:34 PM
What was London Underground's plea then?  And parking meters?

See my first post:

Apparently it was widely used in parking meters, and sixpence was also a common fare when buying Tube tickets from self-service machines, believe it or not. That was the rationale for keeping it.
 
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For how long were these concerns relevant?

That's what I don't know. Given rapid inflation from about 1973 onwards, I doubt sixpence / 2½p would have bought very much. I was hoping some oldies would remember.

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There must have been a reason why it lasted the nine years?

Sheer inertia and muddling through, as well as pressure from the nostalgics ("Save Our Sixpence", etc.). The transition to decimalisation ran like clockwork, but nobody had planned the END of the transition. I'd have said, back in 1968, OK, by February 1974 all predecimal coins will have been removed, and the word "NEW" (though I'd have used "DECIMAL" instead) will be omitted from the legends - and arrangements should have been put in place for that. Then we would have had a clean, coherent and fully decimal system, rather than "NEW" and sixpences and florins scaring children and tourists.

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Coinage seems to be more about evolution than revolution, doesn't it?  Radical plans never quite come to fruition and changes are usually a compromise.

True, but more planning could have gone into the process, in this case. It was a big and important change.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 22, 2017, 09:17:40 AM
The end of the transition, for all intents and purposes, was 31 August 1971 wasn't it?  That was when the penny and threepence were withdrawn after a six-month changeover period (which has largely been stuck to ever since for other withdrawn coins, including the round £1).  Keeping the 5p and 10p coin sizes was an important link between old and new, and keeping the "New" for more than 10 years was OK in the long run.  Since 1998 the word can only be found on early 1p and 2p coins.

The stay of execution for the sixpence is a bit of an anomaly, but if it helped the decimal coinage gain greater acceptance then that's good.  And the fact that probably no one mourned it when it finally was called in is a testament to the public's ability to adapt to change, as long as it's an evolutionary process and not a revolutionary one.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 11:24:14 AM
The end of the transition, for all intents and purposes, was 31 August 1971 wasn't it?

That was not the end. It was not even the beginning of the end. But it was, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

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Keeping the 5p and 10p coin sizes was an important link between old and new

Keeping the sizes was a bad choice. The link in value was the only important link- the one that couldn't be severed. I would have ditched the weight-to-value ratio from day one in the decimal system. Then, I would still have issued the 5p and 10p in 1968, but at markedly smaller sizes. Maybe the 5p would have had to be polygonal and brass, to distinguish it from the small sixpence. But that's what I would have done. I would have explained to the public that inflation had made them too heavy for their worth. They would still have used the same till spaces as the shilling and florin - it didn't matter. As it was, as early as the end of the 1970s, the Mint wanted to reduce the 5p and 10p - see: The Royal Mint's 1979 suggestions for the future of the coinage (http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,38869.msg245714.html#msg245714) - proving that it had been a bad decision.

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and keeping the "New" for more than 10 years was OK in the long run.  Since 1998 the word can only be found on early 1p and 2p coins.

No, the "NEW" was illogical. The original "DECIMAL" would have been better. Keeping it for only 3 years would have sent a clearer signal. I have run projects and know they must have a clear cut-off date. Too often Britain is content to muddle through. I prefer efficiency. And by your own admission, the "NEW" confused you as a child,  but coins should be immediately intelligible within their environment.

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The stay of execution for the sixpence is a bit of an anomaly, but if it helped the decimal coinage gain greater acceptance then that's good.

It didn't help. It pandered to the nostalgics. It made Britain look as if it still had one foot in the past. It made the coinage look shoddy and incoherent, with all these predecimal remnants confusing tourists and scaring children like you and making them wet the bed. Decimal coinage gained immediate and total acceptance from February 1971, because it was a done deal and people were then using it every day. Sometimes politicians have to lead from the front.

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And the fact that probably no one mourned it when it finally was called in is a testament to the public's ability to adapt to change, as long as it's an evolutionary process and not a revolutionary one.

It's a testament to the fact that it could have been done far earlier, for instance 1974, and it would have made Britain look more efficient and its coinage more coherent and logical. Some nostalgics did in fact mourn it, and it even had a couple of champions in parliament, but there is no point in clinging to the past or pandering to nostalgics.

The retention of the sixpence and keeping of the 5p and 10p at the size of the shilling and florin, plus the lack of a 20p coin to bridge the gap between the 10p and the 50p, all led to problems, and by the end of the 1970s, the Royal Mint had a small list of issues to be tackled. Ever more heavy 10p coins were needed through the 1970s - a problem exacerbated by the lack of a 20p, and their large size added to the excess weight of the coinage and the cost of keeping it adequately supplied. The bad decisions made at the beginning of decimalisation therefore led to a slew of problems in the late 1970s and exacerbated those problems. Getting rid of the shillings, florins and sixpences by February 1974, and adopting a 20p in the first place, would have given the Mint a much clearer run in the second half of the 1970s. A pound coin could have been introduced earlier, and a 2 pound coin a couple of years afterwards. As it was, the Mint had to decide which of its problems to tackle first, so the reduction of the over-heavy 5p, 10p and 50p had to wait until the 1990s. Both the Mint and the Treasury had really wanted a pound coin around the size of the large 10p, but the large 10p was still in existence, so compromises had to be made. The problems the Mint had created for itself reduced its own room for manoeuvre in the 1970s.

So get with it, and get efficient.  :P  No looking backwards, no reactionary poses to pander to the nostalgics.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 11:55:17 AM
Some of our older members from Continental Europe, Asia and the Americas, must have visited the UK during the years from 1971 to 1993, when predecimals were still circulating. What did they make of that situation? These predecimals were still circulating in the early 1990s, for goodness' sake! But your reactions may have been mitigated by the fact that you were also coin collectors, of course.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 12:37:58 PM
When you think about it, the half crown was equivalent to 12½p, so why wasn't that retained too? I'm glad it wasn't, of course. It was our highest circulating denomination, prior to 1971, so we dropped down 2½p, come D-Day. Not bridging the gap between the 10p and the 50p was a mistake, but it was a policy supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, who didn't want to see "too many denominations". I think our members should write to him, asking for an apology.

 
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: FosseWay on August 22, 2017, 02:44:23 PM
When you think about it, the half crown was equivalent to 12½p, so why wasn't that retained too? I'm glad it wasn't, of course. It was our highest circulating denomination, prior to 1971, so we dropped down 2½p, come D-Day.

Er, the 50p had been in use for nearly 18 months come D-Day...  ;)
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 02:49:28 PM
You're right, of course. Get your brain in gear, <j>.  I mean <k>.  :-\
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 22, 2017, 07:54:52 PM
Keeping the shilling and florin sizes for 20 years and more after decimalisation is nothing compared to Australia, where both still circulate over 50 years after they ditched £sd.  If you think the UK had one foot in the past then where did that leave the Aussies?  And New Zealand did until 2006.  There were probably several other countries with £sd-derived currencies that kept them well after 1971 too, so I have to completely disagree with you on this.  I don't read about any Australians moaning about the sizes of their coins!
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 08:01:20 PM
Keeping the shilling and florin sizes for 20 years and more after decimalisation is nothing compared to Australia, where both still circulate over 50 years after they ditched £sd.  If you think the UK had one foot in the past then where did that leave the Aussies?  And New Zealand did until 2006.  There were probably several other countries with £sd-derived currencies that kept them well after 1971 too, so I have to completely disagree with you on this.

As usual, mostly.  ::)  However, just because a couple of countries got it badly wrong, that doesn't mean we should have emulated them.

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I don't read about any Australians moaning about the sizes of their coins!

Well, some nations just lack any discernment, you know. And look at how those Australians made their 2 dollar coin smaller than their dollar, even though both coins are made of the same yellowish alloy.  :D
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 22, 2017, 09:36:34 PM
I think people in general - with perhaps the exception of you! - lack any discernment on this issue.

I'm largely happy with the way things are.  Perhaps the 20p could have come sooner but when it did it was done properly.  The £2 should definitely have come sooner, and should have been done properly.  Perhaps retailers prefer the £1 coin, I don't know.  That's ultimately the only thing I'd change though - introduce the £2 but make sure the £1 isn't issued anymore and have the things lying in bank vaults whilst the £2 takes over, then reissue it in smaller numbers in 2017 so that offering more than one in change rarely has to happen.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 09:42:09 PM
Well, if you're mainly happy to muddle through. Me, I'm a bit of a perfectionist.
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: Alan71 on August 22, 2017, 09:57:58 PM
I'm a perfectionist too but this is something no one can do much about.  Most of it is history and can't be changed or re-written.  It took 120 years, for goodness sake, to even get decimalisation after the florin was introduced.  The fact that said florin was then "allowed" to live on for over 20 years is nothing really.

I'm forgetting which topic I'm in now!  There's a separate one for shilling and florin sizes isn't there?  They'll all kind of merging into one as they're all variations of a thene!
Title: Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
Post by: <k> on August 22, 2017, 10:30:35 PM
I'm a perfectionist too but this is something no one can do much about.

Not now, but even at the time, by looking at best practices elsewhere, things could have been improved. And when you do your projects at work, you also plan how to finish them and tie up the loose ends. Even if they'd kept the coins as an interim first series, as the South Africans did from 1961 to 1965, they could have learnt from the experience and then produced a better system after a while.