Poll

For how long should the UK have retained the sixpence after decimalisation ?

Demonetising it in June 1980 was right
0 (0%)
It should have been retained for three years only, until February 1974
1 (33.3%)
It should have been retained for one year only, until February 1972
0 (0%)
It was not a decimal coin and should never have been retained
0 (0%)
I am neutral on the matter
2 (66.7%)
Don't know
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 3

Voting closed: August 28, 2017, 02:56:12 PM

Author Topic: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation  (Read 1770 times)

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Online <k>

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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
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Offline Alan71

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #1 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.

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #2 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.
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Online <k>

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #3 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.













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

 
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 03:08:39 PM by <k> »
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Offline Alan71

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #4 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.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #5 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.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #6 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.

Offline Alan71

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #7 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).

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #8 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.

   
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 04:10:14 PM by <k> »
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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #9 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.
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Online <k>

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #10 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.
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Online <k>

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #11 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:

  • We are switching to a decimal system
  • Sixpence, or 2½ pence, is not a typical decimal denomination
  • The coin will look out of place
  • Ideally, any coin should be instantly intelligible within its system (Latin apart!)
  • The presence of the coin will confuse some tourists and others, mainly young people
  • It will, as a compromise, be retained temporarily to ease the transition
  • It will have a distinct shelf life - three years after decimalisation, it will be demonetised



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.
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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #12 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.  :)
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #13 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
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Re: Parking meters, Tube ticket machines, sixpences and decimalisation
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2017, 12:02:18 PM »
A sixpence but no decimal 2p? Oh no!  :help:
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