Author Topic: Denominations you can't give change for  (Read 3767 times)

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Offline FosseWay

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Re: Denominations you can't give change for
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2011, 08:57:50 PM »
The way to understand this may be to realise that before decimalization, gold, silver and copper coins were different currencies in the same country. Sure, there was a rate of exchange, but it was floating. As an example, a guinea was worth a variable number of shillings before it came to be fixed at 21 shillings. How odd is a 21 shilling denomination? Likewise, in Spain, silver and copper coins were separated with an odd rate of exchange, 34 maravedis to the real.

Gold, silver and copper coins were meant for different social classes. A 19th century British nobleman would wager in guineas, the middle class would take a risk measured in shillings and the growling masses would bet in pennies. Each classes would calculate in their own currency.

Someone thinking in terms of (silver) reales has no need for a 10 or 20 centavos piece. They are 0.8 real and 1.6 real. Odd denominations. However, 12.5 centavos and 25 centavos come in handy, as they represent the familiar 1 and 2 reales coins. So what if the poor have to get used to yet another set of copper coins? They hardly ever handle silver anyway.

Yes, there's a lot of truth in this. You can see something similar in some British conventions relating to partial metrication. We generally (unless we read the Telegraph) cite daily temperatures in Celsius, but often use Fahrenheit for body temperature. Essentially they are different scales used for unrelated purposes, even though even in Britain there can be some physical overlap (body temperature is 36.9 C and the highest temperature recorded here is 38-ish C). Likewise, many people are entirely happy doing household maintenance tasks in metric, but will unhesitatingly give their height in feet and inches.

However, the situation regarding the guinea is slightly different. For most of the time that the guinea has been fixed at 21s/£1.05, it has not existed as a physical coin. After 1816 the sovereign of £1 and its fractions and multiples were the only circulation gold coins. The continued use of guineas was an upper-class affectation, and even the most high-born duke still had to pay his debts in coins of £1 and logical fractions thereof, not guineas, if he wanted to use legal tender. (Of course, there was nothing stopping him using old guineas or various paper instruments if his creditor was amenable.)

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Denominations you can't give change for
« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2011, 09:05:20 PM »
From Wikipedia:

The guinea is a coin that was minted in the Kingdom of England and later in the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom between 1663 and 1813. It was the first English machine-struck gold coin, originally worth one English Pound sterling, equal to twenty shillings; but rises in the price of gold caused the value of the guinea to increase, at times to as high as thirty shillings; from 1717 till 1816, its value was officially fixed at twenty-one shillings. Following that, Great Britain adopted the gold standard and guinea became a colloquial term.

I was thinking of the period before 1717, you were thinking of the period after 1717. I think I got my info from Feavearyear, but I lost the book and am no longer sure...

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline andyg

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Re: Denominations you can't give change for
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2011, 09:21:14 PM »
Coincraft states...

Charles II
The denomination was originally equivalent to one pound or 20 shillings but during the reign the rise in the price of gold led it to its changing hands at a premium.  In 1670 the wieght was reduced , but the price of gold continued to rise and the guinea traded at 22 shillings in the 1680's.

William and Mary
By the end of the reign of William & Mary the guinea had risen in value to nearly 30 shillings.  The exchanges between gold and silver were accompanied by much haggling, the cause of which was invariably the presence of clipped silver coinage and the extent of the clipping.  The exchange rate for full weight silver coins was nearer the original 20 shilling value.

William III
The situation with regard to the exchange of gold and silver coins was becoming chaotic at the start of the reign.  Exchanges between the guinea and clipped and unclipped hammered and milled silver coins produced a variety of rates of exchange.  A decision was taken in parliament to limit the exchange rate of the guinea to 25 shillings and to prohibit the minting or import of guineas from 2nd March 1695 to 1st January 1696.  Later the rate was reduced to 22 shillings and the importation rule cancelled.

George I
The value of the guinea had fluctuated over the years from twenty shillings to about thirty shillings  and back to a level of twenty one shillings and sixpence at the beginning of the reign.  A proclamation in December 1717 reduced the value to 21 shillings.
always willing to trade modern UK coins for modern coins from elsewhere....