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1971: D-Day delivers new UK currency

VIDEO : Shoppers adjust to the new currency

The British Government has launched a new decimal currency across the country.

The familiar pound (), shilling (s) and pence (d) coins are to be phased out over the next 18 months in favour of a system dividing the pound into units of ten, including half, one, two, five, ten and 50 pence denominations.

Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board (DCB) Lord Fiske told reporters: "The general picture is quite clear and the smooth and efficient changeover so many people have worked for is now in fact being achieved."

But he expected it would take several months to adapt the five million machines affected by the new coinage.

According to Chairman of the Joint Trade Committee of the London Cab Trade, John Welland, it will take 15 months to convert all the fare meters for London's 9,000 taxis.

Countdown to decimalisation

Banks have been closed for the past two working days to prepare for the implementation of the new currency on what has become known as D Day.

Some traders - such as luxury London department store Fortnum and Mason - have been well-prepared for the switch, with dual pricing on many items.

But reporters noted some men have continued to spend their old pennies in the public lavatories in Piccadilly.

Chairman of the British Bankers' Association decimalisation committee, Bernard Sharpe, made clear old coins would not last.

"There is no case whatever for the retention of the sixpence in a decimal currency system, except for sentimentality for the 'dear old tanner'," he said.

A few market-stall holders were concerned by the size of the new halfpenny, but Lord Fiske explained: "It is not unduly small by world standards.

"It has an important role to play particularly in price-shading of low-priced goods."

Work on the new system began in earnest in March 1966 when the Treasury made the practical and legislative preparations for setting up a Whitehall department a year later.

In Context
A survey carried out by the British Market Research Bureau on D-Day showed 12% of the 1,040 questioned thought money had been unfairly converted, but the majority were satisfied with pricing.

Secret British Government documents published on the 30th anniversary of decimalisation revealed the concerns the Decimal Currency Board had about the changeover.

They included rejection by public transport workers and problems if the Queen died unexpectedly before the new coins were fully circulated.

The 20 pence piece was introduced in 1982.

The half penny was withdrawn from circulation in 1984.

A smaller, lighter 10 pence piece was circulated from 1993 and similar changes were made to the 50 pence in 1998.

In June 1998 the 2 coin came into general circulation.


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