6d (until 1971)
21/2 p (1971–1980)
|Mass||(1816–1970) 2.83 g|
|Composition||(1551–1816) Silver |
(1816–1920) 92.5% Ag
(1920–1946) 50% Ag
|Years of minting||1551–1970|
|Design||Profile of the monarch (Elizabeth II design shown)|
|Design||Various (floral design shown)|
|Designer||Edgar Fuller and Cecil Thomas|
The British sixpence ( // ) piece, sometimes known as a tanner or sixpenny bit, was a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/40 of one pound or half of one shilling. It was first minted in 1551, during the reign of Edward VI, and circulated until 1980. The coin was made from silver from its introduction in 1551 until 1947, and thereafter in cupronickel.
Before Decimal Day in 1971, sterling used the Carolingian monetary system (£sd), under which the largest unit was a pound (£), divisible into 20 shillings (s), each of 12 pence (d). Following decimalisation, it had a value of 2+1/2 new pence (£0.025).
In 2016, new decimal sixpences began being minted by the Royal Mint as commemorative issues to celebrate Christmas; these coins have been produced for each year since, and are minted in sterling silver.
The first sixpences were minted in 1551, during the reign of Edward VI. They came about as a result of the debasement of silver coinage in the 1540s, in particular the silver testoon, which fell in value from 12d to 6d.The debased testoon was likely useful in everyday transactions, and it was decided that new coinage should be introduced with the express denomination of six pence. The testoon decreased in value because, unlike today, the value of coins was determined by the market value of the metal they contained, and during the reign of Henry VIII the purity of silver in coinage had fallen significantly.
Sixpences were minted during the reign of every British monarch after Edward VI, as well as during the Commonwealth, with a vast number of variations and alterations over the years. During the reign of George II a number of issues were designed by John Sigismund Tanner, who became Chief Engraver of the Royal Mint, and it has been suggested that this is the origin of the nickname "tanner", which was a popular name for the coin until decimalisation. tawno meaning small thing.An alternative explanation for the nickname is that it comes from the Angloromani word
The Royal Mint undertook a massive recoinage programme in 1816, with large quantities of gold and silver coin being minted. Previous issues of silver coinage had been irregular, and the previous issue, minted in 1787, had done little to alleviate the chronic shortage of silver coinage in general circulation. 1⁄11 troy ounce, equivalent to 43.636 grains or 2.828 grams.New silver coinage was to be of .925 (sterling) standard, with silver coins to be minted at 66 shillings to the pound weight. Hence, newly minted sixpences weighed
The Royal Mint debased the silver coinage in 1920 from 92.5% silver to 50% silver.Sixpences of both alloys were minted that year. This debasement was done because of the rising price of silver around the world, and followed the global trend of elimination, or reduction in purity, of the silver in coinage. The minting of silver coinage of the pound sterling ceased completely in 1946 for similar reasons, exacerbated by the costs of the Second World War. New "silver" coinage was instead minted in cupronickel, an alloy of copper and nickel containing no silver at all.
Beginning with Lord Wrottesley's proposals in the 1820s, there were various attempts to decimalise the pound sterling over the next century and a half. 2+1⁄2 new pence, until 30 June 1980.These attempts came to nothing significant until the 1960s, when the need for a currency more suited to simple monetary calculations became pressing. The decision to decimalise was announced in 1966, with the pound to be divided into 100, rather than 240, pence. Decimal Day was set as 15 February 1971, and a whole range of new coins were introduced. Sixpences continued to be legal tender, with a value of
|Value||0.06 pound sterling|
|Years of minting||2016–present|
|Design||Profile of the monarch|
|Design||Royal cypher of Elizabeth II with plants and flowers|
In 2016, the Royal Mint began minting legal tender decimal sixpence coins in silver,intended to be bought as Christmas presents. These coins are heavier than the pre-1970 sixpence (3.35 grams instead of 2.83 grams), and have a denomination of six new pence (6p) instead of six old pence (6d). The new reverse was designed by John Bergdahl.
Sixpences issued during the reign of Edward VI features a portrait of the king on the obverse, with a Tudor rose to the left, and the denomination VI to the right. Surrounding the portrait is the inscription EDWARD VI D G AGL FRA Z HIB REX, or similar, meaning "Edward VI, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland". All sixpences minted under subsequent kings and queens bear a similar inscription on the obverse identifying the monarch (or Lord Protector during the Commonwealth), with the portrait usually alternating from left-facing to right-facing, or vice versa, between monarchs. The reverse features the escutcheon of the Royal Arms of England, surrounded by the inscription POSVI DEVM ADIVTORE MEVM, or a variant, meaning "I have made God my helper".
Starting with Elizabeth, the coins have the year of minting stamped on the reverse. Unusually, the sixpences minted in 1561 and 1562 were milled, i.e. produced by machine rather than by hand, with the press of the Frenchman Eloy Mestrelle, who had been granted authority to mint coins by the queen.Although of higher quality than hammered coins, Mestrelle's sixpences were more expensive to produce, and machine-struck coinage ceased to be minted in 1572. The coins remained in circulation for over a hundred years, but it took until the reign of Charles II for milled coins of the pound sterling to be minted again. Sixpences minted after the Tudor period no longer bear the Tudor rose on the obverse.
Early sixpences of James I feature the alternative reverse inscription EXVRGAT DEVS DISSIPENTVR INIMICI, meaning "Let God arise and His enemies be scattered", becoming QVAE DEVS CONIVNXIT NEMO SEPARET, meaning "What God hath put together let no man put asunder" after 1604. Charles I sixpences follow the usual design, except that coins minted after 1630 do not bear a date, and the reverse inscription reads CHRISTO AVSPICE REGNO, meaning "I reign under the auspices of Christ".
During the beginning of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorship there was no portrait minted on the obverse – instead there is a wreathed shield featuring St George's Cross, surrounded by the inscription THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND. The reverse features the combined arms of England and Ireland, surrounded by the inscription GOD WITH VS. In 1656 the minting of milled coinage resumed, this time with the press of the Frenchman Peter Blondeau. The obverse of Cromwell's milled coinage features a portrait in the manner of a Roman emperor, surrounded by an inscription similar to those on the coins of earlier monarchs.
With the exception of a handful of early examples, Charles II sixpences continued to be machine-struck, and continued the usual practice of having a portrait of the monarch on the obverse. The reverse features a new design consisting of four shields arranged in a cross, with the inscription detailing the style of the monarch split across both sides of the coin. With minor changes, such as the device at the centre of the shields, and the designs between the shields, this basic design continued to be minted until the reign of George III.
Those coins minted after the great recoinage of 1816 bear the royal coat of arms on the reverse, surrounded by the Garter, which bears the words HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE, Middle French for "Evil be to him who evil thinks". George IV sixpences are similar to those of his predecessor, but on some issues the Garter surrounding the shield is replaced by floral emblems representing England, Scotland and Ireland, with the inscription ANNO DATE (e.g. ANNO 1821) below.
William IV sixpences have a simpler reverse, composed of the words SIX PENCE in the middle, with a crown above, the date below, and a wreath surrounding. With the exception of a withdrawn 1887 issue, Victoria and Edward VII sixpences share this reverse. The reverse of the 1887 issue is broadly the same as the post-1816 George III coins. This reverse is shared with the half-sovereign, and since the two are of a similar size, a problem arose with people passing off sixpences as half-sovereigns. The government agreed to remove the coin from circulation in November 1887 and change the reverse.
The reverse of George V sixpences minted prior to 1926 feature an alternative reverse design composed of a crown surmounted by a lion, with those minted after 1926 featuring a design of six oak sprigs divided by six acorns. SIXPENCE below and part of the monarch's style inscribed above. Unusually, the profile of Edward VIII on coins faces the same way as that of his predecessor.Only a handful of Edward VIII sixpences were ever minted, and none of these entered circulation. These feature a reverse that is different again, composed of six interlinked rings, with the inscription
George VI sixpences feature two different reverses, both featuring a crowned Royal Cypher. Those minted prior to 1949 feature a more angular font than those minted later. IND IMP, since the king was no longer Emperor of India. The final change in the design of the sixpence came in 1953 when a new reverse was designed for the sixpences of Elizabeth II. These coins feature a floral design by Edgar Fuller and Cecil Thomas on the reverse, consisting of a rose, thistle, shamrock and leek, representing the four Home Nations.These later coins do not bear the abbreviation
As the supply of silver threepence coins slowly disappeared, Royal Mint sixpences replaced them as the coins traditionally put into Christmas puddings.From the Victorian era onwards, it became tradition to mix a threepence or sixpence into the ingredients when preparing a Christmas pudding, as the coin was believed to grant good luck. Prepared on Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before the start of Advent, the coin would be placed into the mixture, then the mixture was stirred by every member of the family. When it came to eating the pudding on Christmas day, whoever found the sixpence in their slice would receive good luck in the year to come.
In Britain, there is a well-known tradition of the bride wearing "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe".A silver sixpence in the bride's shoe is a traditional wedding gesture for good luck; customarily the father of the bride places the sixpence, as a token of him wishing her prosperity, love and happiness in her marriage.
They are also used as a good luck charm by Royal Air Force aircrew who have them sewn behind their wings or brevets, a custom dating back to the Second World War.
The archaic slang "bender" for a sixpence emerged when the coin had a high silver content and could easily be bent, sometimes deliberately to create a love token. The expression "to go on a bender" (to indulge in a binge drinking session) derives from this meaning when one could drink all day in taverns for six pence.
In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act 4, Scene 2), we learn that by his absence (ensorcelled in Titania's bower) Bottom the Weaver will forgo sixpence a day for life from the Duke. In Elizabethan times, six pence was roughly a day's wage for rustic labour in the provinces. With it, one might buy two dinners, six performances of Hamlet among the groundlings at the Globe Theatre, or an unbound copy of the play itself.
In David Copperfield , Charles Dickens describes how its protagonist dealt with a street carman about taking his travel box to a coach office in London: "I told him mine, which was down that street there, and which I wanted him to take to the Dover coach office for sixpence", then he replying: "Done with you for a tanner!"
The sixpence also features in other works of British popular culture and literature. It appears in the title of the writer W. Somerset Maugham's 1919 novel, The Moon and Sixpence , and appears in both the title and as a plot device in Michael Paraskos's novel In Search of Sixpence.The sixpence appears in the English nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" published in London in 1744. Half a Sixpence is the title of the 1963 West End stage musical, and the subsequent 1967 musical film version, of H. G. Wells's novel Kipps .
"I've Got Sixpence" is a song dating from at least 1810.An elaborated version was published in 1941, words and music by Elton Box & Desmond Cox. the singer tells the tale of spending twopence (per verse) until he has "no-pence to send home to my wife – poor wife."
Some guitarists prefer the rigidity of a coin to the flexibility of a more traditional plastic plectrum; among them are Brian May of Queen and Ian Bairnson of The Alan Parsons Project.May at some time even had sixpence-sized coins featuring his own head struck by the Royal Mint, which he used, gave away, and sold as his signature plectrum.
Sixpence None the Richer (also known as Sixpence) is an American rock band whose name was inspired by a passage from the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
Penguin Books initially sold books in the 1930s through Woolworths and other high street stores for sixpence.
The standard circulating coinage of the United Kingdom, British Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories is denominated in pennies and pounds sterling, and ranges in value from one penny sterling to two pounds. Since decimalisation, on 15 February 1971, the pound has been divided into 100 (new) pence. Before decimalisation, twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty shillings made a pound.
The History of the English penny from 1485 to 1603 covers the period of the Tudor dynasty.
The British florin, or two-shilling piece was a coin worth 1/10 of one pound, or 24 pence. It was issued from 1849 until 1967, with a final issue for collectors dated 1970. It was the last coin circulating immediately prior to decimalisation to be demonetised, in 1993, having for a quarter of a century circulated alongside the ten-pence piece, identical in specifications and value.
The British pre-decimal halfpenny,, historically also known as the obol and once abbreviated ob., was a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/480 of one pound, 1/24 of one shilling, or 1/2 of one penny. Originally the halfpenny was minted in copper, but after 1860 it was minted in bronze. In the run-up to decimalisation it ceased to be legal tender from 31 July 1969. The halfpenny featured two different designs on its reverse during its years in circulation. From 1672 until 1936 the image of Britannia appeared on the reverse, and from 1937 onwards the image of the Golden Hind appeared. Like all British coinage, it bore the portrait of the monarch on the obverse.
The British farthing historically abbreviated qua., was a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/960 of one pound, 1/48 of one shilling, or 1/4 of one penny. It was minted in copper and later in bronze, and replaced the earlier English farthings.
The British threepence piece, usually simply known as a threepence, thruppence, or thruppenny bit, was a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/80 of one pound or 1/4 of one shilling. It was used in the United Kingdom, and earlier in Great Britain and England. Similar denominations were later used throughout the British Empire and Commonwealth countries, notably in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The British crown was a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/4 of one pound, or 5 shillings, or 60 pence. The crown was first issued during the reign of Edward VI, as part of the coinage of the Kingdom of England.
The half sovereign is a British gold coin with a nominal value of half of one pound sterling. It is half the weight of its counterpart 'full' sovereign coin.
The threepence or 3d coin was a subdivision of the pre-decimal Irish pound, worth 1⁄80 of a pound or 1⁄4 of a shilling. Leath reul literally means "half reul", the reul being a sixpence coin worth about the same as the Spanish real. As with all other Irish coins, it resembled its British counterpart, as the Irish pound was pegged to the British pound until 1979.
The British farthing was a British coin worth a quarter of an old penny. It ceased to be struck after 1956 and was demonetised from 1 January 1961.
The British halfpenny coin was worth 1/480th of a pound sterling. At first in its 700-year history it was made from silver, but as the value of silver increased the coin was made from base metals. It was finally abandoned in 1969 as part of the process of decimalising the British currency. "Halfpenny", colloquially written ha'penny, was pronounced HAY-pə-nee; "1 ½d" was spoken as a penny ha'penny or three ha'pence.
The threepence or threepenny bit was a denomination of currency used by various jurisdictions in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, valued at 1/80 of a pound or ¼ of a shilling until decimalisation of the pound sterling and Irish pound in 1971. It was also used in some parts of the British Empire, notably Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Australian florin was a coin used in the Commonwealth of Australia before decimalisation in 1966. The florin was worth 24 pence . The denomination was first minted in 1910 to the same size and weight as the United Kingdom florin.
The Australian Shilling, informally called a "bob", was a type of silver coinage issued by the Commonwealth of Australia, that circulated prior to the decimalisation of Australian coinage. The Australian shilling was derived from the British pre-decimal sterling pound system and was first issued following the passing of the Australian Coinage Act 1909, which established Australia's first formal currency system. The shilling was issued as part of Australia's silver coinage, which included the two-shilling (florin), the sixpence and the threepence. The shilling was minted from 1910 until 1963. During this period there was one significant modification to the design of the Australian shilling, the change in its reverse design, which occurred in 1938 when the design was altered from the Australian Coat of Arms (1910-1936) to the visage of a Merino ram’s head (1938-1963).
The Australian sixpence circulated from 1910 up until the decimalisation of Australian Currency in 1966. The coins were initially minted in England; however, Australia began to mint their own from the year of 1916 at branches of the Royal Mint in Sydney and Melbourne. The coins which made up Australia's pre-decimal currency were identical to British currency in the characteristics of weight and size. The Coinage Act of 1909–1947, authorised the issue of Australian coins in the select denominations, including the sixpence. By 1916 all silver denominations, including the sixpence, could be minted at the Royal Mint branch in Melbourne. Unique Australian currency was created with decimalisation in 1966.
The British shilling, abbreviated "1/-", was a unit of currency and a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/20 of one pound, or twelve pence. It was first minted in the reign of Henry VII as the testoon, and became known as the shilling, from the Old English scilling, sometime in the mid-16th century. It circulated until 1990. The word bob was sometimes used for a monetary value of several shillings, e.g. "ten-bob note". Following decimalisation on 15 February 1971 the coin had a value of five new pence, and a new coin of the same value but labelled as "five new pence" or "five pence" was minted with the same size as the shilling until 1990, after which the shilling no longer remained legal tender. It was made from silver from its introduction in or around 1503 until 1946, and thereafter in cupronickel.
The British pre-decimal penny was a denomination of sterling coinage worth 1/240 of one pound or 1/12 of one shilling. Its symbol was d, from the Roman denarius. It was a continuation of the earlier English penny, and in Scotland it had the same monetary value as one pre-1707 Scottish shilling. The penny was originally minted in silver, but from the late 18th century it was minted in copper, and then after 1860 in bronze.
The English shilling was a silver coin of the Kingdom of England, when first introduced known as the testoon. It remained in circulation until it became the British shilling as the result of the Union of England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.
A farthing was a coin of the Kingdom of England worth one quarter of a penny, 1⁄960 of a pound sterling. Such coins were first minted in England in silver in the 13th century, and continued to be used until the Kingdom of England was merged into the new Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.
Eloy Mestrelle, first name sometimes spelled Eloye, was a French moneyer who was responsible for introducing milled coinage to England.