40th anniversary of decimalisation
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Britain's adoption of the decimal currency system. This landmark change involved replacing the existing system of currency accounting, reducing the traditional triple-based system of pounds, shillings and pennies to the simpler system of 100 pence to a pound.
Counting down to Decimalisation Day, or 'D-Day', in 1971, a national publicity campaign was launched to help people get to grips with the new system. It came complete with its own pop song by Max Bygraves called Decimalisation and a series of five-minute public information broadcasts run by the BBC called 'Decimal Fives'. You can watch a shorter public information film about decimalisation from the year of release.
Alongside the campaign, a competition was organised by the Royal Mint inviting artists and sculptors to submit design ideas for the new coins. Launched on 4 November 1966, it received nearly a thousand potential designs from around the world. The varied designs include an English rose, a mouse, a butterfly, a frog and even a turkey. Click on the image above to see a slideshow of some of the proposed designs.
Though many designs passed without comment, a design for the new 50 pence piece depicting Britannia, the female personification of Great Britain, proved controversial. When the design was released, it was claimed that the contours of Britannia's navel were visible through her clothes, so this was swiftly amended.
To mark the anniversary of decimalisation, The National Archives has digitally scanned a number of shortlisted coin designs taken from the files of the Royal Mint (ref: MINT 20: Royal Mint: Registered Files: Annual Series) which you can now access online. These include designs for the reverse of decimal coins (MINT 20/3986) and the design of the reverse of the 50p coin (MINT 20/3977).
Old Money, a mobile phone application which uses records from The National Archives to convert old money into present day values, is also available to download.