LSD and currency of the early 60s

Before our children were grown up, it was hard to explain to them that when I was young everyone used LSD. So, now they’re of age, I have sat them down had to explain to them why and how it worked, and why it all changed in 1966.

The change from LSD, pounds, shillings and pence to dollars was a shock for everyone. Nobody liked it because the new dollars system it was far too hard to understand.

I explain the old pounds, shillings and pence system as I remember it.

Everyone knew that a farthing was half a halfpenny, so four of them made a penny. Although they were rarely used, and almost disappeared in the 1950s.

Next the halfpenny, these too were slowly going by the wayside, unless you were like me as a child collecting and counting them under your bed.

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Then we had the wonderful penny – this coin was a coppery colour and the biggest, but not worth the most. Many had a kangaroo on the back, and after you handled them for a while your hands would stink. Not sure if it was the kangaroo, actually.

When added up into columns, pennies went in the column headed with a ‘d’, not the letter ‘P’ as this would confuse them with pounds, which had the column marked with the letter ‘L’ not the letter ‘P’ so not to confused with them with pennies.

However if you had 240 in the ‘d’ column, you could move that to the ‘L’ column. But if you had 240 pennies you could hardly lift the bag they were in.

The silver coins started at three pence, and were so small that most older people dropped them as they would fall between their fingers, that would not close because of arthritis. Sometimes these were called thruppence. Now if you had two of these little fellows you could swap it for a sixpence.

Sixpence was the best you could hope for if you were a kid, as you were rich when you had one of those. The sixpence, which was bigger that the thruppence, was worth half a shilling. Sixpence was sometimes called a zac, this fellow and the thruppence were saved by your mother to put in the plum pudding at Christmas.

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That brings us to the shilling: this fellow must have been important, as it got its own column and mark with an ‘S’ for shillings. But every one called him ‘Bob’ anyway, for reasons I won’t go into now.

So far we have a silver shilling which was made up of 2 zacs or 4 thruppences, or 12 pennies, or 24 halfpennies or 48 farthings.

Next was the two shillings but also called a florin, most people just called it ‘two bob’. We were told not to buy a watch with two bob or it would be mad. It was used the most, as if you saved five of these, you could change it for a paper note, called ten shilling note. The note was brown like a dead leaf and was half a pound, a note which was green like not dead leaf. Of course this note was called 10 Bob.

Well, we then had the almighty pound. Which of course could be a note, but also 2 10 bob notes, 10 florins, 20 shillings, 40 zacs, 80 threepenny bits, 240 pennies, 480 halfpennies or 960 farthings.

There was also crown and half crown, but these were rarely used or circulated, I certainly never saw one in circulation. So when you went shopping you had to remember all of these combinations, to get your correct change.

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You would look in the window of the store and some prices were in shillings, like the price was, thirty nine and six: 39s 6d. Which we all knew was 20 shillings in a pound remember it was in the ‘L’ column, then that left nineteen shillings in the ‘S’ column plus one zac, or a six, in the ‘d’ column.

You would then have to count the pennies in your pocket as it took six of them to make a zac, or if you had 12, that could be used for one of the nineteen shillings that you are looking for.

Of course other shops advertised the price in guineas, which of course everyone knew was the same number of shillings ‘S’ after the number of pounds ‘L’ with no pennies ‘d’s.

So you had to decide if thirty nine and six was a better price than two guineas.

And then on the 14th February 1966 it all changed and no one knew how to work the new dollar money system. There was panic everywhere, as no one knew, how much thirty nine and six or two guineas was, in the new dollars.


Do you remember the old currency? What were you doing on the 14th February 1966? Did you have trouble adjusting to the new system? Share your stories and memories in the comments below…