Back to LSD

The Euro has, to a large extent, been a failed experiment. Perhaps it is now time to reconsider our own currency blunder. Talking of the old pennies made me regret the passing of LSD - pounds (£ or L), shillings (s) and pence (d) – in 1971. Sadly, the most wonderful thing about the old coinage has gone for ever. I can remember the great feeling of history encompassed by every handful of coins. Not only were many of the pennies, halfpennies, farthings and florins (2 shilling coins) Victorian (I can’t remember seeing a Victorian half-crown in circulation), many of them were old enough to bear the portrait of Victoria as a young woman. Such pennies were called ‘bun pennies’ because she wore her hair in a bun.

Decimalisation was introduced for the convenience of modern computerised systems. The irony is that, if the politicians had foreseen the rapid increase cheap computing power, they would have seen no need for the move. Modern tills, computers, etc. would convert LSD to dollars, Yen, or what have you in the blink of an eye. The retention of the old currency would have helped to retain at least a pretence of mental arithmetic amongst the population. Now that is gone – students are even allowed to take calculators into exams these days.

The main objection to a return to LSD is that the original conversion stimulated a lot of inflation as shopkeepers rounded prices up. This would still be a danger moving in the other direction, but a lesser one, since one would be converting each p into 2.4 d, allowing the less greedy merchants to round down as easily as round up.

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Bring Back Britannia

britannia.1910Antoninus_Pius_Æ_Sestertius_RIC_0742

When Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer he banished Britannia from our coinage. His reason was apparently that he felt that she was a symbol of Britain’s former colonial power. Nothing could be further from the truth. The first coins with Britannia on them were issued by the Romans when they were the colonial power in Britain. If we choose to sing Rule Britannia! we should remember that the proud boast that ‘Britons never, never shall be slaves’ is rather ironic – when Britannia appeared, her people were enslaved. Incidentally, the is an alternative version: ‘Britons never, never, never shall be marri-ed to a merma-ed at the bottom of the deep blue sea.’

I do not wish to make light of the question of slavery. Along with the opium wars, it is one of the great blots on or country’s history. However, Britannia does not embody our colonial history but everything, good or bad, in our history. It is time to recall her to her proper place on coins of the realm.

I have a particular interest in Britannia’s fate. My father contracted polio when I was about four and was thereafter confined to a wheelchair. When I looked at Britannia on the reverse of pennies, I mistook the her shield for the wheel of a wheelchair and the union flag with which it was emblazoned for the spokes. Clearly, she, like my father, could not walk. Even at the age of five or six I could see that the perspective wasn’t right but who was I to argue with the Master of the Royal Mint?

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