Penny (British pre-decimal coin)

Penny (British pre-decimal coin)
One Old Penny
United Kingdom
Value 1 Penny
Mass  9.4 g
Diameter  31 mm
Edge Plain
Composition Bronze
Years of minting 1860–1970
Catalog number -
Design Queen Elizabeth II
Designer Mary Gillick
Design date 1953
Design Britannia
This article is part of the History of the English penny series.
The Anglo-Saxons (c. 600 – 1066)
Early Normans and the Anarchy (1066–1154)
Plantagenets (1154–1485)
Tudors (1485–1603)
Stuarts and Commonwealth (1603–1707)
Hanoverians (1714–1901)
20th Century (1901–1970)
Decimal Day, 1971
Post-decimalisation (1971–present)
v · d · e

The penny of the Kingdom of Great Britain and later of the United Kingdom, was in circulation from the early 18th century until February 1971, Decimal Day.

Twelve pence made one shilling; the penny was therefore  1240 of a pound. To express an amount, penny was abbreviated to "d", e.g. 1d, from the Roman denarius.



The coin's predecessor, the English silver penny, weighed 24 grains of sterling silver in 1279. Over the centuries that weight had declined to 12 grains and lower.

British silver pennies were minted until about 1750, then occasionally until about 1820; thereafter, they were only minted for Maundy money.

From 1797, pennies for general circulation were minted in copper and were extremely heavy.


Pre-decimal penny coins continue to be used to adjust the timing of the pendulum of the clock in the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster, commonly known as "Big Ben".

In the United States, other than the known uses in numismatics, British Pennies are also used in coin magic, because they are at contrast with the just slightly smaller US half dollar (the half dollar is 30.61 mm in diameter compared to the 31 mm in British Pennies), with their copper sheen compared to the silver in half dollars. Indeed, many routines involve a copper-silver transposition, in which a British Penny and a half dollar change places.

Pennies by period

  • The Anglo-Saxons (c. 600–1066)
  • The Early Normans and the Anarchy (1066–1154)
  • The Plantagenets (1154–1485)
  • The Tudors (1485–1603)
  • The Stuarts and the Commonwealth (1603–1714)
  • The Hanoverians (1714–1901)
  • The Twentieth Century Penny (1901–1970)
  • Decimal Day, 1971
  • Post-decimalisation (1971–present)



  • Coincraft's Standard Catalogue English & UK Coins 1066 to Date, Richard Lobel, Coincraft. ISBN 0-9526228-8-2

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