The World's oldest currency - key facts.
01:00, July 06 2015
· By Sales Trading
Have you ever wondered what the oldest currency still in use is? The answer might be in your wallet. The British pound is the world's oldest currency still in use - it is 1200 years old. Sterling silver pennies have been around since 775AD, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times.
The first fully printed banknotes were introduced in 1853. Before that, the Bank of England only issued partially printed notes with the “£” sign as well as the first digit. The numbers had to be added by hand and each note had to be signed by one of the bank's cashiers.
The pound is currently the fourth most traded currency in the foreign exchange market, after the US dollar, the Euro and the Japanese Yen.
Each banknote (£5, £10, £20, £50) has its own color and size - the greater the value, the larger the note.
All coins (1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2) carry the profile of Queen Elizabeth II facing right. Traditionally, monarchs alternate the direction they face on pound coins.
The first banknote featuring the Queen's portrait was a £1 pound note issued in 1960.
Thin metal threads were embedded in banknotes in 1940 as protection against forgery during the Second World War.
The pound is not only used in the United Kingdom. It also circulates in Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Decimalisation was the biggest change in Britain's monetary system. The pound was divided into 100 pence in 1971. Until then, there were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound.
The £1 coin was introduced in 1983 to replace the £1 note because coins usually last much longer. At the time, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed coins were “not very popular” and the pound note should be retained.
One-pound notes are still issued in Scotland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, along with the £1 pound coins, which are more commonly used.
The £2 coin was launched in 1986 to commemorate the 13th Commonwealth Games held in Scotland that year.
All pound coins, except the £2 ones, were redesigned in 2008. The six coins, from the 1p through to the 50p, can be pieced together to form the Royal Shield. The £1 coin features the complete shield.
One of the rarest British coins is the 1933 penny. A small number were produced that year because there were already plenty around. In fact, it is estimated that there were only seven coins and, due to tradition, three of them were buried in the foundation stones of buildings erected in 1933. More recently, the London 2012 Olympics 50p coins proved to be popular amongst collectors. More than 70% of them have been taken out of circulation, estimates the Royal Mint.
The Bank of England is considering replacing paper banknotes by plastic notes from 2016. The polymer notes are more durable, stay cleaner for longer and are harder to fake.
For a few years the Euro actually posed a significant threat to the pound. There was pressure from other EU countries, and even within Britain indicating that the UK should adopt the euro currency.
Fortunately common sense prevailed and the likelihood is that the pound will probably outlast the euro as Europe grapples with a crisis that could potentially tear the euro apart.
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