Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Money Talks: a sovereign and two-bits

Reading all of these vintage novels I've frequently come across money terms that raised the question- "What does this mean?"

Old English money was very interesting...I knew a guinea was a pound and a shilling-sort of a super pound but what was a sovereign. Now I know- a sovereign is a pound-but a gold coin.
It's easy to understand how much more could be purchased then than now with all the little bits English money was divided into.
A pound=20 shillings
A shilling=12 pennies also called pense...so that's where thrupence comes from (3 pennies)
Another puzzler: A crown...what is a crown (sounds like a lot to me)...well its 5 shillings which makes a half crown=2 1/2 shillings but no, its 2 shillings, 6 pense.

2 shillings was called a florin (sounds Italian!) and sort of nicknamed a two bob bit....ah, is this where the American two-bits comes from? Now I know, from watching lots of Westerns, that two-bits equalled 25 cents and could buy a shave and a haircut!...or maybe a bath...but where did the name come from? Was there a one-bit (12 1/2" cent coin?)

Well, it seems that the two-bit coin came from something else entirely-from way back in colonial times and the Spanish milled dollar. This coin was actually cut into 8 pie shaped pieces...yep, pieces of eight! and one piece was one-bit=12 1/2 cents.

And here's my two-cents: I've been interviewed by Micki of Irish Muses-I'm her March Star. Micki has a lovely blog and she brings us all the news from her corner of Ireland.

And Johnny Cash says, "Here's two bits"...





5 comments:

Muddling Through said...

How very interesting, Miri! Thanks for sharing all you found.

Ulla said...

This was really interesting! I knew about the guinea and shilling thing, and tuppence, but the rest was new information. I never knew why the parrot (and the girls) in Swallows and Amazons said "Pieces of eight", but now it makes sense.

Ivory Spring said...

I read the interview. It was great. Thanks for the money talk.:)

Patty said...

Very interesting! There was a cheer that went "two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar" and then something about a holler for the team. Off to read your interview...

Heather said...

i knew about the bits, but the rest was a mystery. Thanks.