Finally Read Dickens Knowing How Much Stuff's Worth


Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman has a useful guide as well:

NOTE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AND AMERICANS:One shilling = Five Pee. It helps to understand the antique finances of the Witchfinder Army if you know the original British monetary system:Two Farthings = One Ha’penny. Two Ha’penny = One Penny. Three Pennies = A Thrupenny Bit. Two Thrupences = A Sixpence. Two Sixpence = One Shilling, or Bob. Two Bob = A Florin. One Florin and One Sixpence = Half a Crown. Four Half Crowns = Ten Bob Note. Two Ten Bob Note = One Pound (or 240 pennies). One Pound and One Shilling = One Guinea.The British resisted decimalized currency for a long time because they thought it was too complicated.


I remember wondering on the low number of pounds mentioned as significant bank deposits or prices. This was before I realized a Pound Sterling was a freaking pound of sterling silver and the note was a bank receipt of sorts redeemable for a hunk of metal large enough to commit a murder. If my calculations are correct this 373g glob of .999 silver would fetch £63.36 ($US97.82 or €86.52) on the day I am posting.
It must also be remembered that average workers wage was very low further boosting the value of that number as compared to what it would buy in labor vs our world of cheap goods and higher(though dangerously dropping) labor.


It’s also worth remembering that Wilkins Micawber’s famous quote cites £20 as an annual income.


Looks like I’m doing something wrong:
Twelve groats in the Stone Age had the same buying power as Warning: undefined symbol “Age”.
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Warning: undefined symbol “Twelve”.
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Arguments to round[x,y] should be Unit.

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Personally, I’m fond of Measuring Worth for these purposes, as it offers a variety of different indicators, along with good advice for Choosing the Best Indicator to Measure Relative Worth for the comparison you’re making.

Choosing the proper indicator is crucial, as results can vary widely depending on what, exactly, you’re trying to compare.


There is also a book that deals with some of these issues:
“What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew”

And when we did get decimalised currency, some of the old coins were retained, so a shilling was simultaneously worth twelve pence and five new pence. A sixpence was also worth two and a half new pence. A florin was twenty four pence- and also ten new pence.

One must know about shillings in order to be able to decipher the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

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Somewhere at my parents’ house I have this set. Which is weird, because it predates me by several years.

Going by what’s still in circulation I guess it’s worth 3p. :smile:


I paid ten U.S. dollars for a set just like that, and about the same amount for sets of UK coins from other years. Or, as my spouse so succinctly puts it, I’ve paid money for money. It comes with the territory of being a numismatist with an interest in foreign coins.

What really tickled me is that when I was in Britain in 1991 some of the old coins were still in circulation. Those promptly got pulled from my change because that was money I didn’t want to accidentally risk spending.

What’s also funny to me is that here in the US foreign coins are often so undervalued that sellers will dump 'em in a box marked four or five for a dollar. Sometimes I’ve pulled out a single coin and said, “You know this is worth more than a dollar, right?” And they’ve smiled and said, “Take a couple more.”


In junior high I acted in a production of Nicholas Nickleby (I played mean old Uncle Ralph), and I remember that the character of Nicholas reacts with incredulous dismay to the fact that the new job I get him as assistant to the head of a school paid thus: “Annual salary of five pounds? A Master of Arts preferred?”

So I knew that five pounds in the Victorian Age was a pittance, but not akin to paying someone, say, twenty modern bucks a year.

I have connections. For $10 a throw, I can get you 18 or 19p’s worth of coins whenever you like.

Might struggle with 1/2ps though. :smile: I do remember them. Also pound notes. Always preferred them to those heavy pound coins. But now I’m in the US I’m flummoxed by the absence of any coins larger than a quarter in regular circulation.

I did collect all those state quarters. Never managed a complete set from both mints though - just don’t see many Philadelphia coins out west.

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Interesting. The Mary Poppins song wouldn’t have been nearly so moving if it were titled “Feed the birds, USD$1.11 a Bag”.


And the sales tax mentioned.


Funtimes: Wake up too damn early, get to a UTA Trax station, put a bill in for a ticket, realize at the same time I both bought the smallest ticket ($2) and put a twenty dollar bill in. So that means instead of getting a five quarters back I now have eighteen golden dollars (of the current lesser-know-presidents and vintage Sacagawea).

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I still get a kick out of receiving those in change. My mom used to tell me she knew when certain people frequented the racetrack because they’d have a lot of $2 bills from bettin’ on the ponies.


The whole thing about buying money for money is such a fascinating concept. Also, of course, can be applied to buying foreign currencies or debt.

Mods, why not add this one to the post inline? It’s timely and informative.

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