For many centuries, in both countries, only the pennies were available as actual coinage. Each individual coin was created by hammering: the minter laid a small amount of silver on the die, then put the reverse die on top of the silver and hit it hard. It was a painstaking and laborious process. So slow, in fact, that although there were quite a few mints across the country, there were never enough coins in circulation and the lack of them was a drag on economic progress.
Multiples of pennies were not, initially, coins, but units of account. The familiar one is the shilling, which was the equivalent of twelve pence, but there was also the very widely used mark (merk in Scots), which was worth two-thirds of a pound, or 13s. 4d. The mark was used throughout Europe well into the reigns of Elizabeth I and James VI.
In due course, having only the penny coin became cumbersome and additional value coins began to be struck in both countries. However, because the currency was actually based on the value of the underlying precious metal, the face value of individual coins was not static as modern coins are, and from time to time the Government would announce that a particular coin now had a new value, as the precious metal price fluctuated. This makes understanding the currency tricky as a coin of the same name can have various different values at different times. (Read more.)Share