British Currency Explained Broadcast Review

Posted by Allison on 13 April 2009, 11:39


If you surf around YouTube for a while you will notice that there are plenty of videos which give you a closer look at specific currencies.  This is certainly true of the pound sterling which is used in Britain, but there is one video in particular which doesn't show you the currency of today – instead it shows you how it used to be before decimalisation came along.

The video is called “British Currency Explained”, and it takes a unique route to explaining how it used to work.  It does so by using clips from the old film classic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.  This might seem to be an unusual and somewhat bizarre choice but it works because it makes it far more interesting to watch!

The video uses clips from this film interspersed with captions which tell us what certain coins used to be worth.  So for example how many shillings were in a pound, and how many pennies were in a shilling.

The clips from the film are very well chosen because they demonstrate how the money of yesteryear fitted into everyday life.  There used to be twenty shillings to the pound, and we learn that one character was paid fifteen shillings a week, which is just seventy five pence.  It's fortunate that seventy five pence went a lot further then than it does now!

The good part about this video is that it makes the pounds, shillings and pence world much more real to us by showing us these clips.  The video is only some three and a half minutes long but it is fascinating to watch and certainly more entertaining than watching someone displaying what the old coins used to look like.  This video gives us a different view of the meaning of old money, and one that we can relate to everyday life.

We then get to see clips from the film where the amounts of money mentioned are explained afterwards, so that we can see exactly what kind of money the person was being paid.

The wages in pre-decimalisation money in the 1800s are then compared to what you could earn if you went onto the opposite side of the law – and perhaps not surprisingly the rewards were rather more generous!  It does give you a nice insight into what life was like back then though, and as such the video does far more than just explaining what the old coins were worth.  It also shows how inflation works its magic over the years, as coins become worth less and less over time and you need to spend more to buy the same items.

At the end of the film we see a list of all the old coins and what they were worth.  If you want a quick history lesson on how coins were used before decimalisation, and which ones have been lost to time, this video is an excellent place to start.  There is no narration provided with it apart from the film clips themselves, although it is really not needed and it actually provides a more thoughtful film.  The statements of fact about each coin and what the wages were in the story of A Christmas Carol are easy to read and stay on the screen for long enough, and they fit in well with the feel of the rest of the video.

You can watch it at and if you are a fan of the story itself you will certainly enjoy seeing this different view of it.  Even British people who are too young to remember the time when decimalisation came into effect have trouble understanding all of the old coins and how they worked.  But then, when you have two hundred and forty pennies to the pound sums aren't going to be as easy to work out!

The video is clearly aimed more at people living in other countries than Britain, but it does get its facts right, it explains them all very well and will no doubt prove very interesting to anyone who sees it, regardless of the country they live in.

It is the unique delivery of the video that makes it so watchable.  Nowadays many old currencies are forgotten in the midst of time, and it is sometimes difficult to believe that it was only in the early 1970s that decimalisation came into effect in Britain.

So for some of those watching this video, the coins mentioned will actually be in living memory, making this an extra special video to watch.