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Elizabethan Money: Coins, silver or gold, pennies

All coins during Elizabethan Era were silver or gold, including the pennies. Earlier in the past, copper was used to extend (debase) the coinage without actually adding any more silver. But no money was actually minted as a copper coin. There is no paper money during Elizabethan period. The basic denominations of money/coins was pounds, shillings, and pence. 12 pence used to make a shilling and 20 shillings used to make a pound.

Elizabethan Money

In writing, the abbreviations were:

pound was noted as £
shilling was noted as s
penny was noted as d

  • A sovereign was a gold coin worth 1 pound (worth 20 shillings). Although that was the basic monetary unit, there was no coin called a “pound” until 1583.
  • The angel was one of the most common gold coins in circulation. An angel was worth 10 shillings (1/2 pound).
  • The crown was another most common coin in circulation. A crown was worth 5 shillings, and it was issued in both gold and silver.
  • The crown was also equal to a Venetian ducat, a Flemish gelder, or a French êcu (sometimes called a French crown).
  • Half-a-crown was worth 2 shillings 6 pence (sometimes expressed as “2 and 6”).
  • The shilling was a silver coin worth 12d.
  • The sixpence was a silver coin worth six pence.
  • A groat was a silver coin worth 4 pence.
  • The penny was a silver coin worth a penny (never a pence).
  • A coin worth 2 pence was called tuppence and a half-penny was called a ha’-penny (not a ha’pence).

Elizabethan Money

  • The farthing was a 1/4-penny fragment so tiny as to be impractical, but still in circulation from less inflated times.
  • The guinea did not yet exist, and was minted in the late 17th century.
  • The mark was “money of account”. That is, it is a value worth 2/3 of a pound (13s 4d) but there was no coin worth that amount in the 16th century. It was often used in high-level transactions, such as selling land, figuring feudal fines, or calculating dowries.

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