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Monday Morning Brief | Decimal currency conversion

February 22, 2016 08:33 AM

Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports a new stamp from Australia marking the 50th anniversary of the day, Feb. 14, 1966, it converted to decimal currency.

Full Video Transcript: 

Good morning and welcome to the Monday Morning Brief for February 22, 2016.

On February 9, Australia issued a new $1 stamp to mark the 50th anniversary of a day when confusion reigned supreme throughout the land. You may wonder why any country would commemorate such a strange day, but though discombobulating, it was nonetheless an important day in Australian history. That day, February 14, 1966, was the day that Australia jettisoned its British-based pence, shillings and pounds monetary system for decimal currency – dollars and cents.

While everyone in Australia knew that the switch to decimal currency would eventually make bookkeeping much simpler, such changes were initially confusing to people who had been using the unwieldy 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound monetary system their entire lives. One new Australian dollar equaled 10 shillings, but converting a more complicated 2 pounds, 5 shillings and 6 pence to its decimal equivalent of $4.55 had to be a nightmare for some time because it’s a calculation that is hard to do in your head.

Russia, of all nations, was the first to institute decimal currency, in 1704. One might think that decimal currency would have been a no-brainer around the world throughout time, but most currency calculations were complicated. In the early 1850s, in Tuscany, 60 quattrini equaled 20 soldi which equaled 12 crazies which equaled 1 lira, and they issued stamps denominated in quattrini, soldi and crazies.

Just about everywhere the British set up colonies, pence-shillings-pounds became the currency system. Embossed revenue stamps used in the American colonies before the Revolutionary War – the stamps used to enforce the Stamp Act –  are in British currency. The earliest stamps of the Canadian provinces were in British currency, with decimal changeovers for the various areas starting in 1854 and ending in 1871.

The British dominion in India was an exception to the pence, shilling pound system. The non-decimal pies-annas-rupees system held sway until after independence – 1957 for India and 1961 for Pakistan.

New Zealand switched to decimal currency in 1967 and even Great Britain saw the light, switching on February 15, 1971. Ireland and Gibraltar also went decimal that day. Malta was the last of the British areas to go decimal in 1972.

So, like Australia, let’s all give a thumbs up for something we take for granted – simple monetary calculations.

For Scott Publishing and Linn’s Stamp News, I’m Marty Frankevicz. Enjoy your week in stamps.