The Way We Were by Colin Ella - Part 78 - The Good Old Penny

An old threepence.
An old threepence.

I DOUBT if there is anything you can buy for a penny today excepting at some sort of sale promotion gimmick.

Back in the 1970s we had a new currency thrust upon us. My father never did get used to it, and I can still remember those old coins and keep examples of all of them.

I cannot myself ever remember spending a farthing - just an eighth of a penny - but they were undoubtedly still in use in my early years.

They used to have a picture of a wren on them.

The next up was the ubiquitous halfpenny on which a sailing ship reflected our seafaring history.

There was something very homely about the old coinage as they jingled in your pocket on the way to school.

They had a feeling of solidarity and permanence about them, the very opposite of today’s feeble counterparts.

The good old penny took pride of place, no doubt the reason why it displayed the picture of Britannia grasping her trident.

This coined served a multitude of purposes. It flicked the tiddlywinks into the pot, spun like a top, made good sides on homemade cigarette lighters and much else. It was in daily use as the arbiter of numerous games set off with the toss of a penny.

Fancy throwing up the puny penny of today. It would take ages to find it in the grass. I remember the very tiny silver threepenny piece which was the popular coin for hiding in the Christmas pudding and it may well have finished up in a stomach or two at times.

I also liked the chunky little bronze threepenny piece with its eight sides and picture of the portcullis.

We called the silver sixpence the tanner and it was a coin frequently handed out by visiting aunts and uncles, who occasionally in their best moods, even gifted us the silver shilling - the bob.

We had the florin - two bob - and the very impressive half crown. I never saw the full crown at all but no doubt there were plenty around.

Somewhere we have commemorative ones celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

But as I said the old penny was the pick of the bunch for me and it was amazing what you could buy with it back in the 1930s.

Now we have got used to our new money but there is still a bit of hankering affection around for its predecessors.

Of course there is a market for old coins and they often command high sums.

Can you recall the two-penny packet of woodbines?

Next week in Part 79 - Jewel of the Irish Sea.