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10p
The last of the old size 10p pieces









John Bowring, knighted in 1854, was a leading advocate of decimal coinage

Demise of the florin

The last pre-decimal coin

When the old-sized 10p pieces ceased to be legal tender at the end of June 1993, florins of the former £sd coinage, re-denominated as 10p pieces at the time of decimalisation, were removed from circulation.

The withdrawal of the florin, the last of the £sd coins to be used daily, effectively completed the process of decimalisation. In a way, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer observed in his speech at the 1993 Trial of the Pyx, this is ironic, because when the florin was introduced in 1849 it was intended, being one tenth of a pound in value, as a first step towards a decimal coinage.

Early suggestions

Its introduction had been prompted by a growing enthusiasm for decimalisation during the first half of the 19th century, bringing with it the discussion of the desirability of two-shilling pieces. These were seen as essential in changing over to a decimal system and they were, for instance, recommended to the House of Commons by Sir John Wrottesley in 1824. A similar proposal was made in the Report of the Lost Standards Commission in 1841, so that Dr John Bowring’s parliamentary motion of 27 April 1847 cannot have taken the Government by surprise.

What Bowring proposed was the issue of two new coins, one being a tenth and the other a 100th of a pound in value. The effect, he said, would be to introduce a decimal system into keeping accounts. He suggested that ‘every man who looked at his ten fingers, saw an argument for its use, and an evidence of its practicability’.

Bowring volume

Response of government

Sir Charles Wood, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was cautious in his response, reminding the House that ‘there was hardly anything with respect to which the minds of people, or perhaps their prejudices, were more difficult to change, than the coinage of their country’. He acknowledged, however, the advantages of a decimal system and he also saw that its adoption would be assisted by the issue of two-shilling pieces. Since such a coin could be part either of the existing £sd system or of a new decimal system, he found himself in the happy position where no harm could result whether the coin was a success or a failure. Accordingly, he said that he would have no objection to its issue.