When I first arrived to the UK I really struggled with the british coins. There are several things that don’t make sense with this system, starting by the fact that the biggest coin, the two pence, is the one with the smallest value. It is really confusing when you feel that you have a lot of money in your pockets and it turns out that you cannot even add up the one pound. Size is not important for the british coins since it happens with some of them that the immediate smaller value coin is actually bigger.
Getting used to the british coins is not only difficult because of the way the coins are, but also because back home we rarely use coins to pay for something and most of the times they are only change. The biggest value coin that we have is worth less than 50 pence and our smallest banknote is even smaller than the one pound so if you go out, for sure you need to use banknotes.
Now I have learned to love the british coins, except of course for those ones that are so insignificant that are not even accepted by the washing machines. I really like the irregular 20p and the spikes on the 50p, but my favourite is the one pound coin, it is so thick that it feels powerful and the latin inscriptions on the edge make it look like a medieval relique.
One thing that makes the british coins really awesome is the Royal Shield that can be formed with only 88 pence. Since 2008 some of the coins in the reverse design have a part of the shield and if you put together 6 coins -the smallest ones- you can make the whole design. That was the winner idea of a contest to redesign the pound in 2005 and I consider it to be the best thing about the british coins. Whenever I have 88 pence in my hands I am always trying to solve the puzzle!
THE WORST NIGHTMARE
Before 1975, many many years before I was even born, the british pound was divided in 20 shillings -a coin that doesn’t exist anymore, equivalent to the 5 pence that we use nowadays- and each shilling was divided in twelve pence. You needed 240 pence to add up to the one pound, hence, one pence was around 0.004166 of a pound. Fortunately they decided to decimilice their coin system and now it is a little bit easier.