Pound vs. Quid?



I've been watching a lot of BBC America lately, particularly Bargain Hunt, where each team is given 200 pounds to purchase antiques that are then auctioned, hopefully for a profit.
In that show in particular, they seem to use the term pound and quid interchangably.
Can one of our British addicts tell me what, if any, is the difference between them?

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One pound is the currency....a 'quid' is the slang name for a pound!!

red stripe


unfortunately they are no more :(

Prior to the currency reform around 1970, there were 12 pennies to the shilling, and 20 shillings to the pound, making 240 pennies to the pound. The halfpenny was also legal tender, and prior to about 1957 there was also a coin called a farthing, which was equal to a quarter of a penny.

The pound was abbreviated "L" for "Libra" (latin for a pound of silver). The shilling was abbreviated "s" for "solidus", and the penny was abbreviated "d" for "denarius".

After the reform, (boo hiss!) there were 100 (new) pence to a pound, but visitors and old Brits like me.. were quite confused, because the old coins remained legal tender. For example, the old sixpence coin was now 2 1/2 (new) pence; to avoid confusion, the new pence were abbreviated "p" (for "pence"). As old coins wore out, new coins were minted in the same shape but imprinted with the decimal value.

How could a system as complicated as the 1/20/12 ratios have developed ? One source claims that the three units originally were unrelated.

There was a unit of currency called the shilling. It was used by big business and worth quite a bit (about a month's wages). Its value went up and down as the medium of exchage -- a month's work -- became rare or plentiful -- high employment or low employment.
There was another unit of currency called the penny. It was the general medium of exchange for a bulk item (baker's dozen of loaves, a month's rent, travel from Oxford to London). It was divided into quarters so you could buy a single loaf or a jug of milk.

Another unit was used by huge business: the banks, shipbuilders, those who dealt in metals or in entire shiploads of goods. It was equivalent to the cost of a pound of silver.

There were also groats and sovereigns. I'm not sure about them.

These all existed independently. If you were the kind of person who dealt in pounds, there was never any need for you to encounter a penny. If you paid rent of a shilling a month for your house, you could never thing of seeing a whole pound. The different units of currency had constantly-shifting exchange rates depending on demand-and-suppply. If three trading ships came in at the same month all laden with goods, the value of the pound would go up with respect to the shilling and penny.

Eventually there was so much interplay between the different currencies that it became necessary to fix the exchange rates to stop a rich man keeping all his wealth in pennies because he thought that the pound was going to go down. At about that time, a pound was worth about twenty shillings and a shilling was worth about twelve pennies, so that's how they fixed it.

The disparate systems did not bother ordinary people. No need to know what a shilling was until you were old enough to pay rent. No need to know what a pound was unless you were a clerk, in which case you were trained. More recently (i.e. when I went to school) it was a standard part of early schooling.

I really don't believe any of this, but it is an interesting theory.

Back to the facts. Certain items were traditionally billed in Guineas. A guinea is one pound and a shilling. I have heard it claimed that this originated in real estate transactions, where the pound went to the seller, while the shilling was the lawyer's commission for doing the paperwork.

Summary of English Money
two farthings made a halfpenny (ha'penny)
two halfpennies made a penny
three pennies made a thrupenny bit
a thrupenny bit and a penny made a groat
two thrupenny bits made a tanner
two tanners made a bob
two bob made a florin (a.k.a. a two bob bit)
two bob and a tanner made half a crown (a.k.a. half a dollar)
two half dollars made a crown
two crown made a ten bob note
two ten bob notes made a quid
twentyone bob made a guinea

- and those guys thought that "decimal money would be too complicated for ordinary people" to switch to ... :lol

Around 1963, the Bristish government pushed through a general conversion to the metric system. I personally remember a set of posters published by the Construction Industry Training Board, which I ordered through the mail after hearing them advertized on Radio Luxembourg.

A sad day....


I once priced a contract (for computer maintenance of all things) in guineas, around 1989 or '90. It was for an American customer and it was payed in the UK. Heaven knows what their US auditors made of it when they found out.

Regards, Colin.

Lady Jag

Yikes! Very confusing. Really looking forward to figuring all this out when we go to London next summer. I think I'll be like a little kid and just drop all my money on the counter and let the (hopefully) honest clerk take what she needs. :grin

Yep, I did know about the "quid" being slang for the GBP; just like we call the dollar a "buck".


And if you had a bob's worth of pennies in the old style in your pocket, you walked with a distinct list to that side ! The pennies weighed about as much as a silver dollar.


HA! Today on "As Time Goes By" (BBC America again), Lionel found a "penny" in the closet and he and Jean (Judy Dench) discussed what they used to be able to buy with it. And he said that a feather duster wouldn't move it because it was when a penny was real coin.
And I got the joke!!! :) Thanks for the info. Love the BBC shows anyway, but they're better when you get the little nuances.
wow that's pretty intense, I'm glad we just have pennies, quarters, dollars, and besides that bigger bills that are easily understandable.. British system seems really complicated haha... i watch Top Gear here in the US and i kinda figured out what a quid watch after watching 6 seasons of it.. would love to visit Britain 1 day, don't get me wrong i LOVE our America but i would possibly live there, looks like you guys have a better government in some ways, and more money to be made plus cool accents and words haha... i don't know maybe that's just me i guess..