For centuries those big brown English pennies had clattered forth from the royal mint to devastate pocket linings and weigh down even the most modest of purses.
The ponderous penny and other quaint coins of the realm are being phased out in preparation for Decimal Day. Britain streamlined its monetary system to conform with those of other countries whose currency is based on multiples of 10 such as the Australian dollar.
Out went that strange assortment of Dickensian sounding coinage that clanged confusingly through nursery rhymes - the shilling, florin, halfpenny, half-crown and threepenny bit.
Sixpence Retained for Two Years
Britons still continued to sing their song of sixpence. So beloved was the coin about the size of an American dime the government had agreed to retain it for a two year trial period. Soccer hooligans mourned the passing of the old penny. The old pennies became vicious weapons at soccer matches. Thugs in the crowd would file razor-sharp edges on them and send the coin zinging to the field, sometimes scarring players and officials for life.
The first 35 million of the new decimal coins Britain put into circulation disappeared quickly as people hung onto them as curios, good luck pieces etc. Coin experts were worried that the entire first coin issue remained out of circulation.