The British Pound’s History, Usage Rate, and Market Value

As the world’s oldest currency that’s still actively used and circulated today, the British pound has a distinctive history and still plays a significant role in the world’s economy today.


760: The pound’s history begins even before the United Kingdom’s official history. In 760, the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms adopted a silver penny as their standard currency coin. These coins were soft, and it was common for people to break them up into smaller pieces to use as change.

1158: King Henry II introduced a new coin, called the sterling pound, which was minted using 92.5% silver. These were more durable than the previous silver coins, which meant the new coins could remain in circulation for longer periods of time.

1344: gold coins were introduced into British currency, but silver endured as the basis for legal tender.

1487: the shilling was introduced.

1489: the pound was introduced.

1694: the first paper money was introduced into England, with the legal basis changed from silver to gold.

1816: Silver coins were officially regulated to silver “tokens,” meaning they’re were longer worth their weight in the metal. Gold coins were officially adopted as the legal standard. Other countries soon followed suit, which made it much easier for countries to convert one another’s currencies. International trading became much more convenient, which meant a boon for the international economy.

The Rejection of the Euro

When the European Union adopted the euro as their official currency, the United Kingdom decided to remain with their currency of the modern pound. The UK did not meet convergence criteria for the euro, and a high percentage of the population (over 70%) polled said they would reject adopting the euro as well.


The United Kingdom, its Crown dependencies, and the British Overseas Territories use the British pound. The pound is the fourth most highly traded currency in the world, behind the US dollar, the euro, and the Japanese yen.


The British pound is worth 1.66 US dollars. It’s also worth 1.2 euros. The pound is the currency in use today with the longest running history, and it’s still a vital part of the UK and world economy today.