IN COMES 50 YEARS OF DECIMAL CURRENCY
By the early sixties , it became evident to the powers that be in Australia that the currency which had been in place since the British first occupied Australia was cumbersome and not compatible with the modern technological age. The decision was made around 1962 to change to a decimal form of currency. This meant that the old Pounds, Shillings and Pence system was to be replaced with a simple 100cents to the major unit. What this unit was to be called was debated fairly strongly all through the community. Ever the strong Queen’s Man, Prime Minister Menzies announced that the new currency would be called the Royal. This was met with very strong opposition and commonsense prevailed and the Dollar was the name chosen. The most difficulty foreseen was in the very small coins. The old Halfpenny (pronounced” Haypnee”) and Penny would not be exactly equivalent to any of the new coins. The Threepence coin (pronounced “Thrippence”) also had no exact equivalent.
Small coins were then still widely used e.g. A postage stamp was 4d and the Courier –Mail was 5d. The new coins were 1c, 2c bronze coins worth 1,2d and 2.4d respectively and 5c which was equal to 6d, 10c which equaled a shilling 20c which was equal to the Florin or Two Shilling coins. An all new 50c coin which was 80% silver was introduced. A table of equal values was circulated so people could match pence values to the new cents. The new currency was printed alongside the old for a while until the introduction of the Dollar on February 14th 1966. Banks were given a long weekend to close and adjust all of their records in the days before the change. Then new notes were the same values as the existing series, however they were changed to One Dollar, equal to 1 Dollar, Two Dollars (One Pound), Ten Dollars (Five Pounds) and Twenty Dollars (Ten Pounds). For a time all coins could be used and the new and the old circulated together for quite q while, though the notes changed very quickly to the new ones. People collected as many of the old coins and notes as they could afford.
Although there had been anticipated that there could be confusion and mayhem at the changeover , this did not eventuate. The population soon realized this system was very simple and easy to use. Apart from the 1c and 2c coins all coins and notes were exactly the same value, size and colour of the old ones. In the end, this momentous change was easily accomplished and the two years phasing-in period originally allowed for was shortened to eighteen monthe and it was all over by mid 1967. I was eighteen years old and at University at the time and eagerly looked forward to the change. My generation had been taught all sorts of mathematical tricks to deal with the old money. E,g, we learned that a dozen of any goods at 7d each was 7 Shillings and Twenty of anything at 2 Shillings wwould cost 2 Pounds. The old currency was 12 pence to one Shilling .Pence were written as a small “d”. Twenty Shillings were One Pound. Shillings were written as e.g. 8/- was Eight Shillings and an amount of Shillings and Pence was written as e.g. 13/7 was 13 Shillings and 7 Pence.. 20 Shillings made up One Pound. Addition of sums of money was a very difficult process at a time before calculators were readily available .
The Five Dollar note was introduced in 1967 when everyone was familiar with the decimal system. The round 50cent coin only lasted for 1966 when there were 35million of them minted. The coin was 80% Silver and it was too close in size and design to the old 2 Shilling piece. Thios caused confusion with elderly people . It was replaced from 1969 with the present coin which is 12 sided and contains no silver. Many of the round 50cent coins were snapped up by dealers for their silver content and a lot were sent overseas and melted down when silver reached dizzy prices in the 1970s and 1980s.
The change was momentous but well-planned and it went very well. It was exciting to witness.
Almost as exciting as watching a man walk on the moon in July 1969, but that is another story.