how did people buy really cheap stuff in the olden days when pounds were worth much more ? Surely 1 pence would be paying too much in certain situations

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how did people buy really cheap stuff in the olden days when pounds were worth much more ? Surely 1 pence would be paying too much in certain situations

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Barter system existed along side capitalism.?

I don’t know the denominations over there, but in US when the dollar was worth more, pennies and nickels were very important for those smaller purchases. And now a days, there are these calls to eliminate smaller denomination coins.

Well you’d use half-pennies or quarter-pennies of course! Or you’d dispense with money altogether and exchange goods.

When the US eliminated the half-cent the one-cent had comparable buying power as a quarter does today. Think exactly what you can actually buy with a single quarter – were talking a single small bolt from the hardware store, or a single banana in many places. Part of the issue you’re looking at is that today we have a smallest increment of money that’s ridiculously small and not actually useful in many circumstances.

Go back further to when a penny had “buying power” – a hundred years or so before then. For one they had half-pennies and quarter-pennies or other low value coins depending on which country you lived in which helped for small purchases. They also batch sold things – for example in the US there’s a nail size system where nails are sized in pennies (10 penny nail, 8 penny nail – written 10d and 8d). These originate from a few hundred years ago when you’d buy a batch of 100 nails and the 10d nail was a nail size where you paid 10 pennies for 100.

Another factor – consumerism maybe wasn’t such a big thing pre-industrial revolution. The only people buying stuff on a whim were mostly people buying expensive things. The folks buying super cheap stuff weren’t often taking an entire day off work to walk a few miles to the market to spent a farthing (1/4 penny) on a single widget- they’d mostly go on a supply run where they bought as much as what they could for the week/month until the next market.

There are a couple of other common approaches that haven’t been mentioned.

One is debt – you add the cost of small purchases to a debt and pay the whole thing off at some point. Sometimes traders would offer their own tokens instead of giving change, and these could even circulate as ersatz currencies.

Another is reciprocity – you provide someone with good or services in the expectation that in the future they’ll provide you with something roughly equivalent.

Both of these work in communities where people know and trust one another. They also don’t require currency, which was quite scarce in many places and periods (like Medieval Europe). They are, apparently, more common than barter – the direct exchange of one good or service for another.

In the UK, there used to be 240 pennies to the pound prior to decimilisation in 1971, rather than 100. Furthermore, coins that were fractions of pennies existed–the half penny was still around when I was a lad, and if you go back further you find farthings (worth 1/4 penny) as well. There were coins that were fractions of a farthing, but those were generally minted mainly for use in overseas territories like Malta and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Yep. That’s why there were half pennies https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halfpenny_(British_decimal_coin)

And pre-decimalisation there were farthings, half farthings, third farthings and quarter farthings.