History of the British pound - 4th most traded currency | finder.com
euro content feed image

The British Pound – Fourth Most Traded Currency in the World

Through war, peace and a new common currency, the British pound has always persevered.

The pound sterling or British pound, the official currency of the United Kingdom, is the oldest currency in continual circulation today.

It is also used in Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha, where most refer to the monetary unit as simply ‘the pound’.

In the foreign exchange market, you will find the British pound represented as GBP while the symbol used to represent it is £. The pound sterling falls fourth in line as one of the world’s most often traded currencies and is the third most held currency in reserve around the globe. The United Kingdom is one of just a few European nations which chose not to make the change to the euro in 1999. As a result, the British pound lost its footing in the currency exchange market and now typically falls behind the US dollar, euro and Japanese yen.


Compare international money transfers to the United Kingdom

I want to send

to

Enter your details to speak to a foreign exchange expert

By submitting this form, you agree to finder.com privacy policy
Ofx Logo

Save money on your personal or business international money transfer today. Fill in the form and you’ll be contacted by a foreign exchange expert to have an obligation-free discussion about your options.

With over 17 years of foreign exchange expertise and over $100 billion transferred, OFX can help with all your currency exchange needs, including:

  • Buying property abroad
  • Emigrating
  • Regular overseas payments
  • Risk management
  • Forecasting
Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Services Amount Received Description CTA Details
USD 1,000 1 day USD 0.00 0.716 Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account GBP 3,580 Exclusive offer: $0 transfer fee
No-limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies.
Go to site Show details
USD 1 3 - 5 days USD 50.00 0.718 Online GBP
3,556
Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks. Go to site Show details
USD 1,000 1 day USD 0.00 0.716 Online, Phone, Bank Account to Bank Account GBP 3,578 Exclusive exchange rate discounts
No-maximum limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies.
Go to site Show details
USD 100 3 - 5 days USD 5.00 0.715 Online, Phone GBP 3,572 Transfer money into 20 currencies and schedule regular payments. $5 fee waived for transfers over $5,000. Go to site Show details
USD 1 Within an hour - - Online, Bank Account to Bank Account, Cash Transfer Use promo code FREE to send your first transfer at no fee to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers


Value and exchange rates of the British pound as of Feb 21, 2018

Compare today’s foreign exchange rates between the GBP and other currencies.

Refreshing in: 60s | Wed, 21 Feb 01:03pm GMT
USD AUD CAD EUR CNY GBP INR MXN PHP
1 USD = 1.0000 1.2748 Inverse: 0.7845 1.2676 Inverse: 0.7889 0.812633 Inverse: 1.2306 6.3401 Inverse: 0.1577 0.718447 Inverse: 1.3919 64.840217 Inverse: 0.0154 18.7412 Inverse: 0.0534 52.192 Inverse: 0.0192
1 AUD = 0.7845 Inverse: 1.2748 1.0000 0.9944 Inverse: 1.0056 0.6375 Inverse: 1.5687 4.9736 Inverse: 0.2011 0.5636 Inverse: 1.7743 50.8648 Inverse: 0.0197 14.7018 Inverse: 0.0680 40.9427 Inverse: 0.0244
1 EUR = 1.2306 Inverse: 0.8126 1.5687 Inverse: 0.6375 1.5599 Inverse: 0.6411 1.0000 7.8019 Inverse: 0.1282 0.884098 Inverse: 1.1311 79.790266 Inverse: 0.0125 23.0623 Inverse: 0.0434 64.2258 Inverse: 0.0156
1 GBP = 1.3919 Inverse: 0.7184 1.7743 Inverse: 0.5636 1.7644 Inverse: 0.5668 1.1311 Inverse: 0.8841 8.8247 Inverse: 0.1133 1.0000 90.250514 Inverse: 0.0111 26.0857 Inverse: 0.0383 72.6456 Inverse: 0.0138

History of the British pound

Compare GBP exchange rates

GBP exchange rates
Best Pound to Rupee exchange ratesBest Canadian Dollar to Pound exchange rates
Best euro to pound exchange ratesPost-Brexit: USD–GBP exchange rates
Best GBP > USD exchange ratesBest GBP > EUR exchange rates
Best GBP > AUD exchange ratesBest AUD > GBP exchange rates
Best GBP to CAD exchange rates
Back to top

History of the British Pound

The origins of the British pound date back to the 700s AD, when King Offa of Mercia introduced the silver penny to his empire. 240 pennies were the equivalent of one pound, and their use as a common currency quickly spread throughout the other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that would one day become England.

Pennies were used exclusively for trade in England until 1489 when under King Henry VII the first pound coin – called a sovereign – was introduced. In 1504 the shilling also entered into circulation. Gold coins began to be minted in 1560, but were changed to copper by 1672. The Bank of England was established in 1694, which is when the nation began producing its first handwritten banknotes.

Back to top

Coins and banknotes of the British pound

Throughout its long history the currency of the United Kingdom has gone through many changes with dozens of different coins lining its path. Today it has been simplified.

The 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, and £1 coins share a near-uniform design of Queen Elizabeth II on the front and a different segment of the United Kingdom Coat of Arms on the reverse of each. The currency now includes only the following:

  • 1p. The modern penny was issued in 1971.
  • 2p. The two-pence coin is often referred to as a tuppence or tupenny. This coin was also introduced in 1971.
  • 5p. The current version of the five pence was introduced in 1990 to replace a larger coin that has since been demonetized..
  • 10p. Roughly the size of a US quarter, the 10 pence coin depicts a lion wearing the crown of the British Monarch. It was entered into circulation in 1992 to replace a larger version of the same coin.
  • 20p. The 20 pence coin was entered into circulation in 1982.
  • 50p. The current, smaller version of the 50 pence coin was issued in 1997.
  • 1 pound. The one pound coin was introduced in 1983.
  • 2 pound. On the edge of the two pound coin reads “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” by Sir Isaac Newton, while the center features a design representing technological development. This coin was entered into the currency in 1998.

The British Pound

Above you can see some of the previous coin designs.

All banknotes issued in the United Kingdom feature a picture of Queen Elizabeth II on one side along with a famous historical figure on the other:

  • 5 pound. The current five pound note features a picture of Elizabeth Fry, who fought for improved living conditions for women inside of European prisons.
  • 10 pound. Charles Darwin is depicted on the ten pound note along with a picture of his magnifying lens.
  • 20 pound. Issued in 2010, the current 20 pound note features Adam Smith and replaced an older version which depicted composer Sir Edward Elgar on its back.
  • 50 pound. Matthew Boulton and James Watt, of Boulton & Watt steam engines, are featured on the current 50 pound note.
Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, read the PDS or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy.

US International Money Transfers Offers

Important Information*
HiFX International Money Transfers

Transfer money into 20 currencies and schedule regular payments. $5 fee waived for transfers over $5,000.

WorldRemit International Money Transfers

Use promo code FREE to send your first transfer at no fee to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up.

World First Foreign Exchange

Exclusive offer: $0 transfer fee
No-limit transfers with competitive exchange rates for 100+ currencies.

TransferWise International Money Transfers

Enjoy high maximum transfers into more than 20 currencies while saving up to 90% over local banks.

Go to site