Monday, 13 September 2010

Thrupenny sea thrift and a bag of sweets…

Sea thrift is such a cheery, cheeky brave plant.

Back before decimalisation when we had history in our pockets and it wasn’t unusual to have Victoria, various Georges and Edwards, and Elizabeth in our purses at the same time, we might also have carried a small bunch of thrift around with us.

Our coins were so various, so metally, and sometimes worn almost to smoothness through constant use. To my mind the cheeriest, cheekiest, bravest of our coins back then was (dependent on what part of the country you came from) the "THROOP-ence", "THREPP-ence", "THRUPP-ence", or "THROOP-nee", "THREPP-nee", "THRUPP-nee" bit. Where I came from it was inaccurately called a “Thoopnee Joey” (only the preceding, small, round silver coins are Joeys) but it still it bought an awful lot of sweets.

I loved the old threepence with its funny, not quite round, twelve (yes twelve) sided shape and dirty yellow colour. I remember them having very angular sides, which the early ones did, but in 1941 they changed to a more rounded, softened edge. It was a very thick coin. You could stand it on its edge with ease, the dirty, turning green, hue as a result of its nickel-brass mix (79% copper, 20% zinc, 1% nickel). It weighed 6.6 grams and had a diameter of 21 mm across the sides and 22 mm across the corners. The Edward VIII bit shows a left-facing picture of the king on the heads, and a stylised three-headed thrift plant on the tails.

They didn’t mint many and they are pretty rare today. I’ve a few that I kept when we went decimal but they’re not worth a lot; even the low mintage years in perfect condition are only worth around twenty quid.

But then you can’t measure value in money alone. I value them for the memories of the sweets they bought me and the history that used to jangle in my pocket. THREE PENCE it shouted above the Thrift – 2 blackjacks, 2 fruit salads, 4 flying saucers, and a gob-stopper!


  1. It was a thrupnee-bit where I come from & it was what my Grandma gave me every week for pocket money.

  2. You try getting that many sweets at a cinema foyer nowadays. You'll need a credit card.
    I only remember seeing thru'penny bits (wait for laughter)in their immediate post decimal uselessness as there were a few around the house unspent. My earliest memories started about 1971 but sixpences were still used. I liked those.

  3. You can't measure value in money at all.

  4. Carl Smith commented on facebook.

    Carl wrote
    "yep, a lovely little coin."

  5. Vicky Sutcliffe commented Facebook:

    Vicky wrote
    "I remember playing shop with it as a child...!"