Coin and Paper Money Collecting/British pound and usage


Bear with me. I have searched over 100 websites via google and cannot find an answer.  I am sure the answer has been staring me in the face- nevertheless I still cannot make any logical sense of the british pound.  Very confused about the "pound" currency or coin mentioned in 17th century literature and legal documents.  I understand Charlemagne's accounting system of 4 farthings=1 penny, 12 pence=1 shilling, 20 shillings=1 pound.

In researching colonial coins (I am a collector) I ran across a probate will for Valentine Bird 1680. In this will, there are references to pounds specifically an "Impris" valued at 7 10s  and "Negro man" valued at 40.

Now my question:  Pound coins- from what I understand- were not minted until the 1800s.   While I understand the predominate barter system of the time,  how did colonists or merchant pay a pound to England based traders?  In what format? Paper currency?  I cannot find a pound coin or currency minted in 1680.  I see James II Shillings, Crowns, Guineas, Farthings etc but no "pounds" references.  All documentation I have found during the 17th century refer to payments in pounds- yet no details.  Spanish reales- frequently used by the US until  mid 19th century do not match up to pound.

It seems to me odd that there are innumerable "pound" references with no actual coin associated. I don't see a merchant having to pay 7 10s for an impris would fork over 150s in coins.  What say you?

Thanks in advance.

Your question is one for a historian more than it is for a numismatist. From what I understand, a "pound" was a specific weight in copper, silver or gold rather than a minted denomination. I'm not familiar enough with the historical context to give you a detailed answer, but I can at least point you in the right direction. Post this question on the CoinTalk forum. There are several members there who are knowledgeable in regards to this area. Use the general "coin chat" section. I have no doubt you will get accurate info.

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Dmitry Livshits


My specialty is world coins from the 18th to 20th centuries, primarily non-US foreign coins and related areas such as errors and exonumia (tokens, medals, etc.). I can answer questions relating to identification, grading, selling, preservation and evaluation of such items. In addition to catalog value, I can give you the practical market value and trends for specific types of coins. I will also take questions regarding counterfeits (both modern and antique) and on how to identify them. I am NOT knowledgeable in paper money/banknotes, ancient or "shipwreck" coins. Thank you.


Collector of world coins since early childhood. Access to a variety of auction records and reference material. You can also find me on Facebook.

A.S. in Psychology (2006), B.A. in Forensic Psychology (2008), M.A. in Forensic Psychology (2011).

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