The Oldest Currency in the World

What's the oldest currency in the world that's still in use today?

And the answer: the British pound.    

At more than 1,200 years old, the British pound is the world's oldest currency still in use. It's the fourth most-traded currency in the foreign exchange market, after the United States dollar, the euro, and the Japanese yen.

Photo credit: Matt Candy/Getty Images. 

The British pound has been around long enough to see the turn of the century over 12 times. Since the times of Charlemagne, the pound has been in circulation in the United Kingdom as its principal monetary value and continues to be circulated in abundance today. A pound is historically equivalent to the value of a pound of silver, thus the common name of "pound sterling," yet today it's printed on polymer notes.

The name of the British pound can be traced to its origins in the Roman era. Deriving from the Latin word libra, which means weight or balance (scales), the words libra pondo meant pound weight. Libra may have been left behind, but it remains in the recognizable £ symbol for the pound sterling – as well as the shorthand for the unit of a mass pound (lb). Naturally, weight and currency were related in the Roman era, as prices typically were equated to the weight of the currency (e.g. a pound of silver).

Fun fact!

When the decimal system was introduced in 1971, things got a whole lot easier but a lot less fun. Decimalization replaced the old-style money which included weird and wonderful coins and notes like farthings, florins, threepenny pieces, crowns, half crowns, and guineas.

Question of the Day Mobile App


Learn something new everyday. Get the Question of the Day delivered to your inbox each day!

You've successfully subscribed to Question of the Day
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Question of the Day
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.