||This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2008)|
|Thickness||approx. 1 mm|
|Composition||1816-1920 [92.5% Ag ]
1921-1946 [50% Ag ]
1947-1967 [ Cupronickel ]
|Years of minting||1551–1970|
In England, the first sixpences were struck in the reign of Edward VI in 1551 and continued until they were rendered obsolete by decimalisation in 1971. Along with the shilling (12 pence) and the florin (2 shillings), the last general issue sixpence was issued in 1967 and a special proof version struck for inclusion in the farewell proof set of 1970. However, sixpences continued to be legal tender at a value of 2½ new pence until 30 June 1980. The shilling and the florin (two shillings) continued to be legal tender until sizes were reduced in 1992.
After the Great Recoinage of 1816, the mint coined each troy pound (weighing 5760 grains) of standard (0.925 fine) silver into 66 shillings, or its equivalent in other denominations. This effectively set the weight of the sixpence at 43.636 grains or 2.828 grams from 1816 until the last striking in 1970.
The silver content followed the pattern of other silver coins. They were sterling silver until 1920, when they were reduced to 50 percent silver. The last 50-percent-silver sixpence was minted in 1946; they were changed to 79% copper, 20% zinc, 1% nickel also known as cupro-nickel from 1947 onwards.
As the supply of silver threepence coins slowly disappeared, sixpences replaced them as the coins put into Christmas puddings; children would hope to be the lucky one to find the sixpence, no doubt also encouraging them to eat more pudding.
They have also been seen as a lucky charm for brides. There is an old rhyme which goes "Something old, something new / Something borrowed, something blue / And a sixpence for her (left) shoe."
They are also used as a good luck charm by Royal Air Force Aircrew who have them sewn behind their wings or brevets, a custom dating back to the Second World War.
In A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act 4, Scene 2), we learn that by his absence (ensorcelled in Titania's bower), Bottom the Weaver will forego sixpence a day for life from the Duke. In Elizabethan times, the sixpence was roughly a day's wage for rustic labour in the provinces. With it, one might buy two dinners, six performances of Hamlet among the groundlings at the Globe Theatre, or an unbound copy of the play itself.
"I've Got Sixpence" a traditional song, runs:
An elaborated version was published in 1941, words and music by Elton Box & Desmond Cox.: the singer tells the tale of spending twopence (per verse) until he has "no-pence to send home to my wife - poor wife."