PENNI – A History

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The value of the Penny

The penny has been the foundation of currency in Europe and around the world for over 1200 years. The penny is among the lowest denomination of coin in circulation and forms the base measure for the Pound, the Dollar and the Mark. It is the common colloquial name for the one-cent coin in the United States and in Canada and shares common roots throughout Europe.


Old English versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German as Pfennig, in Dutch as penning, in West Frisian as peinje or penje and in Finland as Penni. These similar versions of the same word are thought by some to have common roots with the English word "pawn", the German “Pfand“, and the Dutch “pand”, meaning "a pledge or token". The value of the penny has been known for many centuries. It is enduring, safe and of long-lasting usefulness.

The first Pennies

Around 735AD, Pepin the Short minted the Novus denarius. The Novus denarius was based on the denarius, an old Roman silver coin originally worth ten asses. The penny was based on the Novus denarius. Pepin declared that pennies or pfennigs should be minted from one Carolingian pound, approximately 326 grams (11.5 oz) of silver. Each coin originally contained about 1.36 grams (0.048 oz) of silver.

King Offa, the King of Mercia (from 757 AD until his death in July 796 AD) introduced the penny to central England, using as a model a coin first struck by Pepin the Short. Over 1,200 years later, the penny still forms the basis of the pound sterling, originally a lb. weight of sterling silver, that can be traced back over two millennia to its roots in the Roman empire.

Source: Abridged Wikipedia - Penny; Encarta Dictionary: English