A penny is a coin (pl. pennies) or a type of currency (pl. pence) used in several English-speaking countries. It is often the smallest denomination within a currency system.
Old English versions of the word penny are penig, pening, penning and pending; the word appears in German as Pfennig, in Dutch as penning, and in West Frisian as peinje or penje. These words are thought by some to have common roots with the English word "pawn", German Pfand, and Dutch pand, words which mean "a pledge or token".
Origin and history of development
An equivalent to the penny in ancient times was the Greek drachma. Later came the Roman As, a copper coin.
When Britain was under Roman rule, most of Britain used the coin-based monetary system that was used by the Roman Empire, but their system of coinage soon changed after the Romans left. As the invading Anglo-Saxons began to settle and establish their own kingdoms, some started to make gold coins based on the old Roman designs or designs copied from the coins used in the Frankish kingdoms. Their monetary system had several serious flaws: first, gold was so valuable, that even the smallest coins were very valuable, thus, these gold coins would only be used in large transactions. Further, gold was very rare, and this rarity prevented such coins from being common enough to use for even large transactions.
Between the years 641 and 670 AD, there seems to have been a movement by the Anglo-Saxons to use less pure gold in coins. This made the coins appear paler, decreased their value, and may have increased the number that could be made, but it still did not solve the problems of value and scarcity of coins made mostly of gold.
Up to this time, no Anglo-Saxon coins had been minted in any metal besides gold. However, around the year 680 a new type of small silver coin appeared which some have identified as "sceattas" or "sceat", though this is probably an error. More likely sceatta was a specific measurement of a precious metal. These new coins were actually called pennies.
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