In early Anglo-Saxon times the shilling was simply a numerical unit used in calculations – there was no corresponding coin. It acquired the value of twelve pence and there were 20 shillings to the pound. The shilling first appeared as a coin in the sixteenth century during the reign of Henry VII and was originally known as a testoon. Unlike most of the coins that preceded it, it had a realistic portrait of the monarch – the name coming from the Italian Testone or Headpiece introduced in Milan in 1474. Originally struck in very small quantities, production increased significantly under Henry VIII - coins of this era are identifiable by the crowned Tudor rose on the reverse.
Convenient to carry and suitable for everyday transactions, it became a popular silver coin. Because of its versatility, it wasn’t until 1968 that it was eventually superseded by the five pence piece, although the shilling remained in circulation until 1990 alongside its decimal replacement. Here you can find a selection of circulating shillings, coins used in daily transactions throughout centuries of British history.