The E-Sylum:  Volume 7, Number 36, September 5, 2004, Article 10


  Steve D'Ippolito writes: "So far as I know, the Russians were
  first with a decimal system.  They certainly claim credit for it.
  It actually was semi-accidental.  The old system (from very
  approximately 1200-1500) was:  6 dengas = 1 Altyn (from the
  Tatar word for six), 33 Altyns, 2 dengas = 1 Ruble.  Don't hold
  me to this, but I believe that none of these denominations had
  any physical existence; all coinage circulating in Russia was
  foreign.  Around 1500, wire money dengas, polushkas (from
  'pol' for half; they were half dengas) and a new unit, the kopek,
  were minted.  ("Kopek" comes from the Russian word "kopie"
  for "spear" since the kopek wire money depicted a horseman
  with a spear.)   A kopek was two dengas.  By the way, the
  Ruble had no physical existence even in this era; it was purely
  a unit of account.

  If you do the arithmetic it turns out that there are 200 dengas
  in a ruble and hence 100 kopeks in a ruble.  At that time the
  denga (and to some extent the altyin) was the more important
  unit, however.  Talking about kopeks and rubles before 1700
  would have been akin to us talking about nickels and dollars.

  Peter the Great's reform starting in 1700 put the focus on
  kopeks and started Russia towards a more modern system
  with a crown sized ruble, silver fractions (50, 25, 10, and 5
  kopeks), and copper minors (5, 1, 1/2 and 1/4 kopeks).
  For a time the 3 kopek altyn continued to be issued.  Many
  of the older names hung around for a while; a half kopek
  was still a denga, and a quarter kopek was a polushka.

  Interestingly the ruble, before the reform, contained far more
  than a crown's worth of silver.  The average taler of Europe
  was worth only 64 kopeks.  So Peter I was able to sneak
  quite a bit of inflation into this reform.

  Anyhow, my knowledge of pre-Petrine numismatics is
  somewhat sketchy so I am sure I got some of the chronology

  Bob Neale writes: "Regarding the question of who first
  developed a decimal coinage system, I believe that the key
  word here is "system." As I understand it, the Russian
  precursor to Jefferson's proposal did include a couple of
  decimally-related coins, but there were nondecimal coins as
  well. The Russians therefore did not have a system as we
  understand the term.

  My reference to the above was from Dick Doty's book,
  America's Money, pp 72-73. I probably should also mention
  Robert Morris' attempt to introduce a decimal coinage
  system in the early 1780s. Morris' plan was impossibly
  unwieldy, however, because it attempted to accommodate,
  in whole number relationships, almost all foreign coinage
  that was then in circulation here. Give Robert and Gouverneur
  Morris some credit, though. Their ideas provided the impetus
  for Jefferson's far superior proposal that was adopted in
  1786. Morris did provide patterns in denominations of 5, 100,
  500 and 1000 units, but of course these Nova Constellatios
  were never produced for official coinage. Nondenominated
  Nova coppers were produced subsequently in some quantity
  in England as a private venture for the two (unrelated)

  Gar Travis submitted the following item about modern
  decimalizations.  It cites France as the first, but does not
  mention Russia, where at item in last week's E-Sylum
  suggested Peter the Great as the first to use a coinage
  system based on 100 units.

  "Decimalization refers to any process of converting from
  traditional units, usually of money, to a decimal system. This
  process has been undergone by all countries except Mauritania
  and Saudi Arabia, but the former has in practice dropped their
  smaller unit since it is worth so little, and the latter is currently

  phasing out their non-decimal unit by not minting any new coins
  in it.  France decimalised first, abandoning the Livre tournois at
  the time of the Revolution, and imposed decimalisation on a n
  umber of countries that it invaded at that time. Many countries
  in the world decimalised on achieving independence from
  Britain, the first to do so being the United States. However
  some Commonwealth countries retained traditional money
  systems (pounds, shillings and pence) after achieving effective
  independence as Dominions, and decimalised more recently.
  For example South Africa decimalised in 1961, introducing
  the rand as the new unit of currency. When Australia decimalised
  in 1966, the currency was renamed the Australian dollar in the
  process, as the size of the basic currency unit was changed (to
  ten of the old shillings, i.e. half the value of the previous pound).

  A similar strategy was followed in New Zealand in 1967, with
  the introduction of the New Zealand dollar.  The United
  Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland decimalised the Pound
  Sterling and the Irish pound on February 15, 1971; see Decimal
  Day. Many other former British colonies, such as Singapore,
  Malaya, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and the Seychelles used decimal
  currencies, even while under British rule. India changed from the
  Rupee, Anna, Pie system to decimal currency in 1957. Pakistan
  followed in 1961. Sri Lanka already introduced decimal currency
  in 1869. In France, decimalisation of the coinage was
  accompanied by metrication of other measures. However, in
  general the two have not gone hand in hand: the U.S. has never
  metricated, Canada has only recently done so despite having
  long had a decimal coinage, and the U.K. has only metricated
  to a limited extent."

  Taken from:  Source

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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