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According to the ISO 4217 standard, the British pound, or the pound sterling, which is the oldest monetary unit in use today, is provided with the GBP code. The "UKP" abbreviation, derived from the expression United Kingdom Pound, may also be encountered.
British dependent territories often use their own versions of pounds: GGP (Isle of Guernsey), JEP (Isle of Jersey) or IMP (Isle of Man). Although the British currency is officially used in many countries, information about how much a pound costs is also of great importance in those parts of the world where it is not the official currency. The exchange rate of the British pound will be important e.g. to over a million Poles living and working in the UK. All of them, as well as their relatives who stayed in the homeland, closely follow the changes on the GBP PLN pair.
Until 1971, one sterling was subdivided into 240 pence and 20 shillings, which was impractical and caused problems, among others in international settlements. It was therefore decided to introduce the decimal system, according to which £1 is subdivided into 100 pence. Coins in circulation come in the denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence, as well as £1 and £2 – each of them features the image of Queen Elizabeth II. Higher denominations are issued in banknotes of: £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100 (encountered in Scotland and Northern Ireland).
The history of the British pound dates back hundreds of years. Its origins can be traced back to the 8th century, because it was then that the Anglo-Saxon king Offa established the penny weighing 1/240 of a pound (ancient libra) as the main means of payment. The pound sterling entered circulation under King Henry II in 1158 – at that time GBP was exchangeable for silver. In the heyday of the British Empire, it was considered the most important currency in the world. In the following years, it experienced many crises, giving way to the strengthening dollar, but the price of the pound still plays a large role on world markets.
The etymology of the name of the British currency is quite interesting. While the word "pound" is quite obvious, because it is associated with the Roman unit of weight referred to as "libra" or "libra pondo" (the symbol of the pound "£" is also a reference to this), the origin of the word "sterling" is not so easy to decipher. The British pound was officially named sterling to make the UK currency easier to distinguish from other pounds, such as Egyptian, Syrian or Lebanese. This name, according to one of the theories, is related to the activities of German and Dutch merchants, once called "Easterlings" or "Osterlings" in England.
The image of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse of British coins is updated with each subsequent issue, due to the changing appearance of the monarch.
The British National Mint is the oldest institution of this type in Europe, and its services are also used by other countries, for example some Polish 1 grosz coins were produced there.
The standards of coin minting in the United Kingdom remain very high – to this day coins are assessed by a special group of experts. This ritual dates back to the 12th century.
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