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As explained in Making Money, the Ankh-Morpork currency system is based very closely on the older British currency in place until 1971. The British resisted the foreign notion of decimal currency for a long time because (a) it was foreign; and (b) they thought it was too complicated. To an outsider used to decimal currency systems, both the Ankh-Morpork and old British system seem illogical and confusing.

Ankh-Morpork uses the $AM (Ankh-Morpork dollar), which is made up of twenty shillings, the equivalent of the British Pound. An older unit of currency is the Guinea, composed of twenty-one shillings, (but this is falling from use as it did in Britain. The Ankh-Morpork and old British systems are laid out as follows:

  • The shilling is composed of twelve pennies.
  • The Penny is composed of two Halfpennies.
  • Each Halfpenny is composed of two Farthings.
  • Each Farthing is composed of two Mites.
  • Each Mite is composed of two Elims.

So a shilling could be composed of two sixpences, or four thruppeny bits or twenty-four Halfpennies, forty-eight Farthings, ninety-six Mites (the little ones with the holes in the middle) or one hundred and ninety-two Elims.

There are also intermediate values, like the Crown (a five-shilling coin) and the Half-Crown (a coin worth two shillings and sixpence or ten thruppeny bits, sixty halfpennies, one hundred and twenty Farthings, two hundred and forty Mites, or four hundred and eighty Elims.)

All the coins smaller than a halfpenny (which were all real British coins) ceased to be legal tender in Britain long before the system was changed, in some cases by over two hundred years. The last survivor of the small coins was the farthing, which was discontinued in Britain in 1960.

The Ankh-Morpork Mite, also takes its name from a historical coin in Britain, (the Widow's mite (Mark 24:41-44)) was also known as the minita in the Doomsday book.

There was also a groat in an earlier era in British currency - this coin was an intermediate value of currency worth four pennies, and which along with the penny, threepenny bit and sixpence, provided another divisor value of twelve. It is referenced in one of the earlier Discworld novels as a coin in use. In fact, the set fee for the assassination of Foul Ole Ron is set at one groat, implying that during the lifetime of Ron, the groat was and likely still is - an accepted unit of currency. The Groat was last minted in Britain in the 1850's, and passed out of use by 1860, although it was still used in some colonies as late as 1955. The reason why its use persisted as long as it did was that it was a multiple value coin worth four pennies: this was the minimum permissible charge in a public hackney cab and useful to pay the driver. It makes sense that it would have persisted in Ankh-Morpork, perhaps today only as a useful name for a sum of four pennies or two tuppences. It lives on as a name - Tolliver Groat.

The Ankh-Morpork dollar is much less inflated than modern currency. Five extra dollars per month is considered a respectable raise in Guards! Guards! In Going Postal a senior government official makes 20 dollars per week, and a major construction project costs about 100,000 dollars.

As well as using British currency as the basis of Ankh-Morpork's monetary system, Pratchett also drew on other aspects of the British system, most specifically the problems with its Mint. Like the British Mint, Ankh-Morpork's was inefficient, in drastic need of an overhaul and actually was costing more money to make money than it was getting in return (hard to believe when one is printing money but that is bureaucracy at its finest).

In the opening pages of Making Money it is revealed that the production costs of each coin are as follows:-

  • The $AM Dollar:- sixpence, so we're in pocket there;
  • The sixpence: costs tuppence farthing to make each coin;
  • The Thruppeny Bit - on account of all the sides, costs seven pence to make; Thruppeny is a contraction of 'three penny".:.
  • The tuppence coin - each coin costs seven pence and an elim; Tuppence is a contraction of "two penny.
  • The penny: costs a penny farthing to make;
  • The halfpenny:- costs nearly a penny to make;
  • The farthing - costs a halfpenny to manufacture;
  • The mite - costs sixpence, on account of being so small and having the hole in the middle;
  • The Elim - so small and fiddly, on account of all the engraving, that it costs a shilling to make.

A Mint which costs more to run than the value of the currency it produces is not much of an asset to the Government that owns it. It is a particular problem in a city when virtually all transactions are done in the small coins which are so expensive to mint , as Moist von Lipwig discovered when he conducted a practical experiment in money circulation on Tenth Egg Street, where for most people, the dollar is a theoretical notion. Compounding the problem is the fact that most people bank in the Sock under the Mattress which takes even more small coins out of circulation and necessitates the continual production of expensive replacements. Adding to this is the Byzantine pay practice where the employees at the Mint make up their own pay packets - literally. All this contributes to an uneconomical vicious circle that Vetinari charges Moist with breaking.

Pratchett's model for Ankh-Morpork, the British Royal Mint's coin manufacturing plant at Llantrisant in Wales notoriously ran at such an operating loss, that in Government circles it was referred to as "The Hole With The Mint In It". "Copper" pennies cost more to produce than their value and their bronze metal was worth four times more than their coinage value so they were being bought and illegally melted down for scrap. Britain has since again reformed its currency, so that since the early 1990's, "copper" coins now consist of a thin veneer of bronze over a steel core.

Britain's pre-decimal currency was called LSD, which is also the acronym for a perception-altering drug, under whose influence the strangest concepts start to make perfect sense. The British currency "LSD" was a simplification of £sd, standing for £Pounds, Shillings, Denarii (pence) - or, in Latin "Librae, Solidi, Denarii"