The pre-decimal penny was a coin worth 1/240th of a pound sterling. Its symbol was d, from the Roman denarius and it was a continuation of the earlier English penny, and in Scotland it had the same monetary value as one pre-1707 Scottish shilling. The penny was minted in silver, but from the late 18th century it was minted in copper. The plural of penny is pence when referring to a quantity of money, thus 8d is eight pence, but eight pennies means specifically eight individual penny coins. Before Decimal Day in 1971 twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty shillings made a pound, values less than a pound were usually written in terms of shillings and pence, e. g.42 pence would be three shillings and sixpence, pronounced three and six. Values of less than a shilling were simply written in terms of pence and this version of the penny was made obsolete in 1971 by decimalisation, and was replaced by the decimal penny which had a value 140% more. The kingdoms of England and Scotland were merged by the 1707 Act of Union to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, the penny replaced the shilling of the pound scots. The design and specifications of the English penny were unchanged by the Union, Queen Annes reign saw pennies minted in 1708,1709,1710, and 1713. These issues, however, were not for circulation, instead being minted as Maundy money. The prohibitive cost of minting silver coins had meant the size of pennies had been reduced over the years, the practice of minting pennies only for Maundy money continued through the reigns of George I and George II, and into that of George III. In 1797, the government authorised Matthew Boulton to strike copper pennies and twopences at his Soho Mint in Birmingham. At the time it was believed that the value of a coin should correspond to the value of the material it was made from. This requirement meant that the coins would be larger than the silver pennies minted previously. The large size of the coins, combined with the rim where the inscription was incuse i. e. punched into the metal rather than standing proud of it. These pennies were minted over the course of years. By 1802, the production of privately issued provincial tokens had ceased, however, in the next ten years the intrinsic value of copper rose. The return of privately minted token coinage was evident by 1811 and endemic by 1812, the Royal Mint undertook a massive recoinage programme in 1816, with large quantities of gold and silver coin being minted. To thwart the further issuance of private token coinage, in 1817 an Act of Parliament was passed which forbade the manufacture of private token coinage under very severe penalties
Because of their relatively large size and low value, pennies were a favourite of coin engravers.
A 1937 George VI penny. Note the change in design of the reverse, with the addition of the lighthouse and shield square which is not angled.