The pound sterling is actually the oldest currency still in use today, dating all the way back to around 760 AD when King Offa of Mercia introduced the silver penny. This coin spread throughout the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, becoming the most widely-used currency & originally weighed around 1.5g (!) when they were first produced.
The coins introduced by King Offa were made from the purest silver available, until 1158 when King Henry II introduced a new coinage – the Tealby penny – which was made from 92.5% silver. This coin then became the standard until the 20th century and is today known as sterling silver. Silver pennies were the sole coinage used in England up until the introduction of the sovereign in 1489, and then the shilling in 1504.
The symbol, £, originates from an ornate L – which represents ‘Libra’ the Latin word for weight or balance, as also depicted in the star-sign of those born between 23rd September & 22nd October.
Minting of coins was introduced in the 1660s along with added design features such as edge lettering to prevent coin-clipping. Coin-clipping used to be a common issue, put simply, this was when the edges would be trimmed to harvest shavings of the precious metals, before then passing the now-damaged coin off for its original value.
The pound was once worth US $5 in 1934, the highest ever value of the pound, this dropped significantly when the outbreak of WWII led the British government to peg the value of the pound to the dollar. (Pegging is a type of exchange rate where a currency’s value is fixed against either the value of another single currency, to a basket of other currencies, or to another measure of value – such as gold.)
Due to the vote to leave the European Union back in 2016, and the reality of a no-deal Brexit settling in, the pound has ended up hovering around the lowest value in 35 years. It’s currently at $1.294 – but reached its rock-bottom at $1.15.