32 Grains of an English Coin

“Thirty-two grains of English wheat, taken from the middle of an ear of corn (so as to confound cheats and counterfeiters) was the official weight of an English silver penny according to the reforms of old King Offa of Mercia (757-796), undertaken in parallel with those of the Emperor Charlemagne in mainland Europe. Twenty of these pennies should weigh in at an ounce (to give the equal of the old Latin solidus coin of the Romans and the English shilling) and twelve such ounces produced the royally approved standard of a Tower Pound, worth 240 silver pennies. All of which said, in 1284 King Edward I switched the currency off the wheat standard back to the barley grain.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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