Guernsey Currency and Coins
For centuries Guernsey coinage was a ragbag of foreign currency, including for example French currency, dollars, and piastres, Guernsey’s own livre tournois, and sterling.
C. Howlett, in the History and Catalogue of Channel Island Coinages,1 makes this remark:
Many types of coinage were in use for hundreds of years but always the French coin was predominant. ... Double tournois are common ... The liard and pistol and sol are often found in the soil of the islands. Recent finds have been a double tournois of Henri IV of France, dated 1608, a Danish two skilling piece, a Dutch East Indies duit, and a Maria Theresa token for use in the Netherlands. Owing to the quartering of Russian troops it the islands, 1799-1800 and again in 1814, Russian coins will be found occasionally. Together with France, the coinage of the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal was most used.
For more information about these coins, and an explanation of their fluctuating values, see McCammon, A.L.T., Currencies of the Anglo-Norman Isles,2 p. 88, 'The Tournois Period.'
William Berry, in 1815,3 in discussing weights, measures, and currency of Guernsey, tells us that:
The currency of the Island, in which the natives make contracts, and often keep their accounts, are livres, sols, and deniers tournois; the word tournois being used to distinguish the coin of Tours from that of Paris; but the latter being abolished, the former seems to have been retained, to mark the difference from sterling or English currency. A livre tournois is worth one shilling and 6/14ths ; a sol is 6/7ths of a penny sterling; a leard (commonly called a double), 7/8ths of a sol, and 1/7th of a penny; a denier, 1/14th of a penny sterling; and a furluque, ½ of a denier, or 1/24th of a penny sterling. This last piece of money, the furluque,4 was coined in this Island, as appears from an ordinance of the royal court made 6th October, 1623.
The livre tournois was fixed in value in Guernsey relative to the English pound sterling in 1723, and conversion tables were published in yearly almanacs. There were 20 deniers to the sol, and twenty sols to the livre. The French livre tournois, however, continued to devalue after that point, with the result that eventually the Guernsey livre was worth considerably more relative to sterling than was the French one.
From Guernsey Daily Almanac, 1804:
Ancient coins and their worth in livres, sous, and deniers
Un Denier d’Argent
A silver denier
Un noble sterling d’Angleterre
An English sterling noble
Un noble sterling de Guernesey
A Guernsey sterling noble
Un noble monnoie
Un noble d’or
A gold noble
Un Franc d’or
A gold franc
Un Ecu monnoie
Un Ecu m. de rente seigneuriale
An ecu for seigneurial rents
Vingt sous monnoie
20 sous coin
Un Gros6 monnoie
Un Sol monnoie
Un Sol sterling d’Angleterre
An English sterling sou
Un Gros sterling d’Angleterre
An English sterling gros
Or Esterlin: a silver penny
Un Gros d’Argent
A silver gros
Un Denier Sterling
A sterling denier
This list was later repeated by Berry, pp. 117-118, who lists the coins as cited in 'old rentals, books of extent, and title-deeds,' includes the Dutch Florin, Dutch gold Florin, and the Obol, and says;
Besides these, the noive maille, maille sterling, carolus monée, and the maille etling, have been likewise current in the Island; but the exact value of each cannot now be correctly ascertained.
By 1862, however, things had settled down a bit. David Ansted wrote in his guide to weights and measures of Guernsey:6
In Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and Herm, the coins in common use are the French pieces of five francs, one franc, and half franc. These are regarded as so many pence, at the uniform rate of ten pence currency for the franc, and the denominations larger than a penny are shillings and pounds (twelve pence = one shilling, twenty shillings = one pound). The Guernsey pound, therefore, consists of two hundred and forty Guernsey pence; and as by the course of exchange the sovereign is generally worth twenty-five francs, and the Guernsey pound is always twenty-four, it may be considered that the pound sterling contains two hundred and fifty pence (one pound and ten pence) Guernsey currency. We have already explained that it contains one pound one and eight pence Jersey currency.
The Star of October 1, 1892, however, observes:
There is one place in the British Isles, says Modern Society, where the currency is not British, and that is Guernsey. Here you will see a heterogenous mixture of French, Belgian, Italian, Swiss, Greek, Spanish, Roumanian, Peruvian, Chilian, and other coins of every denomination and nationality. I must say that the people are very honest, and give you twenty-five francs for your sovereigns: but if you forget to change these francs back again into shillings while you are on the island, you will find when you get to England that many, if not most of them, are obsolete, and will not pass in any country on the face of the earth; least of all the one they nominally hail from! What advantage the islanders gain by using this galimatias passes my comprehension, but with their usual apathy they grumble and put up with it. Beyond an occasional growl from someone who has been victimised, or a leading article now and again in a local paper, no one moves in the matter. It is disgraceful that British currency should not be used in a British dependency at our very doors. Jersey has adopted it for many years; of course, still retaining a distinctive copper coinage. Perhaps if a paternal government were to put a little gentle pressure on the Guernsey States, it might induce that body to follow the lead of the sister island.
1 Howlett, C. J., History and Catalogue of Channel Island Coinages: Guernsey, [Toucan Press], 1968, pp. 4-5.
2 McCammon, A.L.T., Currencies of the Anglo-Norman Isles: London, Spink, 1984.
3 Berry, W., The History of the Island of Guernsey, etc., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown (etc.), 1815, pp. 117-118.
4 '... a court order of 1535 forbids further manufacture of [an unknown coin called a freluque]... the coin is again mentioned in 1623 in an order requesting the Governor of Guernsey, Sir Peter Osborne, to appoint a coiner.' Howlett, History and Catalogue, p. 5. In 1619 the Royal Court decreed that coining these 'farthings' would result in a whipping 'jusqu'à effusion de sang'—until blood was drawn. McCammon speculates that these were copies of Henry II doubles tournois—originally worth two deniers tournois but devaluing to one obole tournois, or half denier, something akin to a halfpenny.
5 Ansted, D. T., The Channel Islands: Money, Weights, and Measures: Guernsey, Toucan Press, 1985; ed. J. Stevens-Cox.
6 Originally created by Louis IX, worth 12 deniers tournois, equivalent to a gold sou; later of variable value.
See also Lowsley, B., The Coinages of the Channel Islands: London: Victoria Printing Works, 1897; Monetary History of Guernsey, online list of relevant acts etc.; The Star, January 14th 1911, for Montgomery Gadd's attempts to reform the currency; and Exley, W, Guernsey Coinage, Guernsey: Guernsey Press Co Ltd, 1968.