An ad from 1966 to help people adjust to the decimal currency change-over.
An ad from 1966 to help people adjust to the decimal currency change-over. Shannon Newley

Cents and sensibility: the day new money came to town

"IN come the dollars and in come the cents to replace the pounds and the shillings and the pence.

"Be prepared folks when the coins begin to mix on the 14th of February 1966."

If you were around on that date and were out of nappies you will probably remember that nifty prose sung to the tune of Click Go the Shears.

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It was the very effective advertising campaign the then Menzies Government, under the guidance of treasurer Harold Holt, launched to prepare Australians for the new currency.

Designed by silversmith Stuart Devlin, evidence of his work is still seen in our purses and wallets today.

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Retired businessman Peter Dougherty recalls the transition in 1966 when he was running the family real estate agency Dougherty Bros with his brother Bill, saying it wasn't too much of a drama for them when it happened.

"We just had to double everything we were used to, so if a house was listed at 10,000 pounds it became $20,000. It wasn't too difficult," Mr Dougherty said.

Mr Dougherty said the old currency was much more testing, especially when it come to selling beer.

Mr Dougherty recalled the complexity of the sterling system when he worked at Grafton's Royal Hotel (since demolished as part of Grafton Shoppingworld development).

"I remember when I started there middies cost one and a penny ha'penny (one shilling, one penny and one halfpenny). We had three buttons to pull down. "Then when you had three fellas ordering together ... decimal currency certainly made that easier. Middies went to 12c then."

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Mr Dougherty agreed there was plenty of preparation and publicity ahead of the big change.

"People were well informed but the biggest thing was that the kids of the time no longer had to deal with pounds, shillings and pence. Dollars and cents made more sense. I always wondered why they didn't do it 100 years ago."

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Long-time Mackellys department store staffer Greg Ryan, who was managing the fabric department in 1966, said thw staff all thought the currency changeover was going to be a major operation.

"We were assured by the government program and well prepared," he said.

"There was that catchy tune associated with it and an animation as well for the TV. When it actually happened it all went quite smoothly after all the anticipation leading up to it."

Mr Ryan said they changed store prices accordingly and it was no problem (an old Daily Examiner advert revealed they listed prices in both sterling and decimal currency to help with the process).

"We just went from three (ledger) columns to two columns, " Mr Ryan said.



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