Sixpence Traditions & History

Here we explore the Silver SixpenceTraditions 



A Hundred years old...

tradition.  The bride’s family to give a silver sixpence as a dowry gift was the start of this tradition.

For hundreds of years brides have been putting a silver sixpence in their shoe on their wedding day. But why is this and how did it become a lost tradition?

The tradition dates back to the first minting of sixpences in 1551, and as most traditions it evolved from superstition. 

During this period (and before) the Lord of the Manor, where the bride lived, would give the bride a piece of silver as a wedding gift. Silver was seen as a lucky omen and that it could ward off evil spirits. 

The superstition around silver made it the perfect gift for a bride to protect herself and the marriage, whilst also bringing the happy couple good luck.

As sixpences become an easy way to hold silver and were small and lightweight, they became the token that the Lord of the Manor would give. 

The evolution of the sixpence’s traditions made it become known as a coin that gives you good luck, prosperity, wealth and happiness. 

This produced lots of different traditions, however, for a wedding it evolved into giving a silver sixpence as a lucky charm; bringing wealth and happiness to the married couple.


Happiness and Prosperity...

From this custom came the classic “Something Old…” wedding saying, where it ends “And a silver sixpence in your shoe”. 

Traditionally the bride would be given the silver sixpence by her father, where she (or her father) would then place it in her left shoe. 

Some say she should then walk a full circle while at the same time making a wish for her wealth.

As before, the modern custom is to bring good luck, prosperity, wealth and happiness to the couple during their wedding day and the marriage as a whole. 

It is also said to help banish the nerves of the bride before walking down the aisle.

For some families the silver sixpence has been passed through the generations to continue the hope for good luck to future brides. 

Sadly, due to the discontinuation of sixpences in the British monetary system people slowly forgot about this beautiful wedding tradition, which adds that something special to your wedding day. 

So as the wedding sixpence tradition has been lost for a time, now you can continue it and start your own family tradition with your own beautiful real silver wedding sixpence.

 Good Luck

Silver Sixpences  have been used by the Royal Air Force in World War II. The pilots would have a sixpence on their wings to protect them during their dangerous missions.  These were sewn in to the wings. 



They were put into delicious Christmas Puddings as a good luck gift for the coming year.  This is a tradition that I love, as only one silver sixpence was put into our Christmas pudding. As there were quite a few family members we all hoped that the silver sixpence would be ours. 

New Year


The silver sixpence is put outside on New Year’s Eve before 12.00 am and brought back in to the house in the New Year, to bring money and luck into the home for the coming year.  This is an old tradition, having various forms, such as coal, for warmth, bread signifying food on the table and a tall dark haired man to walk across the threshold on New Year's day bringing food and money (usually a sixpence) 

New Born Baby 


For the new born baby there is a saying ” to cross the baby’s palm with silver”.  This is a tradition of giving silver as a good luck omen to bring the baby health, wealth and happiness for his or her life.  A sixpence is a gift that the baby can keep and remember you by.  Its special and not something to throw away after five minutes.  

Interesting Facts

Sixpences have also been used as guitar picks! 

Notably by Brain May of Queen and Ian Bairnson of The Alan Parsons Project.

This is again, a great gift for a guitar player.  How different and again something that can be kept and mounted in years to come.

History of Sixpences 

Sixpence history is a rich timeline that spans 500 years of British history.

Here you can learn more about this timeline and the Kings and Queens that are on each sixpence. The weddings of today's British royalty all wore a silver sixpence in their shoe.



Beautiful luxury packaging for the White Collection


The Sixpence

The sixpence had many names being, tanner, 6d or six penny bit. The history regarding sixpences has been around since 1551 and has continued in use throughout the British Empire and British Isles until around 1970. This is when the introduction of the decimal system started in Great Britain. However, sixpences were still legal tender under 1980 .



Dates of Sixpences

It is important to know the differences in a Sixpence and in their silver content. 

As a bride you don’t want to put anything other than a genuine silver sixpence in your shoe for that important walk of your life. 

1551 to 1816 – pure silver

1816 to 1920 – 92.5% silver

1920 – 1946 – 50% silver

1947 to 1970 – Copper and Nickel – no silver content 


Sixpence history starts when the first silver sixpence was minted by King Edward VI in 1551. Since then it has been minted during the reign of every British monarch.

These sixpences are pure silver and can be hard to find as some of them are very rare. The versions with the portrait of Oliver Cromwell are exceedingly rare. The Coincraft catalogue states that possibly only four exist.

In 1816 The Royal Mint undertook a massive recoinage programme, creating a new standard of coinage for the sixpence. The standard was .925 (92.5%) sterling silver and a weight of 2.828 grams.


1817 – 1837

During this time, after the great recoinage in 1816, sixpences were produced in quantity. Three kings had sixpences minted between 1817 and 1837; King George III (reigned from 1760 – 1820), King George IV (reigned from 1820 – 1830) and King William IV (reigned from 1830 – 1837). 

There are a variety of different designs over this period and all of them are .925 silver sterling.


1837 - 1901 Queen Victoria


Queen Victoria was the ruling queen of the biggest empire in history. During her reign, the British Empire included Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, India and many more. 

Queen Victoria’s sixpences have a variety of different portraits, with all being the standard .925 sterling silver. 

The first is known as the “Young Head Issue” and was used up until 1887. The “Young Head Issue” has three different types, the difference were on the obverse (heads) side. 

These three types were minted over different times between 1837 – 1887.

From 1887 to 1893 a new issue was minted called the  “Jubilee Head Issue”. Again there are a couple of variations of this minting. 

The finally issue started from 1893 and finished in 1902. This is called the “Old Head Issue” and had a new portrait of Queen Victoria.


1902 to 1910 King Edward VII


The King Edward VII had a short stint in sixpence history. 

His sixpence continued the same design as Queen Victoria on the reverse (tails) side of the coin. 

The difference was his portrait replaced Queen Victoria’s on the Obverse side. 

As this coin was only in mintage for 8 years it is becoming very collectible and so is quite rare. This sixpence contains the standard .925 sterling silver.


1911 to 1936 King George V


George V had two different designs of sixpence during his reign, he also had two different sterling silver standards.

This is due because of the turbulent times that the ruled over, WW1 and also the coming of power of Adolf Hitler in Germany.

The first design was from 1911 to 1927. This design had on the reverse side a lion surmounting a crown.

While this coin was in mintage the standard of sterling silver dropped in 1920 from .925 (92.5%) to .500 (50%). This was due to the rising price of silver around the world.

Interestingly during the 1920 mintage there are both .925 (92.5%) and .500 (50%) sixpences in circulation.

Its very hard tell the difference, as the hardness of the metal changed. 

The second design started in 1927 and ended in 1936. This design had six oak sprigs and acorns on the reverse side and a modified head on the obverse side.

All of these sixpences are .500 sterling silver. 



Similar to George V, George VI had two different designs and two different sterling silver standards during his reign.

 Sadly it was during George VI’s reign when silver was stopped being used in sixpences and they were then produced with an alloy of copper and nickel called cupronickel. 

King George VI came become the ruling monarch after George V abdicated the throne. He lead Britain during the dark times of WW2, giving inspiraton and hope during the war through his radio broadcasts. 

The first design dated from 1937 to 1948. This first design shows the initials GRI (Georgius Rex Imperator) surmounted by a crown on the reverse side. These sixpences were .500 sterling silver until 1947.

 In sixpence history this is the date when sixpences stopped being made of silver. The mintage from 1947 onwards were made from cupronickel due to silver prices being too high because of the Second World War. 

The second design of King George VI dated from 1949 to 1952 (these sixpences contain NO SILVER, because of this we DO NOT sell them). 

The design was changed with the initials changed to GVIR and the inscription IND IMP was removed as the King George VI was no longer Emperor of India.


Good old Queen Elizabeth II! A truly inspiring and awesome monarch who has seen great changes during her reign, including the end of the beloved sixpence as legal tender. 

There are two sixpence designs for Queen Elizabeth.

The first was only minted in 1953, on the observe side it says “ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA BRITT OMN REGINA”. 

While the second design started during 1954 and says “ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA”.

For both designs the reverse side is the same. In 1967 the last issue was minted for circulation. However, in 1970, a proof was issued in ‘Last Lsd’ sets. 

Again, we do not sell these coins as they do not contain any silver sterling and are only made from cupronickel, but look below!


Queen Elizabeth II New Sixpence


We can also supply you, for your wedding day, a modern sixpence with this year’s current date on it. 

These silver sixpences are .925 sterling silver, and are beautiful, shiny and new.

The reverse design of the current 2019 silver sixpence is by John Bergdahl and has “E II R” in the middle, with a crown above surrounded by a flower motif. 

The obverse was designed by Jody Clark.

This sixpence is not legal tender in the UK or British Overseas Territories.