Dick had heard that the streets in London were all paved with gold.

So Dick got safe to London, and was in such a hurry to see the fine street paved all over with gold that he did not even stay to thank the kind waggoner; but ran off as fast as his legs would carry him, through many of the streets, thinking every moment to come to those that were paved with gold; for Dick had seen a guinea three times in his own little village, and remembered what a deal of money it brought in change; so he thought he had nothing to do but to take up some little bits of the pavement, and should then have as much money as he could wish for.

This is from an English fairy tale. What's the meaning of "what a deal of money it brought in change"? Does it mean " what much money brought him in change"? If so, what does this "it" mean?

  • 4
    Conjecture - a guinea is a relatively large unit of currency at the time, so are uncommon in poorer areas... when you pay for something inexpensive with a big unit of currency you get a lot of "change"... smaller bills/coins (e.g. if you break a $500 bill when paying for something that only costs a quarter, you get $499.75 in change, which will be many different smaller bills). "It", in this interpretation would be the guinea.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 15:46
  • @Cat - My conjecture is the same as yours. I think you could safely make that an answer instead of a conjecture.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 15:52
  • 1
    Note that the cited text was written at least 150 years ago. You'd never come across that today except as a deliberate stylised archaism. The "literary, poetic" form today would be ...what a lot of money..., but the more natural "conversational" version (more useful to learners) would simply be ...remembered how much [change there was] (we wouldn't still use brought there either). Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


At the time, a guinea was a fairly large unit of currency, made from gold. In poorer areas, like this village, they would appear relatively uncommonly as very little cost that much. Instead, they would see the smaller units - shillings, pence. That's what the first part of this phrase tells us... that in his village, they are rare.

When the coin does appear, it will likely be used to pay for something low-priced, which would result in large amounts of smaller coins in change.

Let's look at this information:

In the traditional pounds, shillings and pence system, there were 20 shillings per pound and 12 pence per shilling, and thus there were 240 pence in a pound.

Ignoring the fact that the value of the guinea wasn't always equivalent to the pound (though it was originally intended to be), let's use the exchange above. If you paid for something that cost 5 pence with your guinea, you'd get a lot of coins in change - 19 shillings and 7 pence.

So, instead of one coin, you'd end up with as many as twenty-six!

So, when they say "what a deal of money it brought in change" this is what they're talking about. "Change" is the money you get back when you pay more than you owe. "It" is the guinea.

  • Thank you for your helpful answer. I got it. I misunderstood this "what" was relative pronoun, but it is exclamation. And now I can understand it because I know a guinea is gold. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 16:34

Old English dǣlan ‘divide,’ ‘participate,’ of Germanic origin; related to Dutch deel and German Teil ‘part’ (noun), also to dole1. The sense ‘divide’ gave rise to ‘distribute,’ hence sense 1 of the verb and sense 4 of the verb ; the sense ‘participate’ gave rise to ‘have dealings with,’

Google Dictionary. Etymology of the word 'deal'

Today we use deal in variations from that original use.

  • We got a good deal on the TV.
  • He learned a great deal from the lecture.
  • There were a great deal of books to be read for the course. This is the one I think was meant by, "“what a deal of money it brought in change.” 'Change' means money returned from the amount given. I give $20 for the $18 item, and get $2 in change.

So 'deal' of change literally means: a large amount of money returned after buying an item.


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