Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bull n.3

[abbr. bull’s eye n. ]

1. five shillings, a crown; thus demi-bull,, 2/6.

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 178: Crown. A bull.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: bull. A crown piece.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 314: [He] was compelled to borrow a bull to pay for a rattler.
[UK]H. Smith Gale Middleton 1 148: ‘What’s the swag?’ ‘Not much; only two beans and a bull’.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 115/1: A Bull Five Shillings.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 23 Oct. 2/3: Mr S. [...] laid the demi-bull on the counter instanter.
[UK] advert in ‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulgar Tongue (1857) 45: Pair of out and out fancy sleeve Kicksies, cut to drop down on the trotter, 2 bulls.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 315/1: She won’t stand above a ‘bull’ (five shillings).
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 9 June 3/2: [She] walked into Jane’s affections for the loan of a ‘bull’ .
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]W. Newton Secrets of Tramp Life Revealed 9: Fushme or Bull ... Five Shillings.
[UK]‘Pot’ & ‘Swears’ Scarlet City 112: ’Here’s your “bull”, Cocky,’ he added, tossing two half-crowns to Larkhall.
[US]Sun (NY) 10 July 29/4: Here is a genuine letter written in thieves’ slang, recently found by the English police [...] The noise of the milling the glass brought tray flies. She chucked a reeler and was lugged before the beak and fine[d] a bull.
[Aus]Western Mail (Perth) 28 May 21/1: [from Daily Mail, London] A 5s. piece in my young days was still called a cartwheel, but no longer a tosheroon or a bull.
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Life and Death at the Old Bailey 66: Five shillings is a ‘bull’.
[UK](con. 1910) R.T. Hopkins Banker Tells All 169: They said he made the best ‘bulls’ (five-shilling pieces) which were ever seen outside the English Mint.

2. (Aus.) 75 strokes of the lash [each number of punitory lashes was named for a different value of coin].

J. Lang Botany Bay 40: There were slang terms applied to these doses of the lash; twenty-five was called a ‘tester;’ fifty ‘a bob;’ seventy five ‘a bull’ and a hundred a ‘canary’.
[Aus](con. early 19C) Cobargo Chron. (NSW) 2 Nov. 4/2: [as 1853].
[Aus] (ref. to mid-19C) Baker Aus. Lang. 44: Nor, though they are formed on English slang terms for coins, are [recorded] [...] bull, seventy-five lashes.

3. a counterfeit coin.

[UK](con. 1910) R.T. Hopkins Banker Tells All 169: One of the ‘bulls’ was a very unlucky coin for Plotsky. A barmaid who had taken it over the counter in payment for a drink discovered that it was a dud.

In phrases

half-a-bull (n.) (also half-bull)

half-a-crown, 2s 6d (12½p).

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 178: Half a crown. Half a bull.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 2 Dec. 33/1: I asked him what sort [of coins] he made; I believe I termed them bobs and half-bulls, (that is shillings and half-crowns), that is the flash-name of them.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: A half bull; half a crown.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]Egan Life and Adventures of Samuel Hayward 105: Driven from the patrician subscription gaming-rooms, he was content to push in among the seedy coves and risk his half bull at chicken-hazard.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 19: 2s. 6d. is half-a-bull.
[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy I 178: There’s half a bull for your trouble.
[UK]Egan Anecdotes of the Turf, the Chase etc. 180: Many a half-bull has betsey slid into her clie.
[UK]R. Nicholson Cockney Adventures 4 Nov. 7: Lend us half-a-bull on that ere flute, vill yer?
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 58: Half-a-bull is half-a-bull; it’s multa denarly if you cops a multa swag.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 23 Oct. 2/3: He endeavoured to coax a certain Mr Solomon to toss for half a bull.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 26 Feb. 1/4: I tips half Bull to the Bloke.
[UK]Kendal Mercury 17 Apr. 6/1: I gathered up my sticks and vent to another part of the voil (town), got half a bull (2s. 6d.) and hooked it.
[UK]Dickens Bleak House (1991) 224: Him wot give him his writing, and give me half a bull.
[UK]Mons. Merlin 18 Oct. 6/2: Numismatics seem to afford an unbounded range for the exercise of slang [...] on what grounds have half-crowns and copper money the cognomen of ‘half-bull’ and ‘brown’ assigned to them respectively ?
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 17 May 2/7: Flashing the ‘half bulls’ [she] dared her to do her worst.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 3/2: In a twinkling Joe’s ‘deuce’ of ‘half-bulls’ were in his ‘duke’. [Ibid.] 51/2: This ‘sweetening’ succeeded, and she ‘slung’ him ‘half a bull’.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 239: Sure enough [the coins] were a ‘shise’ half-bull and a ‘duffing’ tanner.
[UK] ‘’Arry on His Critics and Champions’ in Punch 14 Apr. 180/1: He says hoscar wilde doesn’t like me!!! Who’d care half a bull if he did?
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 21 Dec. 4/4: Billy had to pay arf a bull to square it.
[UK]J.D. Brayshaw Slum Silhouettes 34: She gave me arf-a-bull yes’day.
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 216: I’ve gotter get that ’arf-bull ’r somethin’ dangerous may set in.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 15 Jan. 9/3: ‘’ere are a harf a bull / That’s her fare’ / [...] / (Half a crown, sir).