Farthing (British coin)
The British farthing coin, from Old English fēorðing, from fēorða, a fourth, was a unit of currency of one quarter of a penny, or of a pound sterling. It was minted in bronze, and replaced the earlier copper farthings. It was used during the reigns of six monarchs: Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II, but ceased to be legal tender on 1 January 1961. It featured two different designs on its reverse during its 100 years in circulation: from 1860 until 1936, the image of Britannia; and from 1937 onwards, the image of a wren. Like all British coinage, it bore the portrait of the monarch on the obverse.
Before Decimal Day in 1971, there were 240 pence in one pound sterling. There were four farthings in a penny, 12 pence made a shilling, and 20 shillings made a pound. Values less than a pound were usually written in terms of shillings and pence, e.g., three shillings and six pence, pronounced "three and six" or "three and sixpence". Values of less than a shilling were simply written in pence, e.g., 8d, pronounced "eightpence". A price with a farthing in it would be written like this:, pronounced "nineteen and elevenpence farthing".
The purchasing power of a farthing from 1860 to its demise at the beginning of 1961 ranged between 12p to 2p in 2017 GB Pound values.
DesignThe original reverse of the coin, designed by Leonard Charles Wyon, is a seated Britannia, holding a trident, with the word above. Issues before 1895 also feature a lighthouse to Britannia's left and a ship to her right. Various minor adjustments to the level of the sea depicted around Britannia, and the angle of her trident were also made over the years. Some issues feature toothed edges, while others feature beading.
Over the years, seven different obverses were used. Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II each had a single obverse for farthings produced during their respective reigns. Over the long reign of Queen Victoria two different obverses were used, and the short reign of Edward VIII meant that no farthings bearing his likeness were ever issued.
The farthing was first issued with the so-called "bun head", or "draped bust" of Queen Victoria on the obverse. The inscription around the bust read . This was replaced in 1895 by the "old head", or "veiled bust". The inscription on these coins read .
Coins issued during the reign of Edward VII feature his likeness and bear the inscription . Similarly, those issued during the reign of George V feature his likeness and bear the inscription .
A farthing of King Edward VIII does exist, dated 1937, but technically it is a pattern coin, i.e. one produced for official approval, which it would probably have been due to receive about the time that the King abdicated. The obverse shows a left-facing portrait of the king ; the inscription on the obverse is .
The pattern coin of Edward VIII and regular-issue farthings of George VI and Elizabeth II feature a redesigned reverse displaying the wren, one of Britain's smallest birds.
George VI issue coins feature the inscription before 1949, and thereafter. Unlike the penny, farthings were minted throughout the early reign of Elizabeth II, bearing the inscription in 1953, and thereafter.