GB & Ireland – Third-Farthings


The Third-Farthing

The first of the fractional farthings to be issued was the third-farthing, which throughout the period of issue from 1827 to 1913 was minted exclusively for use in Malta. The island used British coins, but the grano, dating from before British rule, was valued at one-twelfth of a penny. As a result the decision was made to coin the equivalent in a British denomination.

  • twelve granos = one penny
  • four farthings = one penny
  • therefore, 1 grano = one-third of a farthing

From the 16th C to the Capture of Malta by Napoleon Bonaparte, Malta was inhabited and defended by the famous Knights of Malta against the might of the Ottoman Empire for almost 300 years. They made the Italian language official, used Italian-style coin denominations and became wealthy by raiding Ottoman cargo ships in the Mediterranean.

  • The French held Malta from 1798-1800 but it ‘voluntarily’ became part of the British Empire as a protectorate in 1800.

Under the terms of the 1802 Treaty of Amiens, Britain was supposed to evacuate the island, but failed to keep this obligation – one of several mutual cases of non-adherence to the treaty, which eventually led to its collapse and the resumption of war between Britain and France.

Although initially the island was not given much importance, its excellent harbours eventually became a prized asset for the British, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The island thus became a military and naval fortress, the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet.

Copper Third-Farthings

The design of the copper half farthings for George IV, William IV, and Victoria show a standard portrait on the obverse, while the reverse shows Britannia facing right seated with a shield and trident.

  • Weight = approx. 1.57g
  • Diameter = 16mm

The 1844 copper third-farthing of Victoria comes in two varieties. A few rare versions have RE rather than REG on the reverse, but Peck considers these to be late Mint strikings not issued for circulation.

George IV

1827 GB & Ireland - Copper Third-Farthing (George IV)

1827 GB & Ireland – Copper Third-Farthing (George IV)

  • Obverse:
    • Bust, King George IV (wreathed head, facing left, with the date below
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘GEORGIUS IV DEI GRATIA’
  • Reverse:
    • Britannia seated, facing right, wearing a helmet, and holding a trident, with hand resting on a shield.
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR: REX FID: DEF: ‘
    • Below is a rose, thistle, and shamrock.
1827 GB & Ireland - Copper Third Farthing Mintage

1827 GB & Ireland – Copper Third Farthing Mintage

William IV

1835 GB & Ireland - Copper Third-Farthing (William IV)

1835 GB & Ireland – Copper Third-Farthing (William IV)

  • Obverse:
    • Bust, King William IV (bare head, facing right, with the date below
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘GULIELMUS IIII DEI GRATIA’
  • Reverse:
    • Britannia seated, facing right, wearing a helmet, and holding a trident, with hand resting on a shield.
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR: REX FID. DEF. ‘
    • Below is a rose, thistle, and shamrock.
1835 GB & Ireland - Copper Third Farthing Mintage

1835 GB & Ireland – Copper Third Farthing Mintage

Victoria

1844 GB & Ireland - Third-Farthing (Victoria)

1844 GB & Ireland – Third-Farthing (Victoria, 1st Portrait)

  • Obverse:
    • Bust, Queen Victoria (bare head, facing left, with the date below
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘VICTORIA DEI GRATIA’
  • Reverse:
    • Britannia seated, facing right, wearing a helmet, and holding a trident, with hand resting on a shield.
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR: REX FID: DEF: ‘
    • Below is a rose, thistle, and shamrock.
1844 GB & Ireland - Copper Third Farthing Mintage

1844 GB & Ireland – Copper Third Farthing Mintage

1844 third farthing - Large 'G' in REG

1844 third farthing – Large ‘G’ in REG

1844 third farthing - 'RE' instead of REG

1844 third farthing – ‘RE’ instead of REG


Bronze Third-Farthings

In common with the other larger denominations, a switch to bronze was made in 1860. The reverse design was changed to show the inscription ONE THIRD FARTHING with the date below, surrounded by a laurel wreath with crown above. The obverse has a portrait of the Queen quite unlike that on any other UK coin.

  • These smaller coins weigh about 0.9g
  • Diameter = 15mm
    • They are the “lightest” bronze coins in the British & Irish series
    • Many varieties exist, but Peck does not give a detailed listing of these

None of the bronze coins are scarce, and those issued by Edward VII in 1902 and George V in 1913 are often found in ‘uncirculated’ condition. There is little evidence to suggest that these coins circulated in Ireland, so I assume the examples found in Ireland came via families engaged in colonial service, or later via dealers’ inventories when coin collecting became popular in Ireland. Since all coins of the realm were valid throughout the Empire so, in theory, all fractional farthings would have had a legal tender face value.

Victoria

1868 Third-Farthing (Victoria, 2nd portrait)

  • Obverse:
    • Laureate bun head, facing left
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘VICTORIA D.G. BRITT. REG. F. D.’
  • Reverse:
    • Wreath and Crown surrounding legend and date
    • The legend reads: ‘ONE THIRD FARTHING’
1866-88 GB & Ireland - Bronze Third Farthing Mintages and major varieties

1866-88 GB & Ireland – Bronze Third Farthing Mintages and major varieties

Edward VII

1902 GB & Ireland, bronze third-farthing

1902 GB & Ireland, Bronze Third-Farthing (Edward VII)

  • Obverse:
    • Bare Head Portrait, facing right
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘EDWARDVS VII D.G. BRITT: OMN: REX F: D: IND: IMP:’
  • Reverse:
    • Wreath and Crown surrounding legend and date
    • The legend reads: ‘ONE THIRD FARTHING’
1902 GB & Ireland - Bronze Third Farthing Mintage

1902 GB & Ireland – Bronze Third Farthing Mintage

George V

1913 GB & Ireland - Bronze Third-Farthing (George V)

1913 GB & Ireland – Bronze Third-Farthing (George V)

  • Obverse:
    • Bare Head Portrait, facing left
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘GEORGIVS D.G. BRITT: OMN: REX F.D. IND: IMP:’
  • Reverse:
    • Wreath and Crown surrounding legend and date
    • The legend reads: ‘ONE THIRD FARTHING’
1913 GB & Ireland - Bronze Third Farthing Mintage

1913 GB & Ireland – Bronze Third Farthing Mintage

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