GB & Ireland – Half-Farthings


The Half-Farthing

This denomination was issued (for the first time) in 1828 – just a year after the third-farthing for use exclusively in Ceylon (now independent and known as Sri Lanka).

  • Unlike the quarter- and third-farthing, the half-farthing it was made legal tender in the UK & Ireland in 1842 via a Royal Proclamation by Queen Victoria.

This decision brought about much criticism in England re 1/8th of a penny “being far too small a denomination” whereas the reaction Ireland was somewhat more welcoming.

  • The Freemans Journal (Tuesday) June 21, 1842

“A government proclamation appeared on Friday announcing the forthcoming issue of a new species of coin, viz. of half-farthings. This promises to be a great convenience, particularly to the labouring classes, who make their purchases of provisions in small parcels and who, in consequence, are invariably fleeced by the shopkeepers out of the fractional differences resulting from the reckoning where the more wholesale price involves a figure or a fractional part of a sum which cannot be equally resolved and represented by any piece of coin now legally current.”   

  • This seems a bit harsh but closer analysis of the provisions tariffs of the day reveal some interesting prices of everyday commodities, e.g.
    • 1d & half-farthing for a quart of milk (Tuam Herald, April 29th 1843)
      • The Victorians were clearly very serious about their fractions
        • 1d & half-farthing = 9/8th’s of a penny
      • Presumably, before the introduction of the half-farthing, the price would have been ’rounded up’ to a whole farthing, i.e. to 10/8th’s of a penny, or an 11.1% price increase
        • A quart = 2 pints (in the old Imperial system)
        • A litre = 1.76 pints (in today’s metric system)

The Nenagh Guardian of (Wednesday) June 29th, 1842 reported that, according to Her Majesty’s proclamation, these half-farthings “will not be legal tender for any sum above the value of sixpence.”

According to a follow-up report in the Freemans Journal (Thursday) July 7th, 1842, the actual issue of these half-farthings into circulation was not a priority for the Royal Mint due to the urgent demand for gold and silver coin by UK trade and commerce.

According to a follow-up report in the Freemans Journal on (Thursday) July 7th, 1842, the issue of these half-farthings was not a priority for the Royal Mint.

The ‘half-farthing’ coinage lasted until 1869 – when the coin was demonetized. They were generally treated as numismatic curiosities at the time because they would have bought very little.

  • Weight = approx. 2.4g
  • Diameter = 18mm

All half-farthings are copper except for the 1868 proofs – which were either bronze or cupro-nickel. These 1868 proofs were made in the same design as their copper counterparts, but they were not issued for circulation.

  • The last date issued for circulation was 1856

George IV – Half-Farthing

1828 GB & Ireland (George IV) Copper Half-Farthing

1828 GB & Ireland Copper Half-Farthing (George IV)

  • Obverse:
    • Portrait of George IV, facing left
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘GEORGIUS IV DEI GRATIA’
  • Reverse:
    • Seated Britannia with shield, facing right and holding a trident
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR REX FID DEF’
    • There is no indication of its face value

George IV - Copper Half-Farthing Mintages

William IV – Half-Farthing

1837 GB & Ireland Copper Half-Farthing (William IV)

1837 GB & Ireland Copper Half-Farthing (William IV)

  • Obverse:
    • Portrait of William IV, facing right
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘GULIELMUS IIII DEI GRATIA 1837’
  • Reverse:
    • Seated Britannia with shield, facing right and holding a trident
    • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR REX FID DEF’
    • There is no indication of its face value

William IV - Copper Half-Farthing Mintages

Queen Victoria – Half-Farthing

The half farthings issued by Victoria have a reverse which reads HALF FARTHING with a crown above and the date below. Below that there was a rose with three leaves for the issue of 1839, which was changed to a rose, thistle and shamrock thereafter when the coin became valid throughout Great Britain & Ireland. The obverse for the Victorian coins is identical to that of the Maundy Fourpence.

1839 GB & Ireland Copper Half-Farthing (Queen Victoria). Type 1 reverse.

1839 GB & Ireland Copper Half-Farthing (Queen Victoria) – Type 1 Reverse.

  • Obverse:
    • portrait of Queen Victoria, facing left
    • The surrounding legend reads:’VICTORIA D: G: BRITANNIAR: REGINA F: D:’
  • Reverse:
    • the value ‘HALF FARTHING’ surmounted by a crown, with the date beneath. Rose with three leaves (on either side) below.

 

1843 Copper Half-Farthing (Queen Victoria)

1843 Copper Half-Farthing (Queen Victoria) – Type 2 Reverse

  • Obverse:
    • portrait of Queen Victoria, facing left
    • The surrounding legend reads:’VICTORIA D: G: BRITANNIAR: REGINA F: D:’
  • Reverse:
    • the value ‘HALF FARTHING’ surmounted by a crown, with the date beneath. Rose with thistle and shamrock (on either side) below.

Victoria - Copper Half-Farthing Mintages

1844 Half Farthing, Obverse detail, showing E over N in REGINA variety

1844 GB & Ireland Half-Farthing – obverse detail, showing the “E” over “N” in REGINA variety

1851 GB & Ireland Half-Farthing - 1 over 5 date variety

1851 GB & Ireland Half-Farthing – obverse detail, showing the “1851” over “5851” DATE variety

  • The “1851 over 5851” and “1851 over 1801” varieties are much scarcer than the 1844 “E over N” variety.

Model Half-Farthings

Model farthings and, in this case, fractional farthings were unofficial “trial” pieces produced by coin manufacturers (such as Moore of Birmingham) to advertise the quality of the products they were manufacturing.

  • They were also used as a suggestion for possible future coin designs
  • Half farthings were also privately produced by manufacturer called Lauer to commemorate coronations and jubilee anniversaries
    • Lauer also produced a set of imitation coins that were (allegedly) intended as toys – these coins bear the maker’s name within the obverse legend.
  • Manufacturers also made “model” fractional farthings down to one-sixteenth
    • One numismatic source cites a 1/32nd farthing but none have been seen.
Examples of Model Fractional Farthings

Examples of Model Fractional Farthings

Many of the official trial pieces, or the scarcer varieties can command a premium and are extremely collectable due to their low mintage. There were however a few series produced that were more common and can be readily found and collected.

British Ceylon

The History of “British Ceylon” began in 1815 when the Kandyan Kingdom fell into the hands of the British. It ended over 2300 years of Sinhalese monarchy rule on the island. The British rule on the island lasted until 1948 when the country gained independence.

  • During the Napoleonic Wars, the British, fearing that French control of the Netherlands might deliver Sri Lanka to the French, occupied the coastal areas of the island (which they called Ceylon) with little difficulty in 1796
  • In 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens the Dutch part of the island was ceded to Britain, and became a British crown colony
  • In 1803 the British invaded the Kingdom of Kandy in the 1st Kandyan War, but were defeated with great losses
  • In 1815, the British returned, and Kandy was occupied in the 2nd Kandyan War

 

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