O’Brien Coin Guide: GB & Ireland Copper Farthings (William IV)


Background

William IV was the third son of George III, William succeeded his elder brother George IV, as the last king and penultimate monarch of Britain’s House of Hanover. Since his two older brothers died without leaving legitimate issue, he inherited the throne when he was 64 years old.

  • King of the United Kingdom
  • King of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death (20th June 1837)
    • Reign: 5yrs 10mths

At the age of thirteen, he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman and served in New York during the American War of Independence. While William was in America, George Washington approved a plot to kidnap him.

Nicknamed the “Sailor King”, he was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1780 and even managed to get arrested in Gibraltar after a drunken brawl: he was hastily released from custody after his identity became known.

  • In late 1786, he was stationed in the West Indies under Horatio Nelson.
  • George III created him Duke of Clarence & St Andrews and Earl of Munster in May 1789
  • William ceased his active service in the Royal Navy in 1790

William’s political record was inconsistent and, like many politicians of the time, cannot be certainly ascribed to a single party. He allied himself publicly with the Whigs as well as his elder brothers George, Prince of Wales, and Frederick, Duke of York, who were known to be in conflict with the political positions of their father.

His reign saw several notable reforms:

  • The poor law was updated, child labour restricted, slavery abolished in nearly all of the British Empire, and the British electoral system refashioned by the Reform Act 1832.
  • Although William did not engage in politics as much as his brother or his father, he was the last monarch to appoint a prime minister contrary to the will of Parliament.

At the time of his death William had no surviving legitimate children, but he was survived by eight of the ten illegitimate children he had by the actress Dorothea Jordan, with whom he cohabited for twenty years.

  • William was succeeded in the United Kingdom by his niece Victoria.
  • He was succeeded in Hanover by his brother Ernest Augustus.

William IV Copper Farthings

  • Plain edge
  • Border consists of teeth, and the teeth sit inside a narrow raised rim
  • 22mm
  • 4.55-4.9g
1835 GB & Ireland copper farthing (William IV)

1835 GB & Ireland copper farthing (William IV)

Obverse:

  • Plain bust facing right, date below.
  • The engraver’s initials W.W. (William Wyon) are incuse, located below the neck.
  • The legend which reads “GULIELMUS IIII DEI GRATIA:” is around the bust.
    • Translation of “William IV by the grace of God”

Reverse: Type A (1831-1835)

  • Helmeted Britannia seated facing right, with long flowing robes and scaled breastplate, wearing a plumed helmet. In her raised left hand is a trident, and her right hand rests on an oval shield bearing the crosses of the Union Flag which has the St Andrew’s cross as incuse lines.
  • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR: REX FID: DEF:’, almost encircles the bust.
    • Translation: “Queen of all the Britains, Defender of the Faith”
  • In exergue is a rose, shamrock and thistle with their stems crossed.

Reverse: Type B (1834-37)

  • Reworked design as Reverse A, i.e. Helmeted Britannia seated facing right, with long flowing robes and scaled breastplate, wearing a plumed helmet. In her raised left hand is a trident, and her right hand rests on an oval shield bearing the crosses of the Union Flag which has the St Andrew’s cross as raised lines.
  • The surrounding legend reads: ‘BRITANNIAR: REX FID: DEF:’, almost encircles the bust.
    • Translation: “Queen of all the Britains, Defender of the Faith”
  • In exergue is a rose, shamrock and thistle with their stems crossed.
1831-37 GB & Ireland copper farthing (William IV) type A & B reverse

1831-37 GB & Ireland copper farthing (William IV) Type A & B reverse explained

1831-1837 William IV copper farthing mintages

1831-1837 William IV copper farthing mintages & market value

Notes:

  • The Royal Mint records do not differenciate between Type 1 and Type 2 reverse design varieties
    • We do not know how many of each type were minted

 

  • 1837 William IV Farthing, 7 over 7 variety

    1837 William IV Farthing, 7 over 7 date variety

    William IV coppers, like all copper coins, sometimes yield spectacular errors, e.g. this farthing has been mis-struck (about a 25% shift) with the date missing. As such, it’s always well worth your while to examine coins closely – even when they come from the dealers ‘cheap’ tray or bargain box !

 

  • 1830-37 GB & Ireland copper farthing (William IV) struck off centre (date off flan)

    1830-37 GB & Ireland copper farthing (William IV) struck 25% off-centre (date off flan)

     

Other farthing coins in this series

 

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