The British farthing (d) coin, from Old English fēorðing, from fēorða, a fourth, was a unit of currency of one quarter of a penny, equivalent to of a pound sterling, or of a shilling. It was minted in copper and later in bronze, and replaced the earlier English farthings. The coin was in use during the reigns of eleven monarchs: George I, George II, George III, George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II, and in Britain and Northern Ireland ceased to be legal tender on 1 January 1961. However, in the Falkland Islands, the Falkland Islands Dependencies, and the British Antarctic Territory, the farthing remained legal tender until 31 October 1971. The coin featured two main designs on its reverse during its 250 years in circulation: from the 18th century until 1936, the figure 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 (the plural of penny) in one pound sterling. There were four farthings in a penny, twelve pence in a shilling, and twenty shillings in a pound; so 960 farthings in a pound. The purchasing power of a farthing from 1860 to its demise at the beginning of 1961 ranged between 12p to 2p in 2017 values.


A British copper farthing succeeded the English farthing after England and Scotland were combined into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, although not immediately. Under Queen Anne, a small number of pattern farthings were struck, but none for circulation, as so many English farthings from previous reigns were still available. Some British copper farthings were struck in the reigns of George I and George II. By the accession of George III, in 1760, many counterfeits were in circulation, and the Royal Mint stopped minting copper coins in 1775. The next farthings were the first struck by steam power, in 1799 by Matthew Boulton at his Soho Mint, under licence. Boulton coined more in 1806, and the Royal Mint resumed production in 1821. The farthing was struck regularly under George IV and William IV, by then with a design very like a smaller version of the penny. Values less than a pound were usually written in terms of shillings and pence, e.g., three shillings and six pence (3/6), 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: (d), pronounced "twopence r tuppencefarthing", or (1/), pronounced "one and threepence r thruppencefarthing" or (19/), pronounced "nineteen and eleven three farthing(s)". 19/ was a value used to make goods seem "significantly" cheaper than £1, usage similar to the modern £19.99, which is also the approximate value in 2021 of 19/ in 1961, the year when the farthing was withdrawn from circulation. The first bronze farthings were struck in 1860, in the reign of Queen Victoria, with a new reverse designed by Leonard Charles Wyon. This shows a seated Britannia, holding a trident, with the word above. Between 1860 and 1895 there is a lighthouse to Britannia's left and a ship to her right. Various minor adjustments were made over the years to the level of the sea around Britannia and the angle of her trident. Some issues feature toothed edges to the coin, while others feature beading. After 1860, seven different obverses were used. Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II each had a single obverse for the farthings produced during their respective reigns. Over the long reign of Queen Victoria, two different obverses were used. The farthing of 1860 carried the so-called "bun head", or "draped bust" of Queen Victoria on the obverse. The inscription around the bust read (abbreviated Latin: Victoria by the grace of God queen of Britain defender of the faith). This was replaced in 1895 by the "old head", or "veiled bust". The inscription on these coins read (Victoria by the grace of God queen of Britain defender of the faith empress of India). Farthings issued during the reign of Edward VII feature his likeness and bear the inscription (Edward VII by the grace of God king of all Britons defender of the faith emperor of India). Similarly, those issued during the reign of George V feature his likeness and bear the inscription (George V by the grace of God king of all Britons defender of the faith emperor of India). A farthing of King Edward VIII (reigned 1936) does exist, dated 1937, but technically it is a pattern coin, one produced for official approval, which it was due to receive at about the time that the King abdicated, and in the event no farthings bearing his likeness were ever issued. The pattern has a left-facing portrait of the king, who considered this to be his best side, and consequently broke the tradition of alternating the direction in which the monarch faces on coins — some viewed this as indicating bad luck for the reign; the inscription on the obverse is (Edward VIII by the grace of God king of all Britons defender of the faith emperor of India). One feature of the pattern farthing of Edward VIII was a redesigned reverse displaying the wren, one of Britain's smallest birds. From 1937 this appeared on the regular-issue farthings of George VI and was continued in the 1950s on the farthings of Elizabeth II. George VI coins feature the inscription (George VI by the grace of God king of all Britons defender of the faith emperor of India) before 1949, and (George VI by the grace of God king of all Britons defender of the faith) thereafter. Unlike the penny, farthings were minted throughout the early reign of Elizabeth II, bearing the inscription (Elizabeth II by the grace of God queen of all Britons defender of the faith) in 1953, and (Elizabeth II by the grace of God queen defender of the faith) thereafter.

Obverse designs

File:GREAT BRITAIN, GEORGE II, 1746 -FARTHING b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg|George II File:GREAT BRITAIN, GEORGE III -FARTHING 1807 b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg|George III File:GREAT BRITAIN, GEORGE IV 1822 -FARTHING b - Flickr - woody1778a.jpg|George IV File:Obverse of farthing Великобритания, 1831 - фартинг, Вильгельм IV 2.jpg|William IV File:Victoria farthing.jpg|Victoria (young) File:Victorianewfarthingobv.jpg|Victoria (old) File:EdwardvIIfarthingobv.jpg|Edward VII File:1919farthingobv.jpg|George V File:1944farthingobv.jpg|George VI File:Britfarthing1954obv.jpg|Elizabeth II


See also

* Pound sterling * Mill (currency)


External links

British Coins
– information about British coins (from 1656 to 1952)
Collection of copper & bronze pennies of Great BritainAbout Farthings
A photographic collection of farthings
My Farthing Collection
A private collection of farthings dating from 1799–1956 {{DEFAULTSORT:Farthing Category:Coins of Great Britain Category:Pre-decimalisation coins of the United Kingdom Category:Coins of the United Kingdom