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Brit Tip #12

Make certain Britannia gives you the finger(s).

Pennies and halfpennies dated 1895-1926 were notorious for “ghosting” problems, especially coins featuring the head of George V. Ghosting occurred because the relief of the obverse was so high and thus the metal could not fill the dies during striking. The most common ghosting pattern was a full head on the obverse and a hollowed out Britannia on the reverse. As a result, in extreme cases, Britannia had, ahem, a reduction in size where it mattered.  See Figure 1.

The fastest way to check for wear on pennies, halfpennies and, to a lesser degree, farthings, is to ignore the middle of the reverse and concentrate on the fingers gripping the trident. This is typically the highest point on the reverse and is easier to spot than missing hair on Edward VII or George V.

Figure 1.  Trident fingers are the first place to look for wear.

Posted on CU 9/3/2003