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Brit Tip #16

British Victorian Copper Coins All Look the Same (or do they?)!

There is a problem identifying Victorian (and for that matter just about any pre-Victorian monarch's) copper coinage, as pointed out in another thread I started a short time ago. There is no denomination indicated on copper farthings, halfpennies and pennies. That finally changed in 1860 when the recoinage replaced copper with bronze.

The obvious way to tell these apart is to have them in hand. The coin masses are approximately proportional to their face value. Vital statistics are:
Farthing - 22 mm diameter, 4.7 g.
Halfpenny - 28 mm diameter, 9.3 g.
Penny - 34 mm diameter, 18.8 g.

The real problem is when an internet auction buyer is presented with a picture and can not tell which coin it is. Here is some information to help you make a proper identification.

First, here are some pictures for comparison. I made all of the images the same size since the point here is to identify the coin, not show the size comparison.

Copper Penny

Copper Halfpenny

Copper Farthing

First insure the coin has no denomination, then answer the following questions in order and you will identify the coin:

  1. Does the hair lock below the bun have three curls?
    If yes ==> you have a penny.

  2. Does the lettering on the obverse go almost all the way around the coin, from 7:30 to 4:30?
    If yes, ==> you have a halfpenny.

  3. If you answer no to (1) and (2), you have a farthing.

Unique characteristics
Lettering on obverse from 8:30 to 3:30. Shield on reverse very close to lettering and is most elliptical. Small, thin date numerals. Lock of hair below bun has three curls.

Lock of hair below bun is small, barely two curls. Bun is small. Obverse lettering is very large compared to head and extends 7:30 to 4:30. Lettering is very readable on a small picture.

Head size relative to coin diameter is larger. Date numerals are small but wide. Obverse lettering is small, widely spaced and nearly unreadable in a small picture, extending 8:00 to 4:00. Hair lock below bun has two curls, bun is larger than that on the halfpenny. Neck truncation is extremely close to coin rim. Britannia's helmet is quite large compared to her head.

Posted on CU 4/13/2004