Farthing - Encyclopedia




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'FARTHING (A.S.' feOrtha, fourth, +ing, diminutive), the smallest English coin, equal to the fourth of a penny. It became a regular part of the coinage from the reign of Edward I., and was, up to the reign of Mary, a silver coin. No farthing was struck in the reign of Elizabeth, but a silver three-farthing piece was issued in that reign, with a profile bust of the queen crowned, with a rose behind her head, and inscribed "E.D.G. Rosa sine spina." The copper farthing was first introduced in the reign of James I., a patent being given to Lord Harington of Exton in 1613 for the issue of copper tokens of this denomination. It was nominally of six grains', weight, but was usually heavier. Properly, however, the copper farthing dates from the reign of Charles II., in whose reign also was issued a tin farthing, with a small copper plug in the centre, and an inscription on the edge, "Nummorum famulus 1684." No farthings were actually issued in the reign of Queen Anne, though a number of patterns were prepared (see Numismatics: medieval section, England). In 1860 the copper farthing was superseded by one struck in bronze. In 1842 a proclamation was issued giving currency to halffarthings, and there were several issues, but they were demonetized in 1869. In 1897 the practice was adopted of darkening farthings before issue, to prevent their being mistaken for half-sovereigns.

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