Halfpenny (British pre-decimal coin)

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This article is about the British coin minted between 1672 and 1967. For the decimal halfpenny, see Halfpenny (British decimal coin). For the earlier history of the halfpenny, see History of the halfpenny.
One old halfpenny
United Kingdom
Value  1480 pound sterling
Mass (1860 - 1967) 5.67 g
Diameter (1860 - 1967) 25.48 mm
Edge Plain
Composition (1672 - 1860) Copper
(1860 - 1967) Bronze
Years of minting 1672 - 1967
Obverse
British pre-decimal halfpenny 1967 obverse.png
Design Profile of the monarch (Elizabeth II design shown)
Designer Mary Gillick
Design date 1953
Reverse
British pre-decimal halfpenny 1967 reverse.png
Design Golden Hind (Britannia on earlier mintages)
Designer Thomas Humphrey Paget
Design date 1937

The British pre-decimal halfpenny (½d) coin, usually simply known as a halfpenny (pronounced /ˈhpəni/ HAY-pə-nee), was a unit of currency equalling one four-hundred-and-eightieth of a pound sterling, or half of a penny. It was originally minted in copper, but after 1860 was minted in bronze. It ceased to be legal tender in 1969. It featured two different designs on its obverse during its years in circulation. From 1672 until 1936 the image of Britannia appeared on the reverse, and from 1937 onwards the image of the Golden Hind appeared.[1] Like all British coinage, it bore the portrait of the monarch on the obverse.[2]

“Halfpenny” was colloquially written ha’penny, and “1½d” was spoken as a penny ha’penny /əˈpɛniˈhpni/ or three ha'pence /θrˈhpəns/.[3] Before Decimal Day in 1971 there were two hundred and forty pence in one pound sterling. Twelve pence made a shilling, and twenty shillings made a pound. Values less than a pound were usually written in terms of shillings and pence, e.g. forty-two pence would be three shillings and six pence (3/6), pronounced “three and six”. Values of less than a shilling were simply written in terms of pence, e.g. eight pence would be 8d.

Design[edit]

Original reverse: 1717-1936

The original reverse of the bronze version of the coin, designed by Leonard Charles Wyon, is a seated Britannia, holding a trident, with the words HALF PENNY to either side. Issues before 1895 also feature a lighthouse to Britannia's left and a ship to her right. Various minor adjustments to the level of the sea depicted around Britannia, and the angle of her trident were also made over the years. Some issues feature toothed edges, while others feature beading.

Over the years, various different obverses were used. Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II each had a single obverse for halfpennies produced during their respective reigns. Over the long reign of Queen Victoria two different obverses were used, and the short reign of Edward VIII meant no halfpennies bearing his likeness were ever issued.

During Victoria’s reign, the halfpenny was first issued with the so-called ‘bun head’, or ‘draped bust’ of Queen Victoria on the obverse. The inscription around the bust read VICTORIA D G BRITT REG F D. This was replaced in 1895 by the ‘old head’, or ‘veiled bust’. The inscription on these coins read VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP.

Coins issued during the reign of Edward VII feature his likeness and bear the inscription EDWARDVS VII DEI GRA BRITT OMN REX FID DEF IND IMP. Similarly, those issued during the reign of George V feature his likeness and bear the inscription GEORGIVS V DEI GRA BRITT OMN REX FID DEF IND IMP.

A halfpenny of King Edward VIII (1936) does exist, dated 1937, but technically it is a pattern coin i.e. one produced for official approval which it would probably have been due to receive about the time that the King abdicated. The obverse shows 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 EDWARDVS VIII D G BR OMN REX F D IND IMP.

The pattern coin of Edward VIII and regular issue halfpennies of George VI and Elizabeth II feature a redesigned reverse displaying Sir Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind.

George VI issue coins feature the inscription GEORGIVS VI D G BR OMN REX F D IND IMP before 1949, and GEORGIVS VI D G BR OMN REX FIDEI DEF thereafter. Unlike the penny, halfpennies were minted throughout the early reign of Elizabeth II, bearing the inscription ELIZABETH II DEI GRA BRITT OMN REGINA F D in 1953, and ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA F D thereafter.

Mintages[edit]

See also[edit]

wikt:ha'porth: Northern British English, from British English "half-penny’s worth", often used in the phrase "daft ha’porth".

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Halfpenny and Farthing". Royal Mint Museum. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Michael, Thomas and Cuhaj, George S. Collecting World Coins: Circulating Issues 1901 - Present. Krause Publications, 2001.
  3. ^ "Halfpenny". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. 

External links[edit]