What is a farthing?

The word farthing is said to be a derivation of the word “fourthing”, meaning “a quarter of.”  In this instance a quarter of a penny.

Farthings, originated from the cutting of a hammered silver penny into quarters (cut coinage), to allow smaller denominations to be created.

It is believed that farthings as a full coin, were introduced into English coinage during the Reign of Henry III in the 13th Century, when they were small “hammered” coins made of silver. This continued through the reigns of various monarchs until 1553 during the reign of Edward VI when the last silver farthings were produced.

It was during the reign of James I that farthings were first produced from base metal, it was widely known that base metal had been used to produce coinage in other countries, but its introduction was received with scepticism in England, due to it being a coin that was not physically worth its face value.

Milled currency farthings were first introduced in 1672 during the reign of Charles II and remained a part of circulating currency until 1956 when the last farthings were produced.