Edwardian and Henrician farthings

Contemporary records show that over four million farthings were produced during the reign of King Edward I, (1272–1307), but comparatively few have survived to our time. By far the most prolific mint was London, identified on the reverse of the coin by LONDONIENSIS or CIVITAS LONDON or very rarely LONDRIENSIS, but they were also produced at Berwick (VILLA BEREVVICI), Bristol (VILLA BRISTOLLIE), Lincoln (CIVITAS LINCOL), Newcastle (NOVICASTRI), and York (CIVITAS EBORACI), but most of the provincial mints' output is rare today. The weight and fineness of Edwards' farthings varies - the first three issues from the London mint weigh 6.85 grains / 0.44 grams, while the later issues weigh 5.5 grains / 0.36 grams, but the value of the coins remained the same as the heavier coins had a lower fineness or silver content than the lighter coins; it is thought that the coins were made larger in order to make them easier to strike and handle, but coins of low fineness have never been popular in England and the population preferred the inconvenience of a smaller coin with higher silver content. Edward's farthings were of the long cross type reverse, and the usual legend on the obverse was EDWARDUS REX (King Edward), or occasionally E R ANGLIE (Edward King of England), and once ER ANGL DN (Edward King of England Lord (of Ireland)).

Only two mints, London and Berwick, produced farthings in the reign of King Edward II (1307–1327), and their output is classed as "rare" and "very rare" respectively. They are very similar to the coins of his father, and in fact the combination of their rarity and poor condition means that there has not been much research done into the farthings of this reign, although it does seem that for much of the reign farthings of Edward I continued to be produced occasionally.

Edward III's farthings (1327–1377), though fairly similar to his predecessors, are fairly easy to distinguish as the more common inscription on the obverse was EDWARDUS REX A (Edward King of England). Three mints produced farthings in this reign: London is most prolific, Berwick is rare, and only three examples are known of the output of the Reading mint (VILLA RADINGY). Edward III's farthings remain fairly rare. Although the normal fineness of silver used at this time was .925 (i.e. sterling silver), for the second coinage of 1335–1343 the London mint produced larger farthings of .833 silver.

King Richard II's farthings (1377–1399) are rare in any condition. They were all struck at the London mint and bear the inscription RICARD REX ANGL (Richard King of England).

Henry IV issued farthings in both the "heavy" (pre 1412) and "light" (1412–13) coinages (20% lighter), although allowing for the prevalence of clipping it is quite difficult to distinguish between the two coinages at the size of the farthing. Both issues are rare and carry the obverse inscription HENRIC REX ANGL and the reverse inscription CIVITAS LONDON, although on the light coinage it appears as CIVITAS LOIDOI.

Henry V's single issue of farthings (1413–1422) is distinguishable from those of his father because his effigy shows his neck, but is more difficult to distinguish from those of Henry VI's first reign (1422–1461). Farthings of Henry V and Henry VI were produced in London and Calais (VILLA CALIS), though Henry V Calais farthings are extremely rare.

The first reign of King Edward IV (1461–1470) featured both a heavy coinage (before 1464), with the obverse inscription EDWARD REX ANGLI, and a light coinage inscribed EDWARD DI GRA REX, but they are all extremely rare and weight cannot be used to distinguish between the two issues because of wear, clipping, etc.

No farthings were produced during the second reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, or during the brief reign of Edward V.

One exceedingly rare type of farthing was minted during the reign of Richard III (1483–1485). The obverse legend around the king's bust is RICAR DI GRA REX.

Only one very rare type of farthing was issued during the reign of King Henry VII (1485–1509), struck at the London mint. It has the unique inscription HENRIC DI GRA REX around the king's bust to distinguish it from the coins of the earlier Henries.

King Henry VIII (1509–1547) issued farthings struck at the London mint, in all three of his coinages, although they are all extremely rare. The obverse of the first coinage (1509–1526) has the inscription HENRIC DI GRA REX around a portcullis; while the second coinage (1526–1544) has the legend RUTILANS ROSA — A dazzling rose — around the portcullis, and the reverse has the legend DEO GRACIAS around a long cross. Farthings of the second coinage were also struck at Canterbury (distinguished by a Catherine Wheel mintmark). The third coinage (1544–1547) was produced in base silver and has the legend h D G RUTIL ROSA around a rose, and the reverse legend DEO GRACIAS around a long cross with one pellet in each quarter.

A base silver farthing was issued by King Edward VI (1547–1553) with the inscription E D G ROSA SINE SPI around the portcullis on the obverse. This coin is also extremely rare.

No farthings were produced in the reigns of Queen Mary, Philip and Mary, or Queen Elizabeth I, mainly due to the fact that the silver farthing had simply become too small to be struck, following successive reductions in the weight of silver in the coin, and far too easy to lose.