Halfpenny (Britannia, first design), Coin Type from United Kingdom - detailed information

Halfpenny (Britannia, first design), Coin Type from United Kingdom (issued 1806 - 1807)
Coin TypeHalfpenny (Britannia, first design)

The British pre-decimal halfpenny coin (abbreviated as ½d), usually simply known as a halfpenny or half penny, was a unit of currency that equalled half of a penny or one four-hundred-and-eightieth of a pound sterling (there were 20 shillings to a pound, and 12 pence to a shilling so one pound was equal to 240 pence, so 480 of these coins made up £1).

The denomination continues the tradition of earlier halfpenny coins of Great Britain, which also featured the figure of Britannia. In 1801 the parliaments of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland each passed an Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Re-coinage followed in 1806 and these coins are part of it; they are known as the "Fourth Issue" copper coinage of King George III, the first three coinages being while the country was still just Great Britain.

Between 1770 and the end of the century the practice of counterfeiting had become so prevalent in England that scarcely any genuine British copper coins remained in circulation. The 1770-1775 issue was melted in huge quantities and made into lightweight counterfeit coins; the only other pieces in circulation were the merchants' tokens issued by private firms for their own convenience.

It was during this period that Matthew Boulton offered a solution to the problem by proposing that (1) each coin should contain its intrinsic value of metal, (2) a retaining collar should be used to maintain a constant diameter and (3) a broad raised rim should be used to save the coin from undue wear. He further proposed that a steam powered coinage press be used to produce a more uniformly finished coin with a greater rate of output. A total of £357,869 worth of halfpennies were coined by Boulton at the Soho Mint in the years 1799, 1806 and 1807. The dies were produced by Conrad Heinrich Küchler, a talented Flemish die cutter. The faces of these coins are slightly concave to protect the design from wear and prevent counterfeiting. The design is identical to that of the one penny and farthing coins minted in the same years; the difference is only in size. Typically for British coinage of the time, the denomination (or, indeed, the country of issue) is not spelled out on the coin.

This format of the denomination was short-lived. After 1807, no halfpenny coins were issued until 1825, when a smaller version was introduced, with a different design and traditional flat surfaces. All these halfpennies were minted in copper, but after 1860 the denomination changed to bronze with an even smaller size; all British copper coinage was demonetised after 31 December 1869.

United Kingdom / Halfpenny (Britannia, first design) - obverse photo

Within a beaded border, the obverse of the coin shows the laureate and draped bust of King George III facing right.

Around, the monarch's legend GEORGIUS III · D : G · REX.. Translated from Latin: George the Third, by the Grace of God, King. Below that, the date [year].

On the neck truncation, a tiny letter K represents the designer's initial (for [Conrad Heinrich] Küchler).

Obverse Inscription GEORGIUS III · D : G · REX. [year]
United Kingdom / Halfpenny (Britannia, first design) - reverse photo

Within a beaded border, the reverse of the coin shows the figure of Britannia - the female personification of Great Britain - seated on a rock, facing left, holding a trident and extending an olive branch; a shield decorated with the British flag rests against the rock at right. In the background to the left, a sailing ship.

Around above, the legend BRITANNIA.

The mint name, SOHO, is in relief on the right end of the rock. At the foot of Britannia's trident, between its shaft and the shield, a tiny letter K represents the designer's initial (for [Conrad Heinrich] Küchler).

Reverse Inscription BRITANNIA
EdgeSecurity groove (grained)Edge InscriptionNone

References to additional information:

[Book] Bressett, Kenneth E. 1962. A Guidebook of English Coins, Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Wisconsin, USA. p22
[Book] Remick, Jerome. 1971. The Guide Book and Catalogue to British Commonwealth Coins., p196

Royal Mint
Royal Mint
Halfpenny (Britannia, first design): Details
CountryUnited Kingdom
CurrencyPound Sterling (pre-decimal)
Sub-type ofHalfpenny (Pre-decimal)
Face Value1/2 (x Penny)
CurrentNo (demonetised 1870)
DesignerConrad Heinrich Küchler
TechnologyMilled (machine-made)
OrientationCoin Alignment (Axis 6)
Size28.700 mm
Mass9.220 g