In the olden days (that is, before decimalisation in 1971), a British Pound (L) was worth 20 shiny shillings (s), and each shilling was worth 12 old pence (d). Hence the used of the term Lsd to describe the currency. Anyway, at that time there were 240 pennies to the pound, and the British halfpenny coin took this a step further, and was worth 1/480th of a pound sterling – that’s 480 halfpennies to a Pound. That’s hard to imagine with today’s currency, but that is a large bulk of coin.
The Halfpenny coin (or ha’penny as it became known) was first used in Britain around 700 years ago, and was originally made from silver. Before then, it was common for people to simply cut silver pennies in half (or quarters) through the marks of the Cross stamped on the back of the coins buy lsd.
It was believed that the first purpose-minted coins were from the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307). However, halfpenny coins have recently been discovered in London by people with metal detectors, and these appear to be from the reigns of Kings Henry I (1100-1135) and Henry III (1216-1272), making the coins over 900 years old.
Silver Halfpennies continued to be minted throughout the reigns of virtually all the Kings and Queens of England right up to the reign of King Charles II up to 1660. Then there was a need for low-value coins to help people sell/buy things, but at that time, because of the then relatively high value of silver, people were hoarding the silver halfpennies, and the use of silver half-pennies was phased out and the use of base metals introduced.
Over succeeding years, the coins were made from different materials. Some during the reign of King James II were made of tin, with a square copper plug in the centre. These coins were unpopular, and indeed suffered from corrosion due to the chemical reactions between the copper and tin. Copper halfpennies were re-introduced in 1672, and so many were produced over subsequent years that there was a glut of copper coins, such that none were produced during the reign of Queen Anne (1701-1714).
Right up to 1860, during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), halfpennies were made of copper, but eventually the use of bronze coins was introduced from 1860. The designs and size of coins remained standard right up to the 1967 issue, although the reverse side changed from an image of Britannia to the use of a ship thought to represent Sir Francis Drake’s ‘Golden Hind’ used from George VI’s coins (1936-1952).
The use of the halfpenny was finally abandoned in 1969 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (1952-current) due to the impending decimalisation of the British currency, and in fact the last halfpennies made for general circulation were dated 1967.
So, these simple but necessary coins have had a remarkable history themselves, and their own life matched the growth, development, and subsequent decline of Britain’s influence in the world.
There has never been a better time for you to own one of these final-issue half pennies dated 1967, and like many generations of Britons before you, for you to hold in your hand a piece of British History stretching back almost 1000 years.