The farthing was worth a quarter of a penny and was first introduced in the thirteenth century. Before the introduction of the farthing it had been usual practice to cut a penny into half (halfing) or into four (fourthing) if smaller change was required. It is believed that the name ‘farthing’ is derived from the word fourthing.
Farthings were made out of silver until the end of Edward VI’s reign in 1553. No farthings were produced during the reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I due to the high cost of production.
The first copper farthings were produced during the reign of James I. Elsewhere in Europe it had long been the practice for small value coins to be made from copper but the English had maintained that coinage should have its true metal value. James I, also James VI of Scotland insisted that copper farthings should be produced rather than silver.
In 1672 a copper farthing was produced that depicted Britannia on the reverse. Farthings continued to depict Britannia on the reverse until 1936.
In 1860 the farthing was reduced in size from 22mm diameter to 20mm diameter. It was now made out of bronze, a harder wearing metal and was 2 grams lighter in weight .
In 1937 the wren replaced Britannia on the reverse of the farthing.
The last farthing was produced in 1956 and it ceased to be legal tender on 31st December 1960.