Featured The Tin Farthing and Halfpenny

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Bart9349, Sep 26, 2017.

  1. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    After coming across a tin William and Mary halfpenny (1690), I was forced to learn something about the coinage of tin farthings and halfpence.

    Charles II (1660-1685) started minting tin farthings in 1684 for very understandable reasons. First, he wanted to bolster the suffering tin industry. Second, the intrinsic value of tin was lower than copper. This would assure a greater profit for the Crown by replacing the more expensive copper with tin.

    As an anti-counterfeiting measure, a square plug of copper was placed in the center of the coin. This effort to prevent counterfeiting with the copper plug did not increase the coins’ popularity (or aesthetic appeal), however.

    Tin 1684.jpg

    (Charles II tin farthing 1684. Not my coin. Not my picture.)

    His successor James II (1665-1668) ordered tin halfpence with a copper plug in 1685.

    Tin 1687 HP.jpg

    (James II halfpenny from 1687. Not my picture. Not my coin.)

    After supplanting James in 1688, William and Mary (1688-1694) continued the production of both the tin halfpenny and farthing from 1689-1692.

    The production of these tin coins was stopped for several reasons. The use of tin in coinage failed to revive the depressed tin industry. Also, because of tin’s lower intrinsic value than copper, these tin coins were less popular than the copper coinage of similar denominations. Additionally, because tin was cheaper and more readily accessible than copper, counterfeiting quickly became a problem. The working class and the poor were the people most likely to get stuck with these worthless counterfeits because it was this segment of the population that most frequently used lower denominations of coins (farthings and halfpence) in their daily transactions.

    Finally, it soon became obvious that these coins were a numismatic disaster. From the damp and humid weather of London, the tin planchet with its copper plug quickly suffered from corrosion and deterioration. Also, the central copper plug could even be dislodged. These environmentally-unstable tin coins, therefore, would not last as long in circulation as the more dependable and durable copper ones.
    tin 1690  farthing.jpg Tin1690r.jpg

    (Significant corrosion of this 1690 tin farthing with a possible missing copper plug. Not my coin. Not my picture.)

    By 1694, the experimental production of tin coins officially ended and the use of copper had resumed for both the farthing and halfpenny.

    Here is a tin halfpenny from 1690 portraying William and Mary:

    HP1690.jpg HP1690r.jpg

    This fine couple are now my visitors. (The pictures are not mine, however.)


    An excellent site for review of the English / British copper coinage of the 1600s and 1700s. This article was the source of much of the information presented.

    Last edited: Sep 26, 2017
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Never knew these existed, nice writeup and thanks.
  4. Youngcoin

    Youngcoin Everything Collector

    Wow interesting.
  5. Omegaraptor

    Omegaraptor Gobrecht/Longacre Enthusiast

    Wow! Wish I could get one but they seem to be very expensive. Probably because the tin is typically heavily damaged from the environment.
    RayeZorSharp likes this.
  6. quick_change

    quick_change Member

    Hello CT!
    Just going to put this here. I had picked this coin up at a store that I frequent and never really knew what it was. Now that I can see it's a Farthing, anyone know about this year (1673)? I only bought it because it was so old. Good read about the history of the Tin Farthing!

    Attached Files:

  7. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    Charles II
    Year F VF EF
    1672 40 225 775
    1673 45 240 800
    1673ca 125 500
    1674 50 250 850
    1675 45 220 800
    1676 one known
    1679 55 275 950
    1679ns 65 320
    ca: CAROLA
    ns: no rev stop

    I guess your coin is the more common variety of the date.


    The year 1673 was a very turbulent time in England, indeed.

    Early in the year, the Test Act was passed. This essentially prohibited non-Anglicans (especially Catholics) from holding public office.

    James II, Duke of York (the King's brother) was soon forced to resign the office of Lord High Admiral because his Catholicism was prohibited by the Test Act.

    Late in 1673 James II marries Mary of Modena, a devout Catholic. It was their child and potential Catholic heir James III who inspired the Anglican Mary (James II's oldest daughter) and her Dutch husband William of Orange to usurp the throne from the Catholic James II in 1688.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
    quick_change likes this.
  8. PaddyB

    PaddyB Eccentric enthusiast

    Before anyone gets too excited, these two are more typical of the tin farthings you will come across:
    2 Tin farthings 1.jpg 2 Tin farthings 2.jpg
    1690 William & Mary tin Farthing on the left, Charles II 1684 tin farthing on the right (date on edge).
    By the way - a few of other thoughts:
    1. The copper plug is also believed to have been to reduce the tendency for these coins to corrode. Workers in tin had discovered centuries ago that Tin in contact with Copper survived much better than Tin on its own - some electrolytic effect similar to Galvanised Iron. Maybe some metallurgist could confirm?
    2. It wasn't the water that did for tin, it was the chemicals in the air and soil. The best examples of Tin coins currently turn up in the mud from the bottom of the Thames in London, which is alternately fresh (ish) or salty.
    3. The real killer for Tin artifacts is cold. Depending on the exact composition of the sample, as the temperature drops it transforms from the Grey Tin (metallic) allotrope to the White Tin (powder) allotrope. This was one of the factors that led to Napoleon's defeat in Russia - his soldiers buttons were made of Tin and fell apart in the cold weather, leaving his men to the elements.
  9. BRandM

    BRandM Counterstamp Collector

    Love your detailed description of the properties of tin, and how it's affected by different environmental conditions, Paddy.

    A friend of mine in the UK is seriously into metal detecting and routinely works the beaches in Holyhead, Wales, and the Mersey around Liverpool. He's showed me some interesting finds over the years. I don't remember any tin coins, but I'm sure he's come across them. I'll have to ask him.

  10. Bart9349

    Bart9349 Junior Member

    Paddy: Thank you for the information about tin. Despite having been a chemistry major at university a long time ago, I haven't thought about chemistry since.

    I had to look up tin pest, the allotropic transformation or structural change of tin, which accelerates the deterioration of tin objects at low temperatures.


    An interesting video about tin pest:

    I will defer to other folks' opinion on the stability of these tin coins, however.

    By the way, something interesting from Wikipedia (the source of a lot of misinformation):

    Here's a video that supports the claim that the cold caused the buttons of Napoleon's troops to crumble, however. (I remain skeptical.)

    Thank you everyone for reading this post and Paddy for your input.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2017
  11. Grace Yard

    Grace Yard New Member

    Thank for your article..

    I think it simple coin , but the stories behind coin is very awesome..
    thank yo for give us new knowledge
    asheland likes this.
  12. asheland

    asheland The Silver Lion

    Interesting thread.
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