Silver farthing of Henry III, Short Cross coinage, made by the moneyer Terri

London, England, about AD 1222

The first farthing

This coin is one of the first issue of round farthings - the quarter of a penny coin - in England. It was produced at a time when the English silver penny was, in contemporary European terms, a relatively large and high-value coin. At this time the backs of coins almost always had a cross design, and medieval English coins have often been classified into type based on the sort of cross used here, as in the case of the Short Cross coinage.

Fractions of the penny were highly desirable for everyday purchases, and these were generally made by simply cutting up pennies into halves and quarters. This was not very satisfactory, as the straight edges of cut coins were particularly vulnerable to clipping for illegal profit. This would have caused the government concern about the overall state of the currency, as growing monetization of the economy increased the proportion of the currency in this fractional form.

On 21 February 1222 the king's council issued a writ to all sheriffs announcing that in future round fractions alone would be permitted in currency. In the event this policy proved a failure, with this coin the only example of this issue as yet know to survive. Over fifty years later, in 1279, the systematic production of halfpennies and farthings was finally established.


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More information


N.J. Mayhew and A. Smith, 'Another round Short Cross halfpenny', British Numismatic Journal, 60 (1990), ??


Diameter: 10.000 mm

Museum number

CM 1991-4-2-1



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