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How much is a halfpenny worth?
With a history spanning over 800 years, there are many rare and collectible halfpenny coins. Even some of the most recent United Kingdom decimal coins are sought-after by numismatics or coin collectors, and can now sell for around £100. More historical halfpenny coins have sold for well over £300. Despite being a relatively commonly circulating coin, older or unique halfpennies can still be very valuable. Working out how much a halfpenny is worth can be tricky, but the following guide should help you to get an idea of what makes a half penny valuable.
Introduced in 1971, the British decimal halfpenny was the smallest ever UK coin. As a result, it was never popular and was withdrawn in 1984.
Collectible halfpenny coins
Pennies have been part of history in Great Britain since Anglo-Saxon times. It is thought the first halfpenny coins were minted for Henry I, who reigned from 1100 – 1135. These are extremely rare and could possibly have been only test coins, which may not have entered circulation.
It is certain, however, that halfpennies were in circulation during the reign of Edward I, 1272–1307. Before this time, it was common to literally cut penny coins in half to use as halfpennies.
Early silver halfpennies
The history of halfpence coins obviously reflects that of the English penny. The first of which were introduced by around 785 by the Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia. The name penny was derived from the German ‘pfennig’ and old English ‘pennige’.
The old pre-decimal, penny, was two-hundred-and-fortieth of a pound, is symbolised with a letter 'd'. This is derived from the Roman denarius coin. An old halfpenny, 1/2d, was therefore, 1/480th of a pound sterling. After 1971, the decimal halfpenny was two-hundredth of a pound, it is symbolised with 'p', as '1/2p'.
Early pennies were pure silver, exchangeable for and worth their weight in the precious metal. The halfpence coins were, likewise, half the weight and also equal in value to their weight in the precious metal content.
Silver pennies and halfpence coins continued to be minted until 1660, when they ceased to be issued for general circulation. Some silver pennies and half pennies were, though, issued from 1707 – 1797 as Maundy Money.
At the end of the 18th century a shortage of small value coins, such as silver pennies and halfpennies, made trade difficult. This shortage was so great that some merchants and mining companies began to produce their own copper penny and half-pence ‘token’ coins.
Various halfpenny coins were minted in unsuccessful attempts to resolve this shortage. These included the minting of some tin halfpenny coins. The tin coins also had the advantage of supporting the flagging Cornish tin mines. However, they corroded too easily and were soon withdrawn.
A 1694 halfpenny, from the reign of William and Mary, is the first minted from copper.
In 1694 the tin coins were replaced by the first copper halfpenny coins. These featured the conjoined images of William and Mary on the obverse, and an image of Britannia seated on the reverse.
The shortage of small coins was finally resolved in 1797. In this year, industrialist, Matthew Bolton was authorised by The Bank of England to strike the first legal tender copper one penny and two penny coins.
Further authorisation was granted to Bolton in 1799. This enabled him, in 1806 and 1807, to mint one penny and two penny coins with a changed design plus new halfpence coins.
An 1807 halfpenny struck by the Soho Mint, Birmingham.
The new design penny coins weighed just under 19g, 10g lighter than the cartwheels, but were only 2mm smaller. The halfpenny coins were 30mm diameter and weighed 13.23g.
In 1811 Bolton supplied the Royal Mint with machinery for a new mint at Tower Hill. Under the Great Recoinage of 1816 this began striking gold and silver coins. It was not until 1825, in the reign of George IV, that it began to mint copper halfpence coins and pennies.
Bronze Halfpence coins
In the early 1860s there was a large variety of weights and sizes of penny and halfpenny coins in circulation, including the 1797 cartwheel. This was both confusing and difficult when weighing quantities.
Consequently, the Royal mint began to withdraw copper pennies in 1861. They were replaced by smaller and lighter weight bronze coins in 1863. These were minted by James Watt & Co plus the Heaton Mint, both of Birmingham.
Bronze pennies weighed just under 10g and measuring slightly under 31mm. The Halfpenny coins weighed 5.67g and measured 25.48mm. Until 1937 the halfpenny design followed that of the penny. After this date, on the reverse of half penny coins, Britannia was replaced with an image of Sir Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind.
In 1937 the reverse design changed from Britannia to be replaced by Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind.
Pennies and halfpence coins continued to be minted for general circulation until 1967. Final proof sets were minted in 1970 before decimalisation in 1971 marked the end of the old penny.
The decimal halfpenny measured just 17.14mm, weighed only 1.78g and was only ever minted in bronze. It was the smallest ever UK coin. As a result, it was never very popular and was withdrawn in 1984.
How much are old halfpence coins worth now?
At BullionByPost we have a growing range of halfpenny coins available for sale. Prices at the time of writing start from as low as £70 for a Richard II silver halfpenny. Our highest value half penny currently is the first issue William and Mary Copper half penny mentioned above, which has a price of £240 at the time of writing.