Edward III Farthings

Discussion

Second Coinage Farthings

The attribution of all the star-marked coins to the second coinage of Edward III was made by P Woodhead in his 1989 paper, The Early Coinages of Edward III (1327-43), published in SCBI 39. Prior to this, they had been split between Edward's first and second coinages. The Woodhead classification of the farthings is based on the crown, which occurs as two types, low (Class 1) and tall (Class 2). The Withers classification adds an intermediate type with a similar low crown, but with a different face, which is described as crude with hollowed eye sockets and pellet eyes. The obverse legend variants listed by Withers suggest that the abbreviation of Angliæ tends to get progressively longer: A or AN for Type 1, AN or ANG for Type 2, ANG for Type 3. However, a coin with a low crown and bearing the ANG signature, but apparently with the Type 1 face, is illustrated here as 1L3 in the image gallery. At least three different forms of star, in various orientations, are used on the farthings: (i) neat with six angular rays, (ii) neat with six slender linear rays, and (iii) blobs with multiple short irregular rays. The neater forms of the star tend to be associated with the earlier coins, and the more irregular forms with the later ones. At the time of writing, all known farthings of the second coinage were struck at London. It should be noted, however, that the abbatial mint at Reading had received a renewal of its right to strike pennies, halfpennies and farthings in 1338, and that rare star-marked halfpennies of this mint are known. It seems likely that farthings were also struck, and examples of this denomination might also be discovered in the future.

Third Coinage Farthings

There is little to say about London farthings of the third coinage except that, although over one million were struck, J Shirley-Fox, writing in 1928, knew of only three or four specimens. Fortunately, since the 1970s, metal detectorists have recovered many further examples, all of which are of the same basic type with just a few minor varieties. 

 

Shirley-Fox was unaware of any farthings of the Reading mint, and they remain extremely rare, but interestingly two distinct types, published in 1985 and 1995 respectively, are now known. It would appear that the latter type, published by J J North in BNJ 65, was represented by this coin alone until 2013, when another specimen was recorded on the UKDFD and is illustrated in this article as 5R1. Interestingly, the two coins were struck from the same pair of dies, but the reverse of the BNJ coin is off-centre, and the end of the legend is almost completely off the flan. It was tentatively read as VIL/LAR/ADI/NGY, but the better centred striking of the UKDFD coin suggests that it is actually VIL/LAR/ADI/NG. The UKDFD coin also confirmed the presence of a scallop-shell in the VIL quarter, unclear on the BNJ coin, and established that the N of AN on the obverse is of 'Lombardic' style, whereas that within the mint signature on the reverse is of reversed Roman form. Neither letter is clear on the BNJ coin.

Fourth Coinage Farthings

The farthings of Edward III's fourth coinage are all rare, and when Lawrence's monograph was published in the Numismatic Chronicle (1926-33), he was able to describe and illustrate just one Pre-Treaty specimen. He assigned this coin to Series E on the basis of its broken-topped letter 'E', which is associated with this issue. He also noted that the attribution is consistent with the fact that halfpennies and farthings of this coinage were only authorised to be struck by an indenture of 1355, a year into the striking of Series E coins. Around thirty years later, writing in the same journal, Potter noted that 'A solitary farthing is known [Pl. XIII.52]...', his illustration confirming that both authors were referring to the same coin. By 1966, it would seem that at least one further example had come to light, as Harris and Woodhead, writing in the April issue of Seaby's Coin and Medal Bulletin, list the type as having Roman N's in LONDON, whereas both instances of this letter are unclear on the Lawrence/Potter specimen. In the 1991 edition of English Hammered Coinage, North was able to add a Series G farthing (No. 1221/2) to the Pre-Treaty series, and a probable Transitional Treaty/Pre-Treaty mule (No. 1230/2). Metal-detecting finds progressively added to the number of known coins and in 2001 Stewartby and Woodhead published and illustrated four varieties in the Numismatic Circular, which they attributed to Series E, E/G, G/E and G respectively. The attributions are based on the obverse legend, the form of the letter N, and the presence or absence of an annulet in one quarter of the reverse. The Withers classification (2002) assigns the Stewartby/Woodhead G/E and G varieties to the Transitional Treaty period, listing a total of seven Pre-Treaty varieties under Type 6 and two Transitional Treaty varieties under Type 7. The Pre-Treaty coin illustrated as 6L2 in the present article is unusual in that the first letter N in LONDON appears to be of unbarred Roman form, whereas the second is Lombardic.

Farthings of the Treaty Period are struck from more skillfully made dies than their predecessors, and are sub-divided into two main types based on the form of the crown. The first type is distinctive in having a headband consisting of two conjoined arcs, and the second type in having intermediate ornaments between the side-fleurs and the central fleur. The majority of coins also have the so-called 'Treaty X' in REX. This is intended to be a cross potent, but can look more like a cross pattée on the farthings, due to the letter's very small size. A minority of farthings (e.g. the coin illustrated as 9L2) lack this feature and have a plain X. Lawrence listed and described five farthings of this period.

Farthings of the Post-Treaty period are also of good style and execution, and are readily identifiable by the long form of their obverse legend, where Angliæ is abbreviated as ANGL Their chronological position as the last type of Edward's reign is established by their similarity of style to the farthings struck under his successor, Richard II. Lawrence noted a 'few rare specimens' and described two of them.

Berwick Farthings

Under the classification devised by C E Blunt (Numismatic Chronicle, 1931), all Berwick coins of Edward III are assigned to Class 8, which is divided into sub-classes 8a and 8b. The coins of these sub-classes are distinguished by having a bear's head in one quarter (8a) or two quarters (8b) of the reverse cross, instead of the usual three pellets. Farthings are known only of 8b, and their rarity at the time was such that the paper's author knew of only three specimens. It is now believed that Class 8b precedes Class 8a and that their dates of issue are circa 1333-1342 and circa 1344 respectively.

The situation had clearly changed very significantly by 2006, when P and B R Withers produced their new classification of all the Berwick coins. Under Edward III's farthings alone, they identify four main types, seven sub-types and multiple legend variants, all of which would previously have been labelled 8b.

Notwithstanding the many legend variants listed by Withers, a Type 8 coin recorded in 2011 (8B1) has previously unlisted legends on both obverse and reverse. The obverse legend has the shorter form of the king's name, EDWARD, rather than the full Latin form (EDWARDVS, or variants thereof). The use of this shorter form provided the die-cutter with more space for the king's titles and associated contractive marks, and the full reading is +EDWARD':D':G'.R'A' The apostrophe-like contractive marks after the king's name and after the four single letters establish that the intended reading is EDWARD[VS] D[EI] G[RATIA] R[EX] A[NGLIÆ] rather than EDWARD[VS] D[EI] GRA[TIA] The reverse legend of the same coin uniquely begins with an initial cross and a colon stop thus +:VI/LLA/BER/VICI (Normal punctuation omitted here for clarity.)

Concordance

Table 1 - Regular Coinages

table-concordance-1.jpg

Table 2 - Berwick Coinage

table-concordance-2.jpg

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