A Catalogue of the Copper Coins and Tokens of the British Isles, edited by B. A. Seaby
The copper coinage of Britain really begins with the Celtic (Ancient British coins of the first century B.C. However, the majority of these are extremely rare and seldom appear on the market, and, therefore, we have omitted them entirely from this catalogue.
We begin with the copper coinage of Roman Britain and continue with the seats of the Northumbrian kings of the seventh and eighth centuries. Originally seats were made of silver but in Northumbria they degenerated into base silver and copper coins. They were superseded by the silver penny, and later silver halfpence and farthings were also issued. Apart from one short period in Ireland, copper coins were not issued again for several hundred years.
The small silver denominations were inconvenient to use and uneconomical to manufacture and, as there was a great shortage of small change in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, James I and later Charles I allowed certain of the nobility to mint copper farthings under licence. These farthings were nothing less than a fraud as their intrinsic value was far less than their face value. Their issue was cancelled under the Commonwealth and to take their place private traders and local authorities started producing unofficial token coins of their own, though these were, strictly speaking, quite illegal.
It was not until 1672 that official regal copper coins were issued for general use. They consisted of halfpence and farthings, but not pennies, as these continued to be made in silver. A tin or pewter coinage, with a square copper plug, was experimented with at the end of the seventeenth century but the mint reverted to the use of copper again in 1694.
For various reasons little copper was made by the Royal Mint in the latter half of the eighteenth century, and it was towards the end of this period (1787-97) that a new flood of private tokens appeared. The same thing also happened again at the beginning of the nineteenth century (1811-13) when both copper and silver tokens were issued. The first copper penny was struck by Bouton's mint at Birmingham in 1797 and this year saw the only issue of a copper twopenny piece.
Published in 1949