Ever since I first started metal detecting I have always found old Pennies and Ha’pennies. These have mainly been on Parkland or Recreational Areas but I have also found my share on Farmland also. It is fair to say that many of these coins have seen ‘better days’ but there are occasions when the soil conditions have been very kind and the coins have come out the ground in excellent condition.
Post Hammered Ha’pennies and Pennies (excluding Maundy) come in three different metals: Copper, Bronze and Tin. It is the Bronze Coinage that was first introduced in 1860 that I’ll look at in a bit more detail. The composition back then was 95% copper, 4% Tin and 1% Zinc, although it has differed slightly over the life of the coin. The weight of the coins, however, between 1860 and 1967 did not alter a great deal. The Penny averaged 9.45g and the Ha’penny 5.66g with a diameter of 30.81mm and 25.47mm respectively.
When the Copper Coinage was first introduced all the coins were minted in London. However during the years 1860-3 many coins were minted in Birmingham by engineering firms Messrs Ralph Heaton & Sons and Messrs Boulton and Watt. Heaton also assisted the Royal Mint during 1874 to 1882 and for several years during the reign of King George V. You can often distinguish these coins by the letter H next to the date. Another company that helped produce Pennies was Kings Norton Co. Ltd. These offered their skills during the years 1918 and 1919, and have a KN by the date.
These coins can be extremely collectable. In fact there are collectors worldwide who just collect Pennies and Ha’pennies. The most collectable ones are the Victorian period. During this period many different dies were used and it is not uncommon to find a date of a Penny, which could have anything upto six variable Die mixes of the Obverse and Reverse of the coin. Some of the variations are extremely minor. These can be anything from a colon missing or extra leaves in the wreath. There are also coins that have Low Tides and High Tides in relation to Britannia. Just a slight difference in the die type can make a huge difference to a collector. Some of these coins (even in poor condition) can still be extremely collectable.
As with many different type of coin, there is a scale of rarity, as far as Ha’pennies and Pennies are concerned. This was calculated by Freeman and makes an attempt to estimate how rare a particular Bronze coin actually is. An R20 coin is believed to be unique against an R2 coin which may have upto 1 million in existence. It is fairly accurate in its calculations but isn’t exact. However a number of collectors do use it to determine how rare their variety is.
It is fair to say that Metal Detectorist’s don’t go out looking for old Pre-Decimal Pennies and Ha’pennies, infact for many these are the last thing that they would wish to find. However as can be seen from above, a ‘Viccy’ penny, need not always disappoint. Just like any other coinage there are rare dates and varieties, and hopefully more will come to light in years to come.The vast majority will sadly be nothing more than scrap to a serious collector but there are exceptions. Next time you find a Victorian Penny, think before you put it in your scrap bucket.