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Copper Coin Production During The Hanoverians: George I, II and III.


This is an extract from the article A Brief History of British Regal Copper Production during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries which forms a part of the project The Coins of Colonial and Early America, by the University of Notre Dame. The full article is published on their website, link here.

In 1717 a royal warrant proclaimed a new halfpenny would be issued by the royal mint. Halfpence and farthings were produced that were somewhat smaller in diameter but thicker than earlier issues. This allowed for an even deeper strike producing a finer relief than had been found on earlier issues. The authorized weight of the coins remained 42 to the pound or 166.6 grains per halfpenny. This series is known as the "dump" issue and was minted 1717-1718. 

George I halfpenny, first issue. Being thicker and smaller than previous halfpennies they became known as the 'dump issue'

According to Craig, during this period copper prices rose as high as 18d per pound, decreased minting profits to 11% of the total cost. (previously mint profits had fluctuated from 25% to 18% for coppers and 75% to 66% for tin coins). Faced with higher costs the weight of the coin was slightly reduced in 1719 to 46 to the pound or 152.2 grains per halfpenny. These higher yield coppers were returned to their traditional larger size and were made thinner that the "dump issue." The 152.2 grain halfpenny remained the standard authorized weight for regal halfpence through the end of the Revolutionary War period. The larger but thinner halfpence and farthings were produced 1719-1724. As on all his other coins George used a bust right portrait.

During the thirty three year reign of George II (1727-1760) a large number of coppers were produced. At this time the cost of prepared coppers sheets dropped to 15.75d per pound, increasing minting profits to 13%. However, several illegal counterfeit coining operations opened at this time, producing a large quantity of underweight coppers, to be discussed in the counterfeit section. George produced halfpence during 1729-1740 and 1742-1754 while farthings were made in 1730-1737, 1739, 1741, 1744, 1746, 1749, 1750 and 1754. All of his coin has the bust left portrait.

George II proof halfpenny 1729, first year of issue. Available for purchase in our shop.

Due to higher copper prices and the significant number of counterfeit coppers in circulation no regal coppers were produced during the first twenty years of the reign of George III (1760-1820). Regal copper halfpence were produced by the crown during 1770-1775 and farthings were minted during 1771-1775. Throughout this period many counterfeit and evasion pieces were produced, including several using the portrait of George II and dates from his earlier reign. During this period the number of counterfeit halfpence greatly outnumbered the regal issues.

Copper coinage from the later period of George III did not circulate in America. But is mentioned here to complete his reign. In 1787 because of a lack of copper coinage Thomas Williams and the Anglesey Copper Minting Company in Wales produced private pennies and halfpence with a portrait of a hooded druid on the obverse. This started a new era in private token production. Pennies, halfpence and farthings were produced in large quantities until 1797 when the tokens were suppressed (The series is often called the Conder series after James Conder who wrote the first guide to these tokens back in 1798). In 1797 George III contracted Matthew Boulton of the Soho mint in Birmingham to produce large two pence and penny coins known as "cartwheels," because of their wide extruding rim. Boulton designed these coins so they would be difficult to counterfeit. 

George III cartwheel penny, struck in Birmingham. The size and high relief on this coin made it hard to counterfeit. This coin can be purchased in the store.

In 1799 the London mint produced a third issue of smaller sized halfpence and farthings and a final issue in 1806-1807. As there was again a shortage of coppers during the Napoleonic Wars a new series of private tokens emerged in 1811 which continued until the final issue of George III coinage in 1816-1820 (which however did not include any copper coins but did include the silver maundy penny). Copper production was resumed by George IV in 1821 with a farthing issue.


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