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British Penny part 3

Victoria The penny of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) is one of the most intricate denominations of British coinage, with most of the varieties emerging after the switch from copper to bronze coinage in 1860.

Between 1839 and 1860, the penny was made of 18.8 grams of copper and was 34 millimetres in diameter. From 1860 onwards, bronze (an alloy of 95% copper, 4% tin, and 1% zinc) was used instead -- the bronze penny weighed 9.4 grams and was 31 millimetres in diameter. This article can only mention the gross differences between different varieties of penny, but a very great number of small differences appeared, especially between 1860 and 1883.

Only two major portraits of the Queen were used on the penny in the whole of her reign, the Young Head designed by William Wyon (who died in 1851, and whose eldest son Leonard Charles Wyon (1826-91) designed the bronze coinage of 1860), and the Old Head designed by Thomas Brock which was used on the penny from 1895. Unlike the silver coinage, the Jubilee Head was not used on the bronze coins.

The first obverse showed the Young Head of the Queen, facing left, with the inscription VICTORIA DEI GRATIA with the date beneath the head; this obverse was used (with a slight alteration in 1858) until the end of the copper penny issue in 1860. Copper pennies were issued for all years between 1839 and 1860 except 1840, 1842, 1850, and 1852. The reverse of the coin for the whole of this period was similar to the William IV issue, with a seated right-facing Britannia holding a trident, except that most year the head of the trident was ornamented; the inscription read BRITANNIAR REG FID DEF.

The bronze coinage of 1860 for the first time stated the value of the coin on the reverse. The obverse was mostly unchanged between 1860 and 1894 except for some variations in the border (whether toothed or beaded), and whether or not there was an "L.C. Wyon" between the bust and the rim. The inscription read VICTORIA D G BRITT REG F D. The reverse shows a seated Britannia holding a trident with the words ONE PENNY to either side of her, and the date in the exergue beneath her; until 1895 there was a lighthouse to Britannia's left and a ship to her right; variations in the reverse include different levels of the sea around her feet, and an "H" below the date in some years indicated that the coin was produced at Messrs Ralph Heaton's mint in Birmingham. Pennies were produced in all years between 1860 and 1894.

For all years from 1895 to 1901 the "Old Head" bust was used, with the inscription VICTORIA DEI GRA BRITT REGINA FID DEF IND IMP, while the reverse was similar to before (although the level of the tide seemed to increase as the years went on).


Previous chapter:
The Hanoverians
(1714-1837)
Penny Next chapter:
The Twentieth Century Penny
(1901-1970)

For other denominations, see British coinage.



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