Great Britain: Fading Farthing

By an act of government, Britons last week spent their last farthing. When it was first minted back in 1279, a farthing could buy a whole chicken or a pound of beef. Its name dates even earlier, to the days when pennies were marked with a cross so that shoppers could divide them into fourths—or farthings. But its buying power has steadily dwindled, and by 1900 the farthing was already a children's coin —good only for a single sourball or a few winkles (non-U shellfish) at the seaside.

Since the war the bronze farthing, which is slightly larger than a...

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