Obverse and reverse of a copper alloy coin
Obverse and reverse of a Harrington farthing

On May 19th 1613, King James I of England granted a royal patent to Lord John Harrington to produce small copper alloy farthing tokens. Five different types were created with unique marks, in the hope that counterfeiters wouldn’t spot the mark and reproduce cheaper versions of the coin.

The coins are very small, between 12-15mm in diameter, which makes it even more miraculous that 22 made their way to Jamestown. The obverse side of each type depicts a crown and two crossed scepters. The reverse has a crowned harp. These specific types were only produced for one year between May 1613 and June 1614. This means that when they are found on an archaeological site in an undisturbed context, they are an excellent way to help archaeologists “tell time”, or date the layer of soil that the farthing was found in!

When Lord Harrington died, the patent passed to Ludovic Stewart, Duke of Lennox. Stewart produced his own farthings called Lennox farthings.