What shocked me was the sheer size of them - not just the diameter, an inch or so for the ha'penny and one and a half inches for the penny, but the thickness and the WEIGHT. Now I recall having heard that a penny used on scales to be used in lieu of an ounce weight if the ounce was lost and had raised an eyebrow over this. Not any more.
This penny ha'penny would represent about an hour's labour in 1797. Modern minimum wage is £6-08 an hour. What would this have bought from my butcher then?
That would be just over two and a half ounces of mutton or veal;
or almost 3 ounces of beef
or just over 1 and a half ounces of bacon
or two ounces of sausages
Brings it home rather, how comparatively expensive meat was in those days; as £6 will buy meat not in ounces but in pounds.
I've put a modern penny beside them to give scale, which is about the same size as an American cent.
|Side shot of 1797 penny showing thickness, with modern penny and 1797 half penny in foreground|
|obverse, 1797 penny and half penny with modern penny for comparison|
|reverse, 1797 penny and half penny with modern penny for comparison|
I've been passed a couple of pics, one of each side of a 1797 tuppeny [2d] piece dug up in a field which are less worn than the above so here they are: