The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 24, Number 12, March 21, 2021, Article 12


Martin Purdy writes:

"I remember discussing this subject with Jørgen Sømod around 20 years ago, and agree with his conclusion - they're almost certainly later examples of the kind of "evasion" coin that proliferated in Britain from the 1750s to the 1790s, though it seems no-one will ever know for sure. The question comes up every few years and I don't think anyone's improved on this explanation. The misspelling "Columbia" and the British style of manufacture pretty much rule out any connection with South America."

"It can now be concluded, that Columbia Farthings alone were manufactured in Britain and sent into circulation in England. The former dating, round 1830, is undoubtedly correct. The question is now: Why were they made? As an answer should be mentioned, that for years it was in Britain a tradition, that the major part of minor currency was private tokens of which many were without a name or issuer, why these token issuers just by issuing made their profit. An Act of Parliament declared them illegal in 1817, except for tokens of the Birmingham Workhouse and Sheffield Overseers of the Poor which were current until 1820 and 1823 respectively. The token issuers got then their business destroyed. By using the word COLUMBIA, it may be assumed the issuers tried to let people believe that their illegal tokens instead were money from an area in North- or Southamerica. Because many areas had the name Columbia, it would be difficult or rather impossible to discover the swindle"

Bob Leonard writes:

"While Sømod was correct that Neumann is the first European publication, in 1863, actually Neumann was preceded three years earlier by Montroville Dickeson in 1859.

Montroville Dickeson on Columbia farthings "Dickeson listed a Columbia farthing among U.S. Colonial coins, but only to refute that attribution. He supported the circa 1830 date, but repeated the error of attributing Columbia farthings to the nation of Colombia.

"These pieces are about the same diameter as an English farthing, but much thinner, giving a good profit to anyone successfully passing them off as farthings. In my opinion they fall into the same category as Frankfurt Jew Pfennigs, circa 1800-1823, and the Leiden MAXIMUS/NON PLUS ULTRA tokens of 1827. These are all similar farthing-size coppers on thin planchets, with meaningless inscriptions, intended to pass as genuine coins. They are a 19th-century version of farthing-size evasion coppers.

"I have a modest collection of Columbia farthing varieties, many purchased in England where I believe they were chiefly used."

Herman Blanton writes:

"The Columbia Farthing is interesting due to the mystery about them. I used to collect them but have since sold the collection. My interest is explained in the introduction to the article "‘COLUMBIA’ Farthings and Associated Pieces" by Paul Withers in Numismatic International Bulletin Sept/Oct 2013 available on the Newman Numismatic Portal."

"At one time I collected the so-called Columbia Farthings and tried my best to figure them out. In my research of these enigmatic pieces I discovered that nobody else really knew what they were either. This year I pulled out my Columbia Farthings and set my mind to bringing closure [the end of my research] to this long unsettled arena within my collections even if it meant not learning of their origin.

"I reviewed my notes which include references to The Columbia Farthing by Melvin Fuld (The Numismatist, May 1969 in the section The Token Collector’s Page). Earlier articles in The Numismatist; The Columbia Farthings by John F. Jones, August 1937 and Comments in the Mysterious Columbia Farthing-Size Token, February 1948. I also found my correspondence with Granvyl Hulse (NI librarian at the time [1986]) concerning his article The Columbia ‘Farthing’ in the December 1985 edition of the NI bulletin.

"By using the internet I renewed my quest for information and it lead me to Paul Withers in England. Paul & Bente Withers provide a history of these tokens in their forthcoming book The Token Book 2 Unofficial Farthings and small Advertising Tokens, 1820-1901. With their kind permission we offer the Columbia Farthing section within these pages."

To read the Withers article in the NI Bulletin, see:
Numismatics International Bulletin (

The Token Book 2 Columbia Farthings NIB2013SepOctVol48Nos09to10_0006

Thanks, everyone. Looks like the Withers book is the go-to authority at this point. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:

Heritage E-Sylum ad 2021-03-21

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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