The accurate identification of early Edwardian farthings requires close examination of individual elements of the design, particularly the obverse type, legends, crowns and letters. There are, however, far fewer types and varieties than is the case with contemporary pennies, as the quantity struck (and hence the number of dies and punches made) was much smaller. The aids that follow may be used individually or collectively to narrow the range of possibilities, and identifications can be confirmed by clicking the link at the bottom of the page to proceed to the classification section and view images of the coins. At the end of this section, there is a table of concordance.
It is appropriate at this point to define some of the numismatic terms used in the article. In the context of the early Edwardian coinage, the obverse of a coin is the side that bears the facing bust of the king. The reverse is the side that carries the long cross with pellets in the angles. A mule is a coin struck with the obverse die of one type, and the reverse die of an earlier or later type. Mules are very useful for determining the order in which the coins were struck. Coins struck with dies that are normally used together are described as true coins. When punches became damaged, they were sometimes recut. This would probably entail annealing the metal, grinding or filing down the striking surface sufficiently to remove the damage, re-engraving the design to restore the lost relief, and re-hardening and tempering. The process sometimes resulted in slight changes to the shape of some elements of the design.
Before using the identification aids, it is necessary to confirm that the coin under consideration falls within the series covered by the present article, rather than belonging to a later period. In 1344 and 1351, Edward III struck new issues of coins, now known as his 3rd (or Florin) and 4th coinages respectively, both of which could potentially be mistaken for coins of the earlier period. The illustrations below show examples of these later farthings along with a farthing of the type covered by the present article. The annotations indicate the means by which they may be differentiated. Unless very worn, coins later than Edward III are unlikely to be confused with those of Edward I/II, as the king's name does not re-occur until Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, by which time the farthing was of reduced weight and size.
The broad classification of early Edwardian farthings is considerably aided by progressive changes that were made to their obverse design and to their obverse and reverse legends. The obverse design initially included a beaded inner circle around the king's head, as on the larger coins. This was removed after the earliest issues, thus providing more space for the head, but was reinstated later in the period. The obverse legend was initially EDWARDVS REX, but this unabbreviated form contained no indication of the king's realm and no reference to his Irish title. It was progressively abbreviated, firstly to include England (E R ANGLIE), and then a reference to the king's lordship of Ireland (E R ANGL DN), but subsequently reverted to various longer forms in which the king's name and title were again rendered in full. The reverse legend of London coins was initially LONDONIENSIS, but was changed to CIVITAS LONDON, the same form used on the larger denomination coins. For the period under consideration, five broad chronological bands, based on these factors alone, can be identified. These five bands are indicated in the tables below by alternate lighter and darker greyscale shading. It is important to note that the dates for the individual types are very approximate. In the first table, the column heading 'Circle' refers to the presence or absence of the beaded inner circle around the king's head. An asterisk (*) preceding, within, or following a legend represents a star in that position on the coin. It should be noted that a few error legends, not included in the table, also occur.
The reverse legend identifies the mint, so in the case of mints that were active only for a limited period, it can be a useful means of reducing the range of possible groups. It should be noted that most coins minted at Berwick were struck from local dies and do not conform to the classes of the main series. Berwick is therefore not included in the tables. Further guidance on the identification of mints can be found in 'The mints' section.
Within each of the five broad chronological bands, classification can be refined by reference to various elements of the design, including the crown, the face and the form of certain letters. In fact, once the applicable broad band has been identified, the crown alone can usually be used to ascertain the coin's specific type within the North classification system. In the block of illustrations below, each different crown type is designated by a separate letter. Crowns designated by a suffixed letter (e.g. B1, B2, etc.) are from the same punch, they differ in appearance only because the punch has sustained damage or wear. Two images of Crown D are included to illustrate its use on coins with and without a beaded inner circle.
Crowns consist of a headband, a central fleur, two side-fleurs and, in some cases, two intermediate ornaments. The side-fleurs may be trifoliate (three-leafed) or bifoliate (two-leafed). When present, the intermediate ornaments are described as arrowheads.
As many farthings are found in a worn condition, it is sometimes useful to be able to corroborate a tentative identification by reference to the letter forms. Some of the letters that are helpful in this respect are illustrated separately below, along with the coin types on which they are found. Reference is also made to them in the detailed descriptions that accompany each coin type.
As noted in the introduction, there have been several revisions to the original Fox classification as a result of later research and new information becoming available. The table below shows the concordance between North's revised version of the Fox classification, as used in the present article, and other systems with which numismatists will be familiar. In the case of the Withers classification, the types that correspond exactly, or at least very closely, are shown in a black typeface, while related varieties are shown in blue. It should be noted that many minor varieties identified by Withers are not included in the table.