The New International Encyclopædia/Penny

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PENNY (AS. penig, pennig, peneg, pening, pœning, pending, OHG. phantinc, pfentinc, pfending, phenning, Ger. Pfenning, Pfennig, penny; perhaps connected with OHG. phant, pfant, Ger. Pfand, pawn, pledge, or less plausibly with OHG. pfanna, phanna, panna, Ger. Pfanne, AS. panne, Eng. pan, from ML. panna, from Lat. patina, shallow bowl). A British coin and money of account. After the sceattæ (q.v.) it is the most ancient of the English coins, and was the only one generally current among the Anglo-Saxons. The penny is first mentioned in the laws of Ina, King of the West Saxons, about the close of the seventh century. It was at that time a silver coin, and weighed about 22½ troy grains, being thus about 1/240 of the Saxon pound weight. This relation to the pound weight is evidently derived from the usage of the early Franks, who retained the Roman division of the libra into 20 solidi, and the solidus into 12 denarii (the denarius being thus the 240th part of the libra or pound). (See Mark.) Half-pence and farthings were not coined in England till the time of Edward I., but the practice previously prevailed of so deeply indenting the penny with a cross mark that the coin could be easily broken into two or four parts as required. Silver farthings ceased to be coined under Edward VI., and silver half-pennies under the Commonwealth. By this time the penny had steadily decreased in weight; it was 18 grains under Edward III., 15 and 12 under Edward IV., 8 under Edward VI., and under Elizabeth it was finally fixed at 723/31 grains, or 1/62 of an ounce of silver, a value to which the subsequent copper pennies, which till 1860 were the circulating medium, closely approximated. In 1672 an authorized copper coinage was established, and half-pence and farthings were struck in copper. The penny was not introduced till 1797, and at the same period the coinage of twopenny pieces was begun; but these latter, being found unsuitable, were withdrawn. The penny of the present bronze coinage is of only about half the value of the old copper penny. The German pfennig was also originally a silver coin bearing the same relation to the German pound of silver as the English penny to its pound. And in the twelfth century it was made so broad, in imitation of the Byzantine coins, that it would no longer bear to be struck with a die on each side as before, but was struck on one side only. In the beginning of the fourteenth century the mark of silver was anew divided into 60 parts or coins, which, to distinguish them from the old coins, were called grossi denarii, whence the term groschen. In the modern monetary system of Germany, the pfennig is a nickel coin, the hundredth of the mark, the latter being equal to a shilling or about $0.25.