The Passion, Vulgar or Honolulu Penny
I’ve been asked to repeat a post from long ago, but I can’t find it. This is what appeared in a magazine at the time . . .
Some of you may be aware that I maintain a blog at johnwinter.blog, described as the scribblings of a metal detectorist. It has been suggested by a couple of my subscribers that a wee article I posted last year is worthy of a larger audience.
My blog post started with a throwaway comment on an American detecting forum from a guy who said that when he lived in the UK he would ‘get a kick’ when finding a ‘passion penny’. He didn’t go into details, but this was enough to whet my appetite for more information. What I found led me on a quest to find and check all my pre-decimal pennies …
In the40s and 50s, Victorian pennies were still in circulation and I have quite a few in my collection found when detecting.
I checked first with Mr. Google, but on this occasion he let me down. In retrospect, it wasn’t a good idea to use the phrase PASSION PENNY as my search. I won’t go into intimate details, but one of the alluring responses to my enquiry was seductive and passionate curvy escort near Gatwick.
It isn’t often that an American tells me something about my own currency that I didn’t already know. This was a first. Take a good look at the reverse of the old English pennies. Take particular note of the trident Britannia holds in her hand. The earlier issue shown on the right shows her holding it at a slightly different angle, with the lower end between her legs! Because of this it was dubbed the passion or vulgar penny. There is a story, most certainly a myth, that the guy who designed the coins was Irish and he disliked Great Britain.
Supposedly, as an insult, it is said he did that deliberately. The insult went unnoticed for several years. When officials finally recognised the slight, the coins were considered to be ‘vulgar’ because of the indecently sexualised Britannia, and the design was altered.
I don’t know if Victoria was amused or not, but I found an interesting and funny story and one that was new to me! The truth is that the engraver was a chap called William Wyon and although of German descent, he was born in Birmingham.
Incidentally, the design showing Britannia with trident angled inward towards her upper thigh pre-dated the minting of Victoria’s pennies and was quite common on copper coins and undermines the myth’s assertion that the pose was offensive.
I understand that all bronze pennies minted between 1860 and 1894 were also known as ‘Honolulu’ pennies due to the position of the trident compared to those of later pre-decimal pennies.
Now … ‘where’s that box of pennies’, I hear you say.