Spreadsheet Phil’s lot have decided to keep the 1 p and 2 p coins. Which prompted the BBC to do an interesting little bit of research. They’ve done that research the right way too, even with the correct little caveat. The answer being that we’ve never had a coin worth as little as the current 1 p. Not even the half farthing of some of Victoria’s years had so little purchasing power.
Which is an interesting illustration of the power of inflation, isn’t it? Of compound such over long periods of time?
They have done this the right way too:
Comparisons of values over such a long period are somewhat difficult to do, with considerable changes in the sorts of things people were buying then and now, but the difference is large enough to be able to say with confidence that you could buy more with a farthing in the early 18th Century than you can with a penny today.
Having noted the caveat yes, look to the standard inflation indices in order to get close.
So we can conclude that since at least 1707, Britain has not had a coin worth less than the current 1p piece.
Which does explain one thing. The current coins are made out of nice cheap steel with a copper coating. Those past farthings and half farthings were made of copper. If we were doing that today the metal would be worth more than the face value of the coin.