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Things not Generally Known, Familiarly Explained.
A Book for Old and Young. by John Timbs, F.S.A.

London: David Bogue, Fleet Street. MDCCCLVI. [1856]

[Pages 218-219]
Queen Anne's Farthing

The popular notion that there were only three Farthings struck of Queen Anne, and that consequently they are extremely rare, has occasioned more mischief and mortification to those who have been misled by it than any error of its class. Only one type of the farthing was in circulation; but there are several pattern-pieces, executed by Croker, which are much valued by collectors, and accordingly bring high prices. Mr. Till, the coin-dealer, assures us that some hundreds of Anne's farthings were struck and circulated. It bears the bust of the queen, draped, and the head adorned with a string of pearls, with the legend "ANNA DEI GRATIA;" the reverse has "BRITANNIA" around the figure of Britannia, with the spear and olive-branch: the date 1714 in the exergue is stated by Mr. Till to bring from 7s. to 12s., "and if extremely fine in preservation, may be worth a guinea. Some are found with a broad rim, and are considered more scarce than the others. I speak of these coins as being in copper." Dr. Dibdin states the value of this farthing to be under 5s. Mr. Akerman recognises "the common current farthing of Anne" as scarce, but scarcer with the broad rim.

Mr. E. Hawkins, of the British Museum, has seen a hundred letters from different individuals, in each of which it is stated that the Museum has two of the three reputed farthings, and the writer has the third ; and in some instances asks if he is entitled to a reward of 1000l. or 2000l. Every collector has three or four specimens; the Museum has four in gold, four in silver, and eight in copper.

The five pattern-pieces are as follow :

  1. R. Britannia, as usual, with date 1713 in the legend. Ex. blank.
  2. R., as last, but with date 1714 in the ex. Both these, Mr. E. S. Taylor (Notes and Queries, No. 265,) says, "are comparatively common, and were probably current. They have a broad milled edge, exactly similar to the farthings of George III."
  3. Q. ANNA AVGVSTA. R. Peace in a biga, with an olive-branch, and the hasta pura, or pointless spear, in her hand. Ex. 1713.
  4. Obv. as Nos. 1 and 2. Rev. Britannia seated under an arch. Ex. 1713.
  5. Legend of both sides, indented on a broad rim, like the early pennies of George III. Rev. Peace standing with olive-branch and spear: BELLO. ET. PACE. Ex. 1713.

Mr. Akerman thinks the high prices brought by the pattern-pieces (varying from 1l. to 3l., and the highest, at an auction, 5l.), may have given rise to the notion of the fabulous value of the farthing itself. One of the current stories is, that a lady in the north of England having lost a farthing of Queen Anne which she much prized as the bequest of a deceased friend, offered in the newspapers a large reward for its recovery; and any farthing of that monarch was ever after supposed to be of great value. Then, it is related that when only three farthings had been struck, it was perceived that a flaw existed in the die, which was destroyed, and another made, from which are the farthings which have circulated. Of the three, one is said to have been kept by Queen Anne, and to have descended to George III., who gave it to the British Museum. The second was long in the possession of the Derby family, and thence passed into the Museum; and the third is said to have been given by Queen Anne to one of her maids of honour, and is now in the possession of her descendant, Major Fothergill. Each of these three farthings has a flaw in Anne's portrait. (See Illustrated London News, Oct. 7, 1854.)

The romantic disappointments of the possessors of "Queen Anne's farthings" would fill a volume. In the Times Sept. 28, 1826, a magistrate related that a poor man came to London from Bedfordshire, with a real but common farthing of Queen Anne, hoping to make his fortune by it. Mr. Till relates that a poor man came from York, and a man and his wife from Ireland, in the same vain hope. Dr. Dibdin, when on his Northern Tour, was shown a Queen Anne's farthing by a father, as a 500l. legacy for his son. (See Popular Errors pp. 181-4.)

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