Queen Anne's Farthing
THERE is probably no belief of any kind more extensively diffused in England, or more heartily entertained, than
that which represents a Queen Anne's Farthing as the greatest and most valuable of rarities. The story everywhere told and
accepted is, that only three farthings were struck in her reign: that two are in public keeping; and that the third is still
going about, and if it could be recovered would bring a prodigious price.
In point of fact, there were eight coinings of farthings in the reign of Queen Anne, besides a medal or token of similar size,
and these coins are no greater rarities than any other product of the Mint issued a hundred and fifty years ago. Every now and
then a poor person comes up from a remote place in the country to London, to sell the Queen Anne's Farthing, of which he
has become the fortunate possessor; and great, of course, is the disappointment when the numismatist offers him perhaps a
shilling for the curiosity, justifying the lowness of the price by pulling out a drawer and showing him eight or ten other
examples of the same coin. On one occasion a labourer and his wife came all the way from Yorkshire on foot to dispose of one of
these provoking coins in the metropolis. It is related that a rural publican, having obtained one of the tokens, put it up in
his window as a curiosity, and people came from far and near to see it, doubtless not a little to the alleviation of his beer
barrels; nor did a statement of its real value by a numismatist, who happened to come to his house, induce him to put
it away. About 1814, a confectioner's shopman in Dublin, having taken a Queen Anne's Farthing, substituted an ordinary farthing
for it in his master's till, and endeavoured to make a good thing for himself by selling it to the best advantage. The master,
hearing of the transaction, had the man apprehended and tried in the Recorder's Court, when he was actually condemned to a
twelvemonth's imprisonment for the offence.
Numismatists have set forth, as a possible reason for the universal belief in the rarity of Queen Anne's Farthings, that there
are several pattern-pieces of farthings of her reign in silver, and of beautiful execution, by Croker, which are rare and
in request. But it is very unlikely that the appreciation of such an article amongst men of vertu would ever impress the
bulk of the people in such a manner or to such results. A more plausible story is, that a lady in the north of England, having
lost a Queen Anne's Farthing or pattern-piece, which she valued as a keepsake, advertised a reward for its recovery. In that
case, the popular imagination would easily devise the remainder of the tale.