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An Essay on the Roman Denarius,
and English Silver Penny.
(A Description of the Farthings of Queen Anne)

by William Till, 1837

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“But you have not a farthing of Queen Anne? You know there were only three of them struck. ”—Old Fable.

FOR introducing the Farthings of Queen Anne again to the public, 1 I will make no apology, as I flatter myself it may in a degree set at rest the mischievous and ridiculous fable relating to them, and prevent many a futile and weary journey. It will scarcely be believed, that persons from almost all parts of England have travelled to the metropolis, on the qui vive to make, as they supposed, their fortunes, with a Farthing, or presumed Farthing, of Anne in their possession; and which, on being taken to the British Museum, has been found to be almost or entirely worthless. From York, and even from Ireland, persons have come. A poor man. from the former, and a man with his wife from the latter place. Indeed, it is to be regretted, that these are not the only instances known by many. Most of our countrymen labour under the delusion that Queen Anne struck only three Farthings: I beg leave most unequivocally, and with deference, to assure them that Farthings of her were struck to the number of some hundreds. To trace with any degree of certainty this fable to its original source, would be extremely difficult, but by information obtained from our chief medallist, it appears, that some years since, a lady of Yorkshire having by accident lost a Farthing of Anne, which from some circumstance or other was rendered valuable to her, she offered a reward for the same, thereby stamping a fallacious and ridiculous value on it. Others, on the contrary, believe that only three were struck, and that the die broke on striking the third.

The British Press newspaper, of the 14th February, 1814, and the Numismatic Journal of April last, contains the particulars of a very curious trial which took place in Dublin, relating to one of these pieces.

In the British Museum there are six distinct varieties of the Farthings of Queen Anne; indeed, there may be said to be seven, but one sort alone really circulated, and this is the variety on which we see the figure of Britannia on the reverse, and below it, in the exergue, the date 1714, (see No. 6 of the plate). I count in my own cabinets from fifteen to twenty of them.

The other five varieties are what are termed pattern pieces, struck for approval, but from which no copies for circulation have been taken. The portraits on the obverses are much the same, the busts ornamented with drapery, and the head adorned with a string of pearls. The reverses, except in one instance, differ from the common Farthing which circulated; and on the pattern, in which no difference is found, we find, instead of “Anna Dei Gratia,” the legend “Anna Regina,” surrounding the queen’s bust, (see No. 5). This pattern is rare. The following are the reverses of the other patterns: on one (No. 1) we observe the figure of Peace, in a car drawn by two horses, (numismatically termed a biga); in her right hand she holds an olive branch, in her left a wand or spear; the legend “Pax missa per orbem,” (Peace sent forth throughout the world) with the date 1713. This variety is extremely rare, and like most of the others, it is found in fine gold, silver, and copper. On another we see the figure of Britannia seated on a globe, (No 2) and beneath a portico, with the legend Britannia, the date in the exergue 1713— this likewise is very rare. Another of the same date (No. 3) presents us with the Britannia rather differing from the same figure on those of 1714: the right leg being more exposed, and the drapery on the bust altogether different; with the legend Britannia, and the date, 1713, immediately following it, instead of being in the exergue, as before 2—these patterns are much more common than the two last described. The scarcest of the whole is that variety (No. 4) which represents the bust of the queen of inferior work, and her name instead of being raised is sunk; and on the reverse, Britannia is represented erect, with an olive branch in her right hand, and in the left a spear; legend, “Bello et Pace.” These last described Farthings, if Farthings they really are, are of extreme rarity; indeed, they differ so much from the others in their execution, as to induce me to doubt their emanating from the royal mint. The work on them appears very inferior to that of Croker. They might have been executed by Samuel Butt, or Gabriel Clerk, two other Mint engravers at this period.

The following may be quoted as the value of the Farthings just described. No 1, being exceedingly scarce, if fine, is worth from £3. to £5., indeed, it has brought more at a public auction. No. 2 may be worth from £2. to £3. No. 3, being less rare, from £1. to £1. l0s. No. 4 would bring from £5. to £10., or probably more, if extremely fine; as I believe the very few specimens which are known are not in the highest state of preservation. No. 5 is rather scarce, and is worth from £1. to £1. l0s. The common and real Farthing of Anne, which was current generally, brings from 7s. to 12s., and if extremely fine in preservation, may be worth a guinea. Some are found with a broad rim, those are considered more scarce than the others. I speak of these coins as being in copper.

Having described the real and pattern Farthings of Queen Anne, it may be desirable to mention a lot of trumpery tokens of brass, which have caused much trouble to the possessors, as well as annoyance to others, particularly to the officers attached to the medal room in the British Museum.

These tokens of brass are thinner than the real copper Farthings of Anne. On the head side, they present you with an execrable bust of the queen, with a long scraggy neck, unlike that of this sovereign, with the legend “Anna Dei Gratia.” On the reverse, the royal arms in the shape of a cross, (roses are sometimes seen between the quarterings)—indeed, very similar to the shilling of Anne before the Union. Their date generally, 1711. These worthless counters have caused an immense deal of trouble; the lower classes becoming possessed of them, and starting off (as before stated) for London, to make their fortunes. They would not be worth noticing here, were it not to publish them as pieces of no value whatever.

The public, as well as their very humble servant, are much indebted to Edward Hawkins, Esq. for so readily and so kindly permitting the original Farthings to be copied. To C. F. Barnewell, Esq. another gentleman of the British Museum, I am also much indebted, for the kind and polite attention which I have received, in common with all who visit the medal room.

The plate here annexed was engraved from casts, taken by Taylor, of No. 13, Conduit Street, from the real coins in the British Museum.

There are pattern Halfpence likewise of this sovereign of seven different varieties, but none struck for common currency. The following is a description of those in the British Museum.

No. 1. Obverse—a fine bust of the queen, with name and title, the hair without any ornament. Reverse—the figure of Britannia seated on a globe, in her right hand a branch of olive, in her left a spear, above her head a crown; without any date.

2. Obverse—the bust, and legend, as before. Reverse—Britannia, as in the preceding one; in her right hand, a rose and thistle, instead of the olive branch.

3. Obverse—as before. Reverse—a rose and thistle, surmounted with a crown.

4. Obverse—as the preceding one. Reverse— a rose and thistle, as before, but without the crown.

5. Obverse—the figure of Britannia, very like No: 1, but the branch of olive in the right hand rather different. Reverse—the rose and thistle, similar to the reverse of No. 4.

The fact is, the above coin is made up, for the sake of variety, of two reverses.

6. On this we find two obverses are taken for the same purpose; having a fine bold bust of the queen, in higher relief than the others. The reverse is exactly the same, with the legend “Anna Dei Gratia.”

7. There is another variety (not in the Museum) which I have never seen. On it are the two figures of Britannia, which constitute the reverses of the others; one on the obverse, the other on the reverse.

The above pattern Halfpence of Queen Anne are all very scarce; that most frequently met with is the variety in which we find the Britannia with a rose and thistle. The double headed one is exceedingly rare, as are some of the other varieties.


1 These Farthings are likewise engraved in the Mirror paper of the 30th May, 1835, and published by Limbird, at 143, Strand.

2 Another variety which I have not introduced in the body of this paper, may be seen in the British Museum, exactly of the same type as No. 3; but the figure of Britannia, and the letters of the legend, are much smaller, and it has the engrailing round the coin without the inner circle.

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