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Lot 30287

Image Information

Type Coin
Title Lot 30287
/Catalog #
Grade 53
Service NGC
Denomination FARTH
Description (c. 1670) FARTH Mark Newby's St. Patrick Farthing, Silver AU53 NGC. Breen-210, W-11520, R.5. 87.1 grains. The Eric P. Newman silver St. Patrick farthing is composed of 92% silver, 7% copper, and 1% trace elements. This piece is essentially sterling silver. Softly lustrous, this lilac and gold-toned St. Patrick farthing, struck on a silver flan, is among the finest known examples of its type, showing only a trace of wear on its highest points. The surfaces are smooth and unmarked. The Newman example is remarkable for its preservation. Collectors of St. Patrick farthings and halfpennies will get a clear view of the king's facial features and St. Patrick's ghostly countenance from the well-struck devices on the coin. The edge is crudely reeded as on all St. Patrick coins. There is little that we know about any of the St. Patrick pieces. The American Numismatic Society published Mark Newby's St. Patrick Coinage in 2009, compiling the scholarly papers presented at the November 2006 Coinage of the Americas Conference. That reference reviews all of the research on the subject. Most known St. Patrick pieces are copper, and they are usually described as farthings or halfpence. However, a few off-metal pieces are known in silver and gold. In "Denominations of the St. Patrick Coinages" appearing in the ANS compilation, Philip Mossman reported about three dozen examples in silver, and two pieces in gold. The latter include the John Ford specimen from original dies, and the controversial Norweb coin from "new and otherwise unknown dies." In many ways, the silver St. Patrick pieces are as puzzling as any of the St. Patrick farthings and halfpennies for their origin and purpose. They may have circulated in Ireland as well as in the colonies, where they always found use as a medium of exchange. Mossman writes: {blockquote}"Currently there are four opinions as to the origins of the two species of silver St. Patrick coins: they were either 1) medals, 2) currency coins (shillings), 3) models or proofs of the two copper varieties, or 4) struck much later from original dies, replicating a practice that is well known for Irish gunmoney."{/blockquote} Mossman speculates that the silver St. Patrick pieces may have been "presentation pieces struck contemporaneously from small copper dies, but [they] were never meant to circulate as currency." As he notes, that is a guess in the absence of supporting evidence. Its rarity suggests some kind of off-metal striking for presentation, yet it is always found circulated to one extent or another. No proof or Mint State examples are known. On the contrary, enough circulated examples exist to indicate it may have been a low-mintage issue for circulation. This attractive coin only heightens the mystery of its origins. It may be a variant of Breen-210, although the reverse does not match any example known to us. Eric P. Newman described its unusual design on his envelope, which simply says "QVIESCATPLEBS is continuous." Indeed, this reverse has the legend as a single, continuous word, and St. Patrick's miter (headdress) does not separate the words QVIESCAT and PLEBS as in all other varieties. However, Mossman reported 14 different die varieties of the silver St. Patrick coinage, although without a detailed listing of those varieties. It is uncertain if this variety is among those 14, or a new silver variant. For all compositions, there are several hundred die varieties that are still being researched and recorded, according to Anthony Terranova. All design elements display a sharp strike, although the high points of the crown, harp, and portrait show enough rub to justify the AU53 NGC designation. This intriguing silver farthing will undoubtedly be of the highest interest to collectors of rare colonial issues and stir debate among the specialists in St. Patrick coinage. Ex: Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society. Realized $64,625.00. Description courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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