All home hobbyists have a coin (or several) that they covet but that
they just can’t find or afford.
One of mine is the circa 1670 St. Patrick New Jersey farthing, which
recently came up for auction on an online portal, Proxibid.
This coin was legal tender in colonial New Jersey, my home state.
Examples come up for auction infrequently and, when one does, often
the piece is low-grade, cleaned, corroded, holed or otherwise not grade-worthy.
It is especially important to purchase an example of this coin that
has been authenticated by a reputable firm as counterfeit and replica
versions of the coin are known in brass, copper and pewter.
The particular example offered was graded Very Fine 25 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
As the lot was offered by Kaufman Realty of Sugarcreek, Ohio, I
figured there probably wouldn’t be a bevy of bidders who understood
the coin’s worth, meaning that I might have a reasonable shot at
obtaining it for a decent price.
The St. Patrick New Jersey coins were issued in two denominations,
the copper halfpenny and farthing. Both are desirable because of their
design and history, displaying the patron saint of Ireland (who died
on March 17, 461) on the reverse.
The reverse of the farthing, which I prefer, features a Christian
church in the background with St. Patrick in the foreground in
bishop’s garb, clutching a pastoral staff and driving serpents out of
Ireland and into the sea. The legend above the scene, QUIESCAT PLEBS,
translates to “May the People Be at Ease” (or Peace).
The reverse of the halfpenny features St. Patrick blessing commoners
under the legend ECCE GREX, or “Behold the Flock.”
The obverse of halfpenny and farthing both feature a royal crown
(typically highlighted with a splash of brass) above a king with harp,
perhaps a depiction of King David (see 1 Samuel 16:23), under the
legend FLOREAT REX, “May the King Flourish.”
The coins were said to be brought from Ireland to New Jersey by an
Irish émigré named Mark Newby, who persuaded officials there to
declare the halfpenny and farthing legal tender because of a shortage
of coins in Colonial America.
I bid $450, all I could afford, in the Kaufman Auction. That coin
however, realized a price of $1,840, remaining as elusive as ever to me.