Mint state Victorian farthings up 189% at Woolley & Wallis

An extraordinary collection of mint state Victorian farthings that were the centre of a practical joke in 1890 have sold with spectacular results in Woolley & Wallis' July 16-17 Silver and Collector's Sale in Salisbury, UK.

The cache was valued at up to £18,000 ($27,216), but soared to an impressive £52,000 ($78,487), realising a 188.8% increase on estimate.

Mint state Victorian farthings
This isn't the first exciting find from Crichel House. A Qianlong jade water buffalo sold through the same auction house for £3.4m ($5.1m) in 2009

The coins' story begins at Crichel House in Dorset, where a member of the Alington family engaged in a bet with a family friend to see which of two raindrops would reach the bottom of a windowpane first.

The family friend lost the bet, but decided to pay his £5 debt in thousands of brand new farthings, leaving the Alington family with a cumbersome amount of small change.

Today, £2 18s/1½d is all that remains of the original payment, which is still wrapped in the tissue paper in which it was issued. Each of the coins is in "glorious" mint state and are all of the same date (1890) and type.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has some outstanding coins for sale, including this fascinating Charles I shilling that was struck in the besieged city of Carlisle during the English civil war.

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