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GM24874

Anne, gold Touch Piece for the monarch's touch, pierced and very rare

Anne (1702-14),gold Touch-Piece, undated, three masted ship "The Sovereign of the Seas" at full sail left, legend and outer toothed border surrounding, ANNA. D. G. M. BR. F. ET. H. REG., rev. St Michael slaying the dragon with a lance, legend and outer toothed border surrounding, SOLI. DEO. GLORIA., weight 3.01g (MIii 242/28; Woolf O2/R2). Pierced as usual, toned a bold very fine and rare.

The abbreviated Latin legends translate as on obverse "Anne by the grace of God, Queen of Great Britain, France and Ireland," and on the reverse "Glory to God alone."

The Woolf die variety does not seem to exactly match what is given in his pamphlet though he does give the caveat in the text that not enough examples of the Queen Anne touch piece have been seen to go into any more detail. This coin has a single stop after each abbreviated word on the obverse, but this die does not match any of the five illustrated obverses but is most similar to illustration 42. The reverse matches illustration 45 which is claimed to be no stop after DEO but the stop is visible on the plate coin on the rim of the piercing and with the coin offered here in plain sight. So though Woolf referencing says this is reverse 2 it has the punctuation variety of reverse 3. The sequencing of Queen Anne touch pieces needs more work and updating.

The so called "Kings Evil" or Morbus Regius also known as the disease scrofula was what the Royal touch from the monarch was purported to be able to cure. Since the time of King Edward the Confessor (later canonised) a belief in prayer coupled with the Royal touch could incur a miraculous recovery and it became usual to give money as alms to the afflicted, in the Middle Ages a Penny as a day's wages for a labourer. Later in the medieval period the gold Angel coin became prominent as the "doctors" coin as the 6s and 8d face value was the standard fee of a medical doctor at the time. The reverse legend of Angel coins was revered as a healing inscription coupled with St. Michael slaying the devil as a dragon. As the monarch was seen to have a divine right to Kingship and was related to the now Sainted King, the coin became effectively a healing amulet especially if the monarch had once touched it. The passing of a Touch-Piece therefore became more commonplace under the Stuart reigns of James I and Charles I, and at these times of plague and other disease it was sensible for the King to pass such Angel coins, rather than to touch those physically ailed, a social distance being maintained by the gift of coin. The recipient who may have cured from their ill would covet such a coin and wear it against their skin probably for the rest of their life, and this is why such coins are often holed. By the time of the later Stuart reigns of Charles II and James II the Angel coin was no longer in production as machinery had become the new norm at the Mint. A need to still touch for the Kings evil meant production of these special pieces as we have for sale herewith prevailed and there was even a gap left in the legend where the piercing would occur. The reverse depicts the warship "The Sovereign of the Seas" launched in October 1637 and in service until it was burned by fire in Chatham docks in 1697.

Noel Woolf reproduced the known mintages of the Queen Anne touch pieces which cover the time from February 1702 to May 1707 and from March 1711 to April 1714 which amounted to 12,347 pieces or an average of about 1,760 pieces a year. If the same average is applied to the missing accounts then the mintage in total must have been under 20,000 pieces for the entire reign at some 19,400 pieces and they remain incredibly rare.

Interestingly among those Queen Anne touched was Dr Samuel Johnson when aged 2 years probably on the 30th March 1712, who later went on the write the first English Dictionary and his own touch piece is in the British Museum. Queen Anne also was the last reigning monarch to touch on British soil on 27th April 1714 three months before she passed away.

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