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Fakenham tree festival treasure trove

PUBLISHED: 07:32 12 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:38 07 July 2010

A treasure trove of international oddities including cash from 36 different countries was dropped into collection boxes at Fakenham's Christmas Tree Festival.

A TREASURE trove of international oddities including cash from 36 different countries was dropped into collection boxes at Fakenham's Christmas Tree Festival.

The event, held at Fakenham Parish Church in December, raised £37,578 for church funds and the 70 charities which decorated trees in search of donations.

But as counters began to total up the proceeds they were amazed to find 898 unusual items including defunct currency and legal tender from all over the world, toy money, buttons, screws, half an earring and two medallions from Walsingham shrine.

The Rev Adrian Bell said the bizarre assortment was the result of generous, well-travelled festival visitors delving behind sofas and emptying pockets to find loose change to give to charity.

And while some of the euros and dollars are being offered to parishioners in return for sterling, the rest of the foreign coins have been donated to the Norfolk hospice Tapping House to sell on through coin dealers.

"I think what happens is when the Christmas Tree Festival comes along people go through their pockets, settees and anywhere coins might drop," said Mr Bell.

"I don't think they do it deliberately. A lot of the coins are still legal tender and so they have a value. Even if they are out of date they can be sold through a coin dealer.

"But I am very pleased with the total. Considering it was in the credit crunch, it was hard work to get that sort of money."

Donations included money from Australia, New Zealand, the Falklands, the Caribbean, USA, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and the Middle East - along with 257 coins from within the euro zone.

There were also several chunks of chocolate dispersed around the collection boxes which Roger Burbidge, one of the organisers, said could have been from a child donating something of value to them.

He said: "This has been an interesting annual exercise, but the scale of ineligible items continues to amaze.

"One of the incredible things is the number of old half pennies. We had 255 this year and 189 last year, so somebody somewhere has a store of them and I suppose they must think we can do something with them.

"None of this can take away from people's generosity. £37,578 is a tremendous amount."

Charities wishing to take part in the 2009 Christmas Tree Festival can apply to the church office on Gladstone Road from March 3.

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