John C wrote:An 'old, old scam' indeed - but I hadn't realised just how old until I came across the following in Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1811:
Persons who practice the fraud of dropping a ring or other article, and picking it up before the person intended to be defrauded, they pretend that the thing is very valuable to induce their gull to lend them money, or to purchase the article. See FAWNY RIG, and MONEY DROPPERS.
A common fraud, thus practised: A fellow drops a brass ring, double gilt, which he picks up before the party meant to be cheated, and to whom he disposes of it for less than its supposed, and ten times more than its real, value.
The 'fawney rig' was the 'ring trick' (from Irish 'fainne', meaning a ring, and 'rig' as in 'rigged game') - but it seems to be the origin of the modern word 'phoney'.
So next time you see a drop cove pulling the fawney rig on a gull, you'll know it's phoney.
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