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  • Regal Irish Copper Coins

    Irish Copper Coinage: Introduction


    Various Irish coppers have been associated with the coinage of colonial America as far back as the St. Patrick coppers brought to New Jersey by Mark Newby in 1681. The Philadelphia Highway find contained examples of regal Irish coppers from the first royal Irish copper, issued by Charles II, to the George III Irish halfpenny of 1781. For a full listing of Irish regal coppers found in the Philadelphia find - Click here. A significant number of counterfeit Irish coins have also been documented in colonial and early American change. Additionally, the Hibernia issues of William Woods and the Voce Populi coppers have frequently (although incorrectly) been associated with American colonial coinage. To better understand how these coins fit into the history of Irish coinage a brief overview of Irish coppers follows.

    For a table listing the average weight for each issue of Regal Irish coppers, from the first issue of Charles II to the 1782 issue of George III - Click here.

    Early Irish Coinage

    Royal Anglo-Irish hammered silver coinage was issued from as early as 1185 and continued through the silver issues of James I ending in 1607. Irish token farthings were minted by Lord Lennox and Lord Harrington under royal license from 1613 until the death of James I in 1625. These were immediately followed by the Richmond and Maltravers farthing tokens licensed under Charles I during the period 1625-1644. Thereafter several local issues appeared during the civil wars of the 1640's which finally ended when England completed the conquest of Ireland with the surrender of Galway in 1652. In the following year Ireland was made part of the British Protectorate. Apparently no coinage was minted during this period of occupation by Cromwell's Commonweath troops.

    With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II issued a royal patent to Thomas Armstrong who began minting farthings which were rejected by the Irish. Starting in 1663 private merchant tokens began to appear with the most well know being the Saint Patrick coppers probably issued during 1674-5. These private issues continued through 1679. In the following year Armstrong and George Legg obtained a royal patent to mint regal Irish halfpence. Charles II Irish halfpence were minted from 1680 until the death of the king in 1684. As these royal coins were much larger and somewhat heavier than the merchant tokens they gained public acceptance. Interestingly, like the St. Patrick coppers, some of these coins ended up in America as a 1681 Charles II Irish halfpenny was found in the Philadelphia highway hoard. Under James II the patent for minting halfpence was transferred to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Sir John Knox, who produced James II copper halfpence from 1685 until 1688. Silver and copper James II Irish coinage was minted in 1690-1691 during the civil war. Thereafter only coppers were minted.

    William and Mary produced Irish halfpence 1691-1694 followed by the William III halfpenny in 1696. No additional copper Irish coinage was minted for the next twenty five years. In 1722 George I issued William Wood a patent to produce farthings and halfpence out of bath metal. Wood's Hibernia coins were minted 1722-1724 but, like Wood's Rosa Americana series, they were not well received. Although three examples of the 1723 Wood's Hibernia halfpenny have been uncovered in the Philadelphia Highway Hoard, Wood's Hibernia coinage was not found in the American colonies in any appreciable quantity. However, they have long been collected as part of the American colonial series and are therefore included in this site in the Wood's Hibernia section.

    George II and III

    Under George II Irish halfpence were minted 1736-1738, 1741-1744, 1746-1753 and 1755, while farthings were issued during 1737 and 1744. By 1760 it had been five years since any halfpence had been minted and sixteen years since any farthings had been added to the coinage. Production of both denominations was underway in 1760 when George II died. This event delayed the arrival of the much needed coppers. In response to the delay a private Dublin businessman issued the Voce Populi coppers in 1760. Again, like the Woods Hibernia series, the Voce Populi did not circulated in colonial America but have been traditionally collected as part of the American colonial coinage. They are more fully discussed in the Voce Populi section. The much needed 1760 regal coppers finally arrived in Ireland in 1762 ending the need for the Voce coppers.

    Under George III Irish halfpence were produced in 1766, 1769, 1774-1776 and 1781-1782. Numerous counterfeit halfpence circulated, many bearing the dates 1781 and 1782. These counterfeits have usually been thought to have been produced in Birmingham but as John Kleeberg has suggested, it is possible several varieties were produced in Ireland. Many of these coins were shipped to America, for details see the Introduction to Counterfeit British Coppers.

    Usually Irish coppers were lighter than British issues. In the examples displayed here the Charles II Irish halfpenny weighs only 80.9 grains (authorized at 110 grains), about half the weight of a George II or III halfpenny! The regal issue Irish halfpence through William III were authorized at 110 grains, while the George II and George III issues were authorized at 132.6 grains. In the following section the heaviest coin is the 1781 George III halfpenny at 140.3 grains, which is just at the lower British regal weight limit. Lighter examples of the 1781-1782 Irish halfpence are found in the counterfeit section.

    After the American colonial period few regal Irish coins were produced. In 1805 Boulton's Soho mint in Birmingham produced a George III copper Irish penny and halfpenny followed by a farthing in 1806. Additionally, the Bank of Ireland issued George III silver coinage: a shilling (1804), thirty pence (1808) and both ten pence and five pence coins (1805-1806). The only other royal British coinage for Ireland was the George IV penny and halfpenny of 1822 and the proof farthing of 1823.

    References

    Dowle and Finn, The Guide Book to the Coinage of Ireland from 995 AD to the Present Day   London: Spink, 1969; Peter Seaby, Coins and Tokens of Ireland, Seaby's Standard Catalogue, Part 3, London: B.A. Seaby, 1970; Andre Clermont and John Wheeler, Spink's Catalogue of British Colonial and Commonwealth Coins London: Spink, 1986 pp. 660-663; Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler, Standard Catalog of World Coinsed. Colin R. Bruce II Iola, WI: Krause, 1991, vol. 2, pp. 1746-1748; John M. Kleeberg, "The Shipwreck of the Faithful Steward:   A"Missing Link" in the Export of British and Irish Halfpence," in Coinage of the Confederation Period,  ed. by Philip L. Mossman, Coinage of the Americas Conference, Proceedings No. 11, held at the American Numismatic Society, October 28, 1995, New York: American Numismatic Society, 1996, pp. 55-77 and Eric P. Newman and Peter P. Gaspar, "The Philadelphia Highway Coin Find," The Numismatist vol. 91 (March, 1978) 453-467, with a full listing of the coins on p. 495.


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    Section Contents Regal Irish Copper Coins p.1

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