Irish Pre-decimal Coins (1928 to 1969)

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George III Penny 1805
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George III Penny 1805

Introduction

Since the  12th century, Ireland  had been under English rule, to some degree or another, and this is reflected in the coinage in use. Although Irish coinage was in use, English coins were widely circulated in Ireland and those Irish coins which were minted often bore the head of the English monarch. From the 17th century on, only lower value coins (penny and below) are minted and from the early 19th century only English/British coins were in use in Ireland. 
1928 Proof set in a green leather case
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1928 Proof set in a green leather case
There were a number of rebellions against English/British rule but it was the Easter Rising of 1916 and the War of Independence in 1921 which lead to the formation of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) in 1922. The new state continued to use sterling from its inception but following the Currency Acts of 1926 and 1927 the new Saorstát pound was defined and set at 1:1 with Sterling (the British Currency).
1928 Proof set
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1928 Proof set

The coins adopted followed the same denominations as the British Coins - farthing, halfpenny, penny, threepence (3d), sixpence (6d), shilling (1/-), florin (2/-) and half crown (2/6).
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The Design

The Irish government created a committee headed by Senator W. B. Yeats to determine designs suitable for the coins. From the outset it was decided that the harp should be on all coins. It was also agreed that no people should feature due to the political divisions after the Irish Civil War. Agriculture and rural life was, and still is, an essential part of the Irish economy and so was chosen as the basis for the design of the reverse.
After much internal debate and deliberation, Yeats declared that they “ decided upon birds and beasts, the artist, the experience of centuries has shown, might achieve a masterpiece, and might, or so it seemed to use, please those that would look longer at each coin than anybody else, artists and children. Besides, what better symbols could we find for this horse riding, salmon fishing, cattle raising country?
A number of artists were invited to submit designs with that of  Percy Metcalfe  being selected by the committee. The harp and the words "Saorstát Éireann" were chosen for the obverse side of coins.
In 1938 the design is changed
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In 1938 the design is changed

 In 1938, following the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland, the obverse of the coins were modified with the Irish language name of the State, "Éire", and the harp was also modified so that it wore better.
Ireland became a republic in 1948 but this did not require any change to the coinage.
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Farthing, Feoirling (Quarter penny)

Value:                 1/4 d (penny)
Mass:                   2.83 grams g
Diameter:          20.2 mm
Thickness:        1.52 mm
Edge:                   Plain
Composition:   Bronze (95.5%                                                        copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc)
Years:                  1928–1966
The reverse design shows a  woodcock. Ireland is one of only four nations (including Britain, South Africa, and Jamaica) to issue farthing coins in the 20th century. The numbers issued were lower (96,000 to 768,000/yr) than for either the penny or half penny and therefore have greater value as collectors items.
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Halfpenny, Leath Phingin

Value:                 1/2 d (penny)
Mass:                   5.66 grams g
Diameter:          25.5 mm
Thickness:        1.77 mm
Edge:                   Plain
Composition:   Bronze (95.5%                                                        copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc)
Years:                  1928–1969

The reverse design shows a  sow and piglets. Circulation numbers ranged from 240,000 to 6.9m/yr. The early years (1928 to 1940) are the most valuable as collectors items with 1939 being the rarest year.

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Penny, pingin

Value:                 1 d (penny)
Mass:                   4.45 grams g
Diameter:          30.9 mm
Thickness:        1.90 mm
Edge:                   Plain
Composition:   Bronze (95.5%                                                        copper, 3% tin, 1.5% zinc)
Years:                  1928–1968

The reverse design shows a  hen and chicks . Circulation numbers ranged from 312,000 to 17.5m/yr. The early years (1928 to 1940) are the most valuable as collectors items with 1940 being the rarest year (other than 1938 for which there are only thought to be 2 examples).

Another rare Irish penny to watch out for is the "chickless" variety which occurs in 1942 and 1968. In this variety the body of one of the chicks is missing behind the hens leg with the chicks head visible in front of the leg. The beak of the chick behind the missing chick may also be missing (as in this example) but this is not always the case. The top of the hen's right wing (the bit that looks like an arrow), is also a different shape in this variety.
"Chickless" Irish Penny
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Threepence, Leath Reul

Value:                 3 d (penny)
Mass:                   3.23 grams g
Diameter:          17.7 mm
Thickness:        1.90 mm
Edge:                   Plain
Composition:   Nickel (1928-1942)
                              CuNi (1943-1969)
Years:                  1928–1969

The reverse design shows an Irish Hare . Circulation numbers ranged from 64,000 to 4.0m/yr. The early years (1928 to 1948) are the most valuable as collectors items with 1933 and 1939 being the rarest years.
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Sixpence, Reul

Value:                 6 d (penny)
Mass:                   4.53 grams g
Diameter:          21 mm
Thickness:        1.90 mm
Edge:                   Plain
Composition:   Nickel (1928-1942)
                              CuNi (1943-1969)
Years:                  1928–1969

The reverse design shows an Irish Wolfhound . Circulation numbers ranged from 400,000 to 3.2m/yr. It was originally intended that this coin would continue to be used as 2 ½  new pence alongside decimal coins so it was minted up to 1969 and is the last pre-decimal coin to be produced. 
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Shilling, Scilling

Value:                 12 d (penny), 1s
Mass:                   5.65 grams g
Diameter:          23.7 mm
Thickness:        1.77 mm
Edge:                   milled
Composition:   Silver 75% (1928-1942)
                              CuNi (1943-1968)
Years:                  1928–1968

The reverse design shows a Bull . Circulation numbers ranged from 100,000 to 4.0m/yr. 1937 is the year to watch out for followed by 1930. The 1942 shilling was the last to be minted in silver.  The silver content which was 75%, compared to the British coinage which was only 50% silver. 
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Florin, Flóirín

Value:                 24  d (penny), 2s
Mass:                   11.3 grams g
Diameter:          2.3 mm
Thickness:        1.77 mm
Edge:                   milled
Composition:   Silver 75% (1928-1943)
                              CuNi (1944-1968)
Years:                  1928–1968

The reverse design shows a Salmon . Circulation numbers ranged from 109,000 to 4.0m/yr. In 1943 it was decided to remove the silver from Irish coins. By the time the decision was made the Florins had already been minted but they were not issued. They were returned to the mint for melting in the 1950's but inevitably, a few coins escaped and these are now extremely valuable. Of course, with such value there will always be fakes produced, so beware.
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Half Crown, Leath Choróin

Value:                 30  d (penny), 2s 6d
Mass:                   14.1 grams g
Diameter:          2.3 mm
Thickness:        1.77 mm
Edge:                   milled
Composition:   Silver 75% (1928-1943)
                              CuNi (1944-1967)
Years:                  1928–1967

The reverse design shows an Irish Hunter . Circulation numbers ranged from 300,000 to 2.1m/yr (except for 1937 - 40,000 and 1943 - 1000). In 1943 the story of the half crowns is similar to the florins above. However, about 1000 coins were issued and while these are rare and valuable they are at least available and affordable for the keen collector. The 1937 half crown is also quiet rare and commands a good price, particular in better grades.

Another interesting Irish half crown is the 1961 "mule" variety. 
In 1938 the reverse of the half crown was redesigned. When the 1961 coins were struck about 50,000 coins were produced using the 1928 to 1937 reverse. The main differences can been seen in the photos below. In the "mule" variety the 'i' in coroin is much closer to the 'o', the horses tail is much more rounded, the 'PM' is larger and the 'd' is open rather than closed.
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Click on the image to view a 1966 10 shilling coin
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10 Shillings, Deich Scilling

Value:                 10s
Mass:                   18.14 grams g
Diameter:          30 mm
Edge:                    Plain with inscription
Composition:   Silver 83.5%
                              Copper 16.5%
Years:                  1966


The obverse design shows Padraig  Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. The reverse design shows Cu Chulainn the mythical Irish hero, and is a miniature of the statue by Oliver Sheppard in the GPO, Dublin. The edge inscription reads " Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916" - Easter Rising 1916.

The coin was designed by Thomas Humphrey Paget and issued in 1966 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.
2 million coins were issued but 1,270,000 of these were withdrawn and melted down due to its unpopularity, people referring to use the 10 shilling banknote. The coin is unique as the only pre-decimal Irish coin not to feature the harp but to feature a person. Its other peculiarity is that the thickness is not even across the coin, being thicker at the edge than in the centre.
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Decimal Coins

Decimal Day in both the United Kingdom and Ireland was 15th February 1971. The design of the obverse remained unchanged from the harp design of 1938 shown above.
New designs of the reverse were created for the 1/2 p, 1p and 2p by Gabriel Hayes and were based on manuscript designs of ornamental birds. 

The designs of  Percy Metcalfe, which had previously been used for the shilling and florin (a bull and salmon), were adopted for the 5p and 10p respectively. These coins had been introduced earlier in 1969 and the shilling and florin continued to used as 5p and 10p for a number of years. A 50p coin was also introduced using the woodcock design which had previously been used on the farthing.
In 1986 a 20p coin was introduced with the Irish Hunter design previously used on the Half Crown and in 1990 the £1 or punt coin was issued displaying a stag.
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