O’Brien Coin Guide: How to identify the Irish 1961 Halfcrown ‘Mule’ variety


The 1961 ‘mule’ halfcrown was struck in error (or, possibly deliberately) from a reverse die from the 1928-37 type.  In 1938 the halfcrown reverse – the side with the horse on it – had been redesigned to improve the striking characteristics of the coin.  A single example of the 1938 trial of the new die exists.

During the preparation of the 1961 re-strike of the 1928 proofs the original dies were tested and found not to be in suitable for use in producing the new proof coins. In this process the halfcrown die from the 1928 series was (deliberately or otherwise) introduced into the production run for circulating 1961 halfcrowns.

  • This may have happened to other reverse dies in 1961 but the halfcrown and penny are the only two coins which were distinct in design.
  • Since no Irish pennies were struck in 1961, the likelihood of a mule penny being found is zero !

The term ‘mule’ is used to describe any coin made from two mismatched sides.  Since this coin features a horse, some people think the variety looks like a biological horse-donkey hybrid.  However, despite the differences being small, they are reasonably easy to see – provided one knows what to look for.

They are as follows :-

Normal (1939-67 design) Mule (1928-37 design)
1 The ‘d’ of 2s 6d is ‘open’ at the top on the mule but it is ‘closed’ on a normal coin.  Irish halfcrown - Normal (1939-67 design) denomination  Irish halfcrown - Mule (1928-37 design) denomination
2 The tail on the mule has a slightly ‘bell-shaped’ sides with 8 hairs – the normal coin has a ‘straighter-sided’ tail with 7 hairs.  Irish halfcrown - Normal (1939-67 design) tail  Irish halfcrown - Mule (1928-37 design) tail
3 The lettering on the mule is ‘finer’ and the spacing is ‘different’ – in particular, the ‘OI’ of COROIN are much closer together on the mule than the normal coin.  Irish halfcrown - Normal (1939-67 design) lettering  Irish halfcrown - Mule (1928-37 design) lettering
4 The designer’s initials ‘PM’ are larger and the ‘P’ is not at all under the hoof, on the normal coin the initials are smaller and almost entirely under the hoof.  Irish halfcrown - Normal (1939-67 design) initials  Irish halfcrown - Mule (1928-37 design) initials
5 The ‘base of the 2’ is longer on the mule than the regular coin.  Irish halfcrown - Normal (1939-67 design) short base on 2  Irish halfcrown - Mule (1928-37 design) long base 2

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4 thoughts on “O’Brien Coin Guide: How to identify the Irish 1961 Halfcrown ‘Mule’ variety

  1. I have an Irish half crown dated 1961 ,whist it does not appear to be a mule it is gold and green in colour with red colouring around the harp, could you please advise what this coin actually is. Thanks in anticipation

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