O’Brien Coin Guide: William Wood’s Irish Coinage (1722-1724) for George I


William Wood was the owner of several copper and tin mines in England and he hoped to make a large profit via the production of coins for use in Ireland and America.  During the first half of 1722 King George I’s mistress (who had followed him over from Germany), the Duchess of Kendal, obtained a patent from the Earl of Sunderland for coining copper money for Ireland.

Wood thought this would be a profitable enterprise so he purchased the royal patent from the duchess for £10,000.

Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal, Duchess of Munster (25 December 1667 – 10 May 1743) was a long-time mistress to King George I of Great Britain.

Ehrengard Melusine von der Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal, Duchess of Munster (25 December 1667 – 10 May 1743) was a long-time mistress to King George I of Great Britain.

In his indenture from George I dated June 16, 1722 Wood was authorized to produce up to 360 tons of halfpence and farthings for Ireland at 30 pence to the pound over a period of fourteen years for an annual fee of £800 paid to the king.

  • These Hibernia coins were heavier and thus intrinsically more valuable than the coppers then circulating in Ireland.
  • They were certainly less profitable for Wood to mint than his 50% lighter weight ‘Rosa Americana’ copper issues.
    • Hibernia’s weighed 60 halfpence to the pound as compared to 120 ‘Rosa Americana’ halfpence to the pound
      • Wood was authorized to make 120 halfpence to the pound (compared to forty-six halfpence to the pound at the Tower of London mint) which, according to Mossman, would yield a 140% profit after adjusting for production costs.
      • Small wonder the American colonists rebelled less than 50 years later !
      • The Rosa Americana pieces were issued in three denominations—half penny, penny, and twopence—and were intended for America. This type had a fully bloomed rose on the reverse with the words ROSA AMERICANA UTILE DULCI (“American Rose—Useful and Pleasant”).

        The Rosa Americana pieces were issued in three denominations—half penny, penny, and twopence—and were intended for America. This type had a fully bloomed rose on the reverse with the words ROSA AMERICANA UTILE DULCI (“American Rose—Useful and Pleasant”).

  • When including the costs of production, plus the £10,000 fee paid to the Duchess of Kendal, it has been calculated that Wood would have lost £4,871 over the fourteen years of the patent.
    • Therefore, from Wood’s viewpoint, the Hibernia coin specifications were too generous based on the cost of production – well, actually, there was a profit of over £5,000 in normal circumstances, so it was the sum of £10,000 that he paid the Duchess of Kendall that caused the problem !
    • He made a ‘commercial decision’ to change the specifications and, since it was not for use in England, the English Parliament did nothing to stop him from producing ‘under weight’ coins and the Irish Privy Council was powerless to prevent this
    • Contrary to popular opinion, it now seems that Wood did not produce under-weight coins for Ireland and that he did, in fact, reduce his potential losses by ‘drip-feeding the initial supply into Ireland hoping that his contract would be recinded.

It has also generally been held that the Irish did not accept the Hibernia coppers and much has been said about Dean Swift’s Drapier Letters, the duplicity of the Irish authorities and the political intrigues of the Tories and Whigs in England.

  • However, recent research (and the frequency of coin finds in Ireland) suggests that Wood’s coins were accepted at first.
  • It would appear that, over time, the Irish people and merchants gradually neglected the coins.
  • The ‘wear’ on Wood’s coinage found in Ireland suggests that they were used until 1737 when they were replaced by regal Irish coppers

It is a popular myth that the Irish refused to use the coinage on nationalistic grounds and that they relied on copper tokens (and, possibly, the Saint Patrick coppers) but this seems unlikely.

  • What they needed was good quality silver coinage of sixpence, shillings, half crowns and crowns.
  • The Irish Privy Council agitated for this but the English Parliament were unwilling to export silver to Ireland

Wood’s Coinage has two major types:

  • The first type struck in 1722 has a reverse design with a harp left of Hibernia
  • Wood's 'Hibernia' halfpenny, with the harp to the left of the seated Hibernia (Type I)

    Wood’s ‘Hibernia’ halfpenny, with the harp to the left of the seated Hibernia (Type I)

  • The second type struck from 1722 until 1724 has a harp to the right of Hibernia
  • Wood's 'Hibernia' halfpenny, with the harp to the right of the seated Hibernia (Type II)

    Wood’s ‘Hibernia’ halfpenny, with the harp to the right of the seated Hibernia (Type II)

  • The obverses of both type are similar, albeit subject to die varieties
  • 1725 – There is a die flaw which occurs on one variety of the 1723 halfpenny which makes it look like the date is 1725
  • There are proof strikings in both copper and silver and there are a number of patterns (but these are rare)

These coins are available in much better condition than the earlier regal copper issues and uncirculated coins with considerable red mint lustre are available albeit scarce and expensive.  Wood’s Coinage is actively collected as part of the American ‘colonial series’ so there are listings of their values in the ‘Red Book’, the ‘Blue Book’ and from many other US sources – including numerous American numismatic websites.

Year Type I, Wood’s Farthing Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1722 Farthing 6602 523 IG1FA-005 115
1722 Wood's Hibernia Farthing, Type I (regular issue)

1722 Wood’s Hibernia Farthing, Type I (regular issue)

Year Type I, Wood’s Halfpenny Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1722 Halfpenny 6600 504 IG1HD-005 116
1722 Proof in Copper P6600 505 IG1HD-010 116
1722 Proof in Silver P6600 506 IG1HD-015 116a
1722 Wood's Hibernia Halfpenny, Type I (regular issue)

1722 Wood’s Hibernia Halfpenny, Type I (regular issue)

Year Type II, Wood’s Farthing Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1723 Obverse reads D:G: REX: 6603 524 IG1FA-010 118
1723 No colon after REX IG1FA-015
1723 Obverse reads DEI.GRATIA 6604 525 IG1FA-020 119
1723 Proof in Copper P6604 526 IG1FA-025
1723 Proof in Silver P6604 527 IG1FA-030 119a
1724 Stop after date 6604 528 IG1FA-035 119
1724 No stop after date 530 IG1FA-040
1724 Proof in Silver P6604 529 IG1FA-045 119a
1724 Proof in Silver – No stop after date 119a
William Wood's 'Hibernia' type. Wood's mint, possibly in London or Bristol. 1723. Laureate head right / Hibernia seated left on globe, holding palm frond in right hand, resting left elbow upon harp. Martin dies 3.22/Ba.1 (EDS); D&F 525; SCBI –; SCBC 6604. VF, attractive brown patina.

William Wood’s ‘Hibernia’ type Farthing. Wood’s mint, possibly in London or Bristol. 1723. Laureate head right / Hibernia seated left on globe, holding palm frond in right hand, resting left elbow upon harp. Martin dies 3.22/Ba.1 (EDS); D&F 525; SCBI –; SCBC 6604. VF, attractive brown patina.

Year Type II, Wood’s Halfpenny Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1722 Halfpenny 6601 507 IG1HD-020 117.1
1722 Second 2 inverted 509 IG1HD-025 117.1
1722 Proof in Copper P6601 508 IG1HD-030 117.1
1722 Wood's Hibernia Halfpenny, Type II (regular issue)

1722 Wood’s Hibernia Halfpenny, Type II (regular issue) Seaby 6601, D&F 507, Krause 117.1

Year Type II, Wood’s Halfpenny Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1723 No pellet before reverse legend 6601 517 IG1HD-035 117.4
1723 3 over 2 6601 515 IG1HD-040 117.1
1723 R’s over B’s on obverse 6601 513 IG1HD-045 117.2
1723 Pellet before reverse legend 510 117.1
1723 No pellet after date 6601 514
1723 Star in reverse legend 6601 516 117.3
1723 Proof in Copper P6601 518 IG1HD-050 117.4
1723 Proof in Copper – pellet before rev legend 511 117.1
1723 Proof in Silver P6601 512 IG1HD-055 117.1a
1723 Wood's Hibernia Halfpenny, Type II (regular issue)

1723 Wood’s Hibernia Halfpenny, Type II (regular issue)

Year Type II, Wood’s Halfpenny Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1724 Divided reverse legend 6601 519 IG1HD-060 120
1724 Continuous reverse legend 6601 520 121
1724 No pellet after date 522 121
1724 Proof in Copper IG1HD-065
1724 Proof in Silver P6601 521 121a
1724 Wood's Hibernia Halfpenny, Type II (regular issue)

1724 Wood’s Hibernia Halfpenny, Type II (no pellet after date, D&F 522, Krause 121)

Year Type II, Wood’s Halfpenny Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1725 This date is caused by a die flaw on a 1723 variety

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There are also a number of patterns available for this series.  They are highly collectible and attract much attention when they appear at auction. They are available in a range of metals and a small number of varieties have been noted.

Year Woods Pattern Farthings Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1723 As type II but, longer hair and date below Hibernia, in Silver
1724 As type II but, longer hair and date below Hibernia, in Copper 534 Pn18
1724 As above in Silver Pn19
1724 Similar obverse but reverse has crossed and knotted Septre and Trident, date below 535
1724 Reverses of two patterns above combined 536 Pn20
1723 Wood's Hibernia Farthing. Martin 3.2-Bc.10, W-12500. Rarity-5. Silver Pattern. Specimen-64+

1723 Wood’s Hibernia Farthing. Martin 3.2-Bc.10, W-12500. Rarity-5. Silver Pattern. Specimen-64+

Year Wood’s Pattern Halfpennies Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1722 As type I , but Hibernia facing right looking at rocks, date below 531 IG1PTN-020 Pn17
1724 As type II, but longer hair and date below Hibernia, in Copper (wide and narrow flans) 532 IG1PTN-040 Pn21
1724 As above in Bell Metal 532 Pn22
1724 Similar obverse but reverse has crossed and knotted Septre and Trident, date below 533 Pn23
1722 Wood's Hibernia Halfpenny, D: G: REX, Rocks at Right (pattern)

1722 Wood’s Hibernia Halfpenny, D: G: REX, Rocks at Right (pattern). D&F 531, Krause Pn 17

For the specialist collector, there are a number of other (less obvious) varieties of these coins.

For the Hibernia farthing Nelson listed six types, which Breen expanded to eleven.

  • Recently Martin has identified five obverse dies (1-5) and seven reverse dies (A-G),
  • with four sub-varieties of reverse B based on the number of harp strings (between nine and twelve), for a total of eleven reverses.

These 16 dies are found in 14 combinations as follows:

  • 1722 – 1 combination
  • 1723 – 7 combinations
  • 1724 – 6 combinations (of which Martin was unable to verify three 1724 combinations)

For the Hibernia halfpence Nelson listed nine types, which Breen expanded to twenty five.

  • Martin has identified ten obverse dies (1-10) and 17 reverse dies (A-Q)
  • with numerous sub-varieties based on the number of harp strings + the size of the 3 in the date (total number of reverses = 30)

These 40 dies are found in 36 combinations as follows:

  • 1722 – 9 combinations
  • 1723/2 – 2 combinations
  • 1723 – 17 combinations
  • 1724 – 8 combinations

Several different device punches were used for the royal bust and Hibernia (Martin states there are at least three different laurel wreath styles and several variations on Hibernia’s belt).

  • Interestingly, the device punches for Hibernia had a blank harp so the strings were cut into the individual dies.
  • The engravers did not always use the same number of strings on the harp so that there could be a number of variations from a single Hibernia device.
  • Additionally, many different letter punches were used and they are found in a variety of combinations.
  • When adding all of these possibilities as well as different letter alignment and various die states due to cracks and re-cutting the number of varieties is quite large.
  • It has been suggested the number of varieties for the halfpence alone is in the 200-400 range

Further, Martin has suggested (as Hodder has shown for New Jersey coppers) that the emission sequence of these dies was not continuous or in strict chronological order, thus a 1722 obverse would be replaced with a 1723 obverse and then later re-used.

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3 thoughts on “O’Brien Coin Guide: William Wood’s Irish Coinage (1722-1724) for George I

  1. I have just found a 1723 Hibernia halfpenny under uor house floor — It doesn’t look like a production coin as it has what appears to be a stress crack plus some compressed copper lumps in the surface. Would you like a photograph ?

    Colin Dipper

    Like

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