O’Brien Coin Guide: The Irish ‘Regal Coinage’ of George II (1736-1760)


George Augustus was King of Great Britain & Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11th June 1727 until his death on 25th October 1760.

  • Both of George’s parents committed adultery
  • In 1694 their marriage was dissolved on the pretext that Sophia had abandoned her husband
    • She was confined to Ahlden House and denied access to her two children,
    • George and his sister, Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, probably never saw their mother again
      • George spoke only French, the language of diplomacy and the court, until the age of four
      • From 5 onwards, he was taught German by one of his tutors
      • He was also schooled in English and Italian
      • He also studied genealogy, military history and battle tactics

He was crowned shortly after the controversy (in Ireland) of Wood’s coinage.

George II (1727-1760).  King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire

George II (1727-1760). King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire

  • As king, he exercised little control over British domestic policy, which was largely controlled by the Parliament
    • history tended to view him with disdain, concentrating on his mistresses, short temper and boorishness
  • He was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain
    • he was born in Hanover and brought up in northern Germany
  • He was also the last British monarch to lead an army in battle
    • During the War of the Austrian Succession, George participated at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743
    • Prior to this,  in 1708, George participated in the Battle of Oudenarde with the Hanoverian cavalry
  • In 1701, his grandmother, Sophia of Hanover, became second in line to the British throne after about 50 Catholics higher in line were excluded by the Act of Settlement, which restricted the succession to Protestants
    • In 1745, supporters of the Catholic claimant to the British throne, James Francis Edward Stuart (“The Old Pretender”), led by James’s son Charles Edward Stuart (“The Young Pretender” or “Bonnie Prince Charlie”), attempted and failed to depose George II in the last of the Jacobite rebellions
  • In 1754, hostility between France and Britain, particularly over the colonization of North America, continued
  • A French invasion of the British-held island of Minorca led to the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in 1756
  • Great Britain, Hanover and Prussia and their allies Hesse-Kassel and Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were pitted against other European powers, including France, Austria, Russia, Sweden and Saxony.
    • The war involved multiple theatres from Europe to North America and India, where British dominance increased with the victories of Robert Clive over French forces and their allies at the Battles of Arcot and Plassey.
    • In the annus mirabilis of 1759, British forces captured Quebec and Guadeloupe.
      • A French plan to invade Britain was defeated following naval battles at Lagos and Quiberon Bay
      • A resumed French advance on Hanover was halted by British–Hanoverian forces at the Battle of Minden

From an Irish perspective, the reign of George II was somewhat mixed :-

  • 1720’s
  • Many towns prospered; the cattle-market was an important source of prosperity.
    • Textiles and agricultural exports mainly went to England.
    • Linen became a huge domestic industry, dominated by Protestants.
    • Cotton villages began to appear.
  • Colonial restrictions caused few problems.
    • Trading networks expanded as transport improved.
      • Despite the English tariff on Irish woollens after the boom of the 1690s, the industry diversified
      • The Ulster linen industry was born
  • 1730’s
  • Catholic freeholders formally lost the vote
  • Anti-Catholic legislation (Penal Laws) was being pushed more by Irish Protestants than by the English
  • Bad harvests saw rural destitution, but afterwards both the population and economy expanded
    • The east and south became more Anglicised and commercialised
    • A prosperous farming class developed (historians do not agree on the extent of poverty at this time)

Meanwhile, to ‘grease the cogs’ of commerce a new ‘regal’ coinage was introduced in the 1730’s following the failed recent experiment of Wood’s Hibernia coinage of the 1720’s.  At last, everyone agreed, that Ireland’s commercial future was assured.

  • This coinage was produced in the London mint for use in Ireland
  • The ‘quality’ is similar to that of the contemporary English halfpence and farthings
    • This must have pleased Dean Swift and his supporters
    • It still did not address the need for silver coinage in Ireland

It did, however, address the appalling amount of sub-standard un-official, private token coinages that then flooded the Irish marketplace but were not acceptable as payments outside of Ireland.  The Wood’s coinage (patent tokens) were circulating quite freely at this time, along with all of their predecessors, so the arrival of the new ‘regal’ halfpennies and farthings had an immediate effect in terms of clearing out the old tokens (incl. the Wood’s ‘patent’ halfpennies).

Aquilla Smith said

“the coinage of the fine copper halfpence by George the Second, in 1736 and 1737, and of farthings in 1737, put an end to the issue of private tokens… They were withdrawn from circulation, and full value given for them in gold or silver” … which accounts for the extreme rarity of some pre-1730’s Irish trade tokens.

He went on to add

“It is said that our good (presumably, full-weight) halfpence are carried to the West of England and to Scotland by the colliers and other dealers, which is a good trade for them, as they get thirteen pence for a shilling, which is eight and one-third (per cent) profit, so that, unless Irish halfpence are prohibited in Great Britain, we shall he constantly drained of our Copper Coin, great quantities of which are likewise exported to America.”

Could the Wood’s coinage have been exported to the America’s in this way ?

– in small quantities by emigrants, or in larger quantities via Irish and Scottish traders, operating out of ports served by emigrant ships, i.e. the emigrant ship captains could have made a tidy profit by transporting small casks of coins on every crossing. ???

Year Type I Farthings – fine lettering Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1737 6608 557 IG2FA-005 126
1737 Proof in Copper P6608 558 IG2FA-010 126
1737 Proof in Silver P6608 559 IG2FA-015 126a
1738 6608 560 IG2FA-020 126
1737 George II, Type I farthing S-6608 D&F-558 George II, the superb left-facing Irish portrait, bare head with ribbon-ties behind. Plain edge.

1737 George II, Type I farthing S-6608 D&F-558 George II, the superb left-facing Irish portrait, bare head with ribbon-ties behind. Plain edge.

Note: The 1738 (Type I) is one of the scarcest regular issue Irish farthings.

Year Type I Halfpenny – fine lettering Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1736 6605 538 IG2HD-005 125
1736 Proof in Copper P6605 539 IG2HD-010 125
1736 Proof in Silver P6605 540 IG2HD-015 125a
1737 6605 541 IG2HD-020 125
1737 Proof in Copper P6605 IG2HD-025
1738 6605 542 IG2HD-030 125
George II, Type I copper Halfpenny 1736.  Obverse : Laureate bust facing left;

George II, Type I copper Halfpenny 1736.  Obverse : Laureate bust facing left; “GEORGIUS·II·REX”. Reverse : Harp at center; “HIBERNIA” above and date split either side of the base of the harp below

These coins are (now) not as common as the preceeding Wood’s coinage in terms of availability to collectors and, with the exception of the 1760 issue, they are difficult to obtain in much better than Very Fine condition.  This would imply that they should be more expensive than Wood’s coinage but, since they were never ‘officially sanctioned’ for use in the American colony, they are not as widely collected and their value is low when compared with Wood’s coinage.

  • 1740’s
  • Where there was no varied local economy, small farmers and cottiers became dependent on pigs and potatoes.
    • Holdings tended to be let out and multiplied rather than farmed in large units
    • In the absence of political rights, a network of agrarian secret societies emerged, known as the ‘Whiteboys’
      • The Whiteboys reacted violently to taxes or the spread of the dairy economy
      • They protected the peasants from rack-renting landlords
      • They were only interested in local affairs, not national politics
      • The Irish people lived in extreme poverty but reserved their loyalties for the church and secret societies

Dublin in the 1740’s was a Protestant city, and one that was flooded with Protestant refugees fleeing oppression from Catholic France, Austria and southern Germany.  They brought with them …. skills and knowledge – in manufacturing, financial, construction and industrial technology.  These ‘dissenting‘ Protestants did not see the Church of Ireland as the only option.  Their non-conformist world included Arminians, Baptists, Bradilonians, Muggletonians, Quakers, Socinians and Unitarians,

They disrupted the establishment view – both here in Ireland and in England.  They broke the stranglehold of subservience to the established churches and liberated men to think (and act) independently of scripture.  Contrary to the view of ‘trickle down’ economics, Dublin’s great economic progression in the 18th C was due to small, self-employed businessmen, manufacturers and traders.  It had nothing to do with the ‘undertakers’ who, since the Cromwellian invasion grew wealthy by neoptism, corruption and restrictive legislation.  A healthy, self-sustaining middle class has its roots amongst the working classes.

Year Type 2 Halfpenny  – larger lettering Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1741 6606 543 IG2HD-035 130.1
1742 6606 544 IG2HD-040 130.1
1742 Pattern with long curling hair 564 IG2PTN-020 Pn24
1743 6606 545 IG2HD-045 130.1
1744 6606 546 IG2HD-050 130.1
1744 over 43 6606 547 IG2HD-055 130.1
1746 6606 548 IG2HD-060 130.1

In the mid-1740’s the Royal Mint saw fit to produce a farthing dated 1744.  No other Irish Type II farthings are known to exist for George II.

Year Type 2 Farthing – larger lettering Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1744 6609 561 IG2FA-025 131
A 1744 Farthing of 10 Strings, S.6609, 4.36 g., coin orientation, plain edge.  Laureate bust left of the young George II left, legend around GEORGIUS .    II . R E X ., with the pellets at middle height.  Top ribbon to middle of X.  Rev. crowned harp of 10 strings divides date at bottom 17  44, with well spaced H I B E R N I A . around at top, with B well to left of crown. Good Very Fine with a trace of verdigris on the obverse.  Very well detailed laureate head.  1738 and 1744 are the scarcest regular issue Irish farthings

1744 Farthing of 10 Strings, S.6609, 4.36 g., coin orientation, plain edge. Laureate bust left of the young George II left, legend around GEORGIUS . II . R E X ., with the pellets at middle height. Top ribbon to middle of X. Rev. crowned harp of 10 strings divides date at bottom 17 44, with well spaced H I B E R N I A . around at top, with B well to left of crown. Good Very Fine with a trace of verdigris on the obverse. Very well detailed laureate head.

Note: The 1744 (Type II) is one of the two scarcest regular issue Irish farthings.

In 1747, the name GEORGIUS was changed slightly to GEORGIVS (with a Roman V) – thus a third type became available to modern day collectors.

  • No Irish Type III farthings are known to exist for George II..
Year Type 3 Halfpenny Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1747 6607 549 IG2HD-065 130.2
1748 6607 550 IG2HD-070 130.2
1749 6607 551 IG2HD-075 130.2
1750 6607 552 IG2HD-080 130.2
1751 6607 553 IG2HD-085 130.2
1752 6607 554 IG2HD-090 130.2
1752 Proof in Copper IG2HD-095
1753   6607 555 IG2HD-100 130.2
A 1747 George II, Type III copper Halfpenny of 9 Strings, S.6607, 8.52 g., coin orientation, plain edge.  Laureate bust left of the young George II left, legend around GEORGIVS .    II . R E X ., with the pellets at mixed heights.  Top ribbon to just rt. of middle of  X;  ribbon well clear of X.  Rev. crowned harp of 9 strings divides date at bottom 17  47, with H I B E R N I A . around at top.   Top of crown to midpoint between E and R.

A 1747 George II, Type III copper Halfpenny of 9 Strings, S.6607, 8.52 g., coin orientation, plain edge. Laureate bust left of the young George II left, legend around GEORGIVS . II . R E X ., with the pellets at mixed heights. Top ribbon to just rt. of middle of X; ribbon well clear of X. Rev. crowned harp of 9 strings divides date at bottom 17 47, with H I B E R N I A . around at top. Top of crown to midpoint between E and R.

Note: Many catalogues (and dealers’ price lists) appear to include ‘1755’ as a legitimate date.  Recent research by John Rainey and Graham Dyer suggest that this date was not officially produced and that all of the specimens of this date (and listed in major public collections) are ‘contemprorary’ counterfeits.

  • 1750’s
  • Middle-class Catholics, who were still allowed to trade, emphasized their loyalty to the Crown
    • Many, in order to improve their chances, converted to Protestantism and avoided the Penal Laws
    • Some modern historians now label them ‘the Improvinatii’
      • They include :-
  • The first people to talk of an Irish nation were :-
    • The recent (dissenting) Protestant settlers and converts to Protestantism (Improvinatii)
      • They were highly aspirational
      • Their culture included the literature of Swift, Sheridan, Burke and others.
      • They wanted to be treated by Britain as an equal nation
      • Jonathan Swift, Protestant dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, had (since the reign of George I) argued that “the English parliament had no right to legislate for Ireland”
        • Sadly, the Irish parliament was powerless and had little significance

By the time of George II’s death in October 1760, the Age of Enlightenment was leading towards the American Revolution, the French Revolution and the beginning of the end of the monarchy’s divine right to rule throughout Europe.  And, just before his death, there was a final (Type 4) issue of coins in the name of George II.

Year Type 4 Farthing – Older Bust Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1760 6611 563 IG2FA-030 135
1760 George II (1727-1760), Copper farthingType IV

1760 George II (1727-1760), Copper farthing, Type IV

Year Type 4 Halfpenny – Older Bust Seaby Dowle & Finn Coincraft Krause
1760 6610 562 IG2HD-110 136
1760 Proof in Copper IG2HD-115 Pn25
1760 George II (1727-1760), Copper Halfpenny, Type IV

1760 George II (1727-1760), Copper Halfpenny, Type IV

1760 George II, Farthing (DF 563, S 6611), obverse brockage, extremely fine and patinated, rare and unusual

1760 George II, Farthing (DF 563, S 6611), obverse ‘brockage’ error, extremely fine, rare and unusual

The Royal Mint in London was hard-pressed to produce enough coin for England, Scotland and Wales during the reign of George II, so we do not know how many were produced for each year for Ireland.  In general, the Irish coinage of George II is very scarce in the higher grades but Type IV (1760) seems to be ‘easier to get’ than many of the other dates and types.

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