O’Brien Coin Guide: The Unofficial Irish Token Coinages of George III (1760-1820)


Introduction

The late 18th century is a complicated time from the perspective of collecting tokens insofar as several dealers began to manufacture their own tokens for collectors, i.e. these did not circulate. They doubled and tripled their profits by deliberately producing mules, i.e. mis-matching obverse and reverse dies. They then increased their profits further by adding a series of different legends to the rims of their tokens. We know these tokens never circulated because none have ever been found showing signs of wear and tear from circulation.

The tokens of the late 18th century can be categorised as follows :-

  1. Genuine Trade Tokens – issued by manufacturers, merchants, shopkeepers and traders either for the purpose of paying their employees or for the specific purpose of providing small change. These tokens are usually of appropriate weight, plus bear the name and address of the issuer.
  2. Pieces for General Circulation – issued for the purpose of providing small change but, since they do not show the name or address of the manufacturer or the trader, they involved no liability on their part. They were generally sold by weight to anyone who wanted to put them into circulation and this was profitable for both manufacturer and distributor.
  3. Advertising pieces – since these tokens mention no value, but do display the name, address and sometimes their occupation/wares, they are considered advertising pieces. Those of good weight would have circulated as small change locally.
  4. Political pieces – some politicians, looking for something more appealing than pamphlets, took to issuing their own tokens, which could be either given out as gifts or sold to followers. They quickly became collectible.
  5. Private tokens – following the fashion of the politicians and advertising traders, some collectors began to issue their own tokens to trade or swap with their friends and/or fellow collectors.
  6. Tokens for Collectors – almost as soon as they appeared in the late 18th C, tokens became collectible and a frenzy soon took over as manufacturers took advantage of this new, immensely popular hobby amongst the ‘moneyed’ classes – most gentlemen of the period would have had a coin cabinet in their home library. These pieces often display beautiful ‘aged toning’ from a lifetime in specially made coin cabinets.
  7. Proofs – token collectors, at the time (as now), had an appetite for ‘special pieces’ made from highly polished flans, produced slowly and carefully, ensuring that no scratches, blemishes or contact marks diminished the ‘eye appeal’ of their pieces. Collectors paid a premium for such pieces and few were made. These tokens were also manufactured in precious metals, e.g. silver and gold. Collectors would have been careful not to handle them and these also (often) display ‘aged toning’ from a lifetime in coin cabinets.
  8. Mules and Edge Varieties – a small group of manufacturers of the genuine tokens soon found themselves accumulating redundant dies from orders fulfilled and unlikely to be repeated. These could have been kept as ‘sample book’ display items, or melted down as scrap metal but there was an even more profitable use for them. If the obverse of one was ‘paired’ with the obverse of another, a ‘mule’ was formed. These proved to be highly collectible too. Further varieties were formed by pairing two obverses or two reverses. And, when this wasn’t enough, they added legends to the rims of the tokens, creating a multitude of varieties for collectors.
  9. Forgeries – with the collecting frenzy at its height, it wasn’t long before the forgers took notice (and advantage|) of the situation. The consequences of being caught forging legal tender (regal coinage) was severe, but they soon realised that forging tokens had little liability or risk attached – as such, it was ‘open season’ and easy profits accrued.

A simple chronological listing of Irish trade tokens during the reign of King George III (1760-1820)

  • This list will be expanded as and when I find new tokens to add.
  • Tokens appear in alphabetical order, within year
  • Since not all large towns or even all counties are represented by Victorian trade tokens, it is pointless to list them any other way.
    • To quickly search for your town or county, just press Ctrl + F and a search box will appear.
    • Input the placename, company name, or any other text / number in this pop-up box and press the Enter key, then click on the down arrow to find the next entry.

1789

Wicklow – Cronebane

  • Cronebane Halfpenny.
  • Obverse: Bust of bishop right holding crosier / CRONEBANE HALFPENNY around.
  • Reverse: Shield of arms / ASSOCIATED IRISH MINE COMPANY 1789 around
  • Bronzed proof. D&H 18, 30 mm.

1794

Dublin – Talbot Fyan (Poolbeg Street, Dublin)

  • Halfpenny.
  • Obverse: A female seated right, leaning on an anchor and spilling the contents of a cornucopia to her left; MAY IRELAND EVER FLOURISH around
  • Reverse: A bottle labeled BRANDY and a sugar loaf; 1794; TALBORT FYAN GROCER POOLBEG STREET DUBLIN around.
  • Edge: MANUFACTURED BY W LUTWYCHE BIRMINGHAM.
  • 11.14 gm. 29 mm. D&H 309

1794

  • Dublin, M.F.W., Halfpenny
  • Obverse: standing figure of Hope
  • Reverse: cypher / BY ACT OF PARLIAMENT INCORPORATED around
  • Edge plain, (DH 346a) very rare

1795

Dublin – Un-named

  • Prattent’s mule Halfpenny
  • Obverse: man working in loom / NOTHING WITHOUT INDUSTRY 1795
  • Reverse: arms / PAYABLE IN DUBLIN . NEWRY OR BELFAST,
  • Edge plain, 10.54g/6h (DH 16)

1796

Dublin – Murphy, M.  (8 Wood Street, Dublin)

  • Prattent’s mule Farthing
  • Obverse: man working in a loom / NOTHING WITHOUT INDUSTRY 1795
  • Reverse: two male busts vis-à-vis / PAYABLE IN DUBLIN . NEWRY OR BELFAST
  • Edge plain, 4.01g/6h (DH 400), very rare

Dublin – O’Bryen, J. (Church Street, Dublin)

  • Dublin, J. O’Bryen, Farthing
  • obverse: three sugar-loaves suspended above legend / GROCER & TEA DEALER 1796
  • reverse:  tea canister dividing two sugar loaves, die flaw in mid-stage
  • edge plain, 4.87g/6h (DH 386)

Dublin – O’Bryen, T.  (Church Street, Dublin)

  • Dublin, T. O’Bryen, Farthing
  • obverse: three sugar-loaves suspended above legend / DEALER IN WHISKY
  • reverse:  cask dividing bottle and glass
  • edge plain, 4.04g / 6h (DH 387). Virtually as struck, reflective brown patina

Dublin – O’Bryen, T.  (Church Street, Dublin)

  • Dublin, T. O’Bryen, Farthing
  • obverse: three sugar-loaves suspended above legend / DEALER IN CANDLES
  • reverse:  bowl inscribed whisky, bunch of grapes above
  • edge plain, 3.89g / 6h (DH 388). Virtually as struck, reflective brown patina

Dublin – O’Bryen, T.  (Church Street, Dublin)

  • Dublin, T. O’Bryen, Farthing
  • obverse: three sugar-loaves suspended above legend / GROCER & TEA DEALER 1796
  • reverse:  tea canister dividing two sugar loaves, die flaw in mid-stage
  • edge plain, 4.01g / 6h (DH 385)

1800

Wexford – Enniscorthy

  • Halfpenny
  • Obverse: R.W. / PAYABLE AT THE BANK
  • Reverse: tree and shield (RW) / A.D. 1800
  • Edge plain, D&H 3

1808

Cork – John Drinen

  • Lead farthing. 8.23 gm. 22 mm. I D monogram, a circle of pellets around / A sugar loaf with a suspension ring on top; BK left, ST right; a circle of pellets around. Extremely Fine. 417 (Extremely Rare).

1813

Dublin – Geale & MacBride

  • Halfpenny token, 17 Westmoreland Street, Dublin – not dated, but issued in 1813 and rated as RRR, extremely rare. Geale & MacBride specialised in Furniture and fashionable ironmongery.

Dublin – Hilles,

  • Penny token. 17.00 gm. 33 mm. Two men working at a rolling mill; ONE PENNY TOKEN around top; J HILLES | DUBLIN below / A sprig of shamrock; PAYABLE IN BANK OF IRELAND NOTES 1813 around. Edge: center grained.

1815

Kilkenny – Castlecomer

The Spanish dollar or ‘piece of eight’ reales counter-struck ‘5 shillings & 5 pence’ for use in trading by the Castle Comer Colliery, in Co Kilkenny, is the only silver crown-sized piece issued in Ireland by a private commercial entity.  They were produced on behalf of Anne, Duchess of Ormonde.  It was said, at the time, that she

“not wishing to lose by the depreciated value of Spanish dollars of which she had at that time a large number, caused all she had to be stamped with the legend ‘Castle Comer Colliery, 5 shillings and five pence’.  Coals to that amount being given for them at the pits, Kilkenny traders used to take them in exchange for their commodities knowing that they could give them afterwards to colliers in payment for coals.”

They are known to exist for the following (donor coin) dates – 1774, 1791, 1796, 1799, 1801, 1804 and 1808.  It is thought she (or her agents) had exchanged a large number of Spanish dollars.   A contemporary reporter (Tighe), mentions that Bank of Ireland tokens for 6s, over-struck on Spanish dollars were used as a form of payment, and that the import by individuals, mainly from Liverpool of un-stamped dollars, which were also used in transactions according to their weight

The Bank of Ireland had been doing a similar thing to Spanish coins between 1804-13, so the idea of re-using Spanish dollars was not new.

  • In order to comply with the laws banning “the imitation of coins of the realm” they used different denominations, e.g. 5d, 10d and 6/- instead of the more usual British silver 6d, 1/- and 5/- coins in circulation.
  • In addition to this, the Bank of Ireland sent their Spanish dollar coins to the Royal Mint to have them over-struck and the ‘under-type’ is occasionally visible.
  • The Castlecomer token is a counter-strike and was done privately.
  • They probably would have only circulated within a certain radius of Castlecomer / Kilkenny City.

Anonymous Penny – Duke of Wellington

Holden’s directory of 1809 – 1811 lists Edward Stephens as ”proprietor of Merchants stores and patentee of the improved malt and corn kilns. James’s Street”. 

Struck for general circulation in a time of desperate demand for small change – it is not known who issued this piece but the dies were engraved by the Dublin die-sinker Parkes. This Regal and official looking coin, although a little crudely engraved, features the hero Wellington with his Irish connections and would have aided its general acceptance in Dublin in these times of little official small change and much underweight and unofficial coppers !  They are often found struck over Edward Stephens’s pennies and the word ‘DUBLIN’ can clearly be seen ghosting through at Hibernia’s knees and the date 1816 on the obverse.  This does tend to suggest that this coin was not struck in the year it bears – but probably around 1818 / 20

1819

Galway

Undated

Cork – Issuer unknown

  • Prattent’s mule Halfpenny
  • Obverse: JE & Co cypher / PAYABLE IN CORK OR DUBLIN / HALFPENNY
  • Reverse: bust of Bryen Boiroimhe / BRYEN BOIROIMHE KING OF MUNSTER
  • Edge plain, 9.12g / 6h (DH 15). Very rare

_______________________________________________

Further reading:

Rice, G. Irish Tavern Tokens. The John Sweeney Collection Supplemented by other Collections. 2013. Published jointly by the Numismatic Society of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks. 113 pages, b/w illustrations throughout. Card covers. This superb publication is the result of many years research based on the John Sweeney collection of Tavern tokens which has been supplemented by tokens from other collections. The result is the most comprehensive publication of Irish Tavern Tokens to date and it brings new dimensions to the study of this branch of numismatics. Gerard Rice has written this comprehensive book for numismatists, be they collectors or students of the subject, and it illustrates 350 examples from a catalogue of over 400 Irish tavern tokens. Most were struck by the company controlled by John Craig Parkes at the Coombe in Dublin. Individual tokens are fully described and are crossed-referenced to other popular tavern token catalogues. When known, the provenance of an individual token is listed. Each piece, including the issuing proprietor, has been carefully researched and recorded and where a ‘social context’ is understood, that too is included, making the finished volume a comprehensive commentary on the licensed trade as evidenced by the tavern tokens of post famine Dublin. For easy reference the book includes an index of types, an index of places and an index of issuers.

Withers, P. & B. The Token Book, 17th, 18th and 19th Century Tokens and Their Values. Galata, 2010. Octavo, pp. 512, over 2,500 full colour illustrations. Casebound. This comprehensive survey begins with a 20 page introduction and a brief account of how to understand tokens, with a useful list of the standard reference works for each main type. Nearly 3500 17th century tokens have been listed, with Williamson/Dickinson ref. numbers, and prices for Fine condition. Over 2,500 of these are illustrated, including the most commonly found pieces, the most interesting, those that are heart-shaped, square, hexagonal or octagonal, and those depicting the tools and products of various trades and activities, inn signs, and the arms of the livery companies. For each county there are details of the token-issuing towns, cities and villages with the number of tokens they issued. Offering far more information and more illustrations than the Schwer guide, the18th century tokens are listed here with Dalton & Hamer references and all types are listed with edge varieties and prices for up to three grades. 19th century silver tokens have also been listed with Dalton & Hamer references with all types listed and prices for EF condition. All types have been listed for 19th century copper tokens with the relevant Withers references and prices for three grades. Evasion halfpennies and farthings have been listed with Atkins references and prices for fair or Fine condition. There is a select bibliography at the end of the book along with a detailed index with 2000 entries.

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