In 1971, Ireland decimalised its currency in parallel with the UK. We did this because we were tied to the UK Pound at that time and one of the more unusual mathematical aspects of decimalisation was that both countries set the conversion rate for the new penny at 2 or 3 old pennies.
One new (decimal) pound was worth 240 old pennies but, if one had the patience, and handed them in two at a time, one got 1p back, therefore 240 old pennies could have got 120 new pence back – an instant profit of 20% ! I’m someone did this over and over until they got fed up.
The concensus of opinion at the time was “we’re losing 1 penny in every 3, therefore its a con.”
Another unusual aspect of the Irish decimal penny is that the Central bank changed the alloy from bronze to copper-plated steel in 1990. This happened because the cost of producing bronze pennies exceeded their face value. In time, allowing for price inflation of steel + the cost of copper-plating the planchets, the second type also cost more to produce than the face value of the coin.
|Thickness||(Bronze) 1.52 mm
(Steel) 1.65 mm
Copper-plated steel (1990–2000)
|Years of minting||1971–2000|
As one can see from the mintage figures below, none of the decimal pennies are scarce, although a premium is always paid for coins in the highest grades. Due to the retail industry’s insistence that they price their goods at 1p below the nearest pound, there was a constant demand for pennies for change and the Central bank had to produce huge numbers to keep up with this demand.
In order to keep a collection ‘interesting’, many collectors seek out errors on the 1p coins, e.g.