O’Brien Coin Guide: Irish Decimal Fivepence

The five pence (5p) coin (Irish: cúig phingin) was a sub-division of the Irish pound. It was introduced in Ireland on Decimal Day, 15th February 1971 and re-used the design on the shilling coin first produced for the Irish Free State in 1928.  Due to the similarity in size and weight, many of the old shillings coins remained in circulation until the early 1990s, when the new (smaller) 5p coin was released.

Mass Large format: 5.65 g  (1969–1990)

Small format: 3.25 g  (1992–2000)

Diameter Large format: 23.59 mm (1969–1990)

Small format: 18.5 mm (1992–2000)

Edge Fine milled
Composition Cupro-nickel  (75% copper / 25% nickel)
Years of minting 1969–2000 but it only ‘circulated’ from 1971 onwards

The Irish decimal fivepence coin matched the British five pence coin and they were minted by The Royal Mint until the breakup with Sterling in 1978/79.  This coin was also similar in size and weight to the German Deutschemark and many Irish student and immigrant workers will fondly remember bringing bags of them over to Germany to get significant discounts in vending machines.  In monetary terms 1DM – approx. 7 x 5p coins, so the temptation to obtain cheap phonecalls, cheap train tickets and cheap cigarettes was just too tempting for some.

1971 Ireland 5p

1971 Ireland 5p

Year Mintage
1969   5,000,000
1970 10,000,000
1971   8,000,000
1974   7,000,000
1975 10,000,000
1976 20,600,000
1978 28,500,000
1980 22,200,000
1982 24,400,000
1985   4,200,000
1986 15,300,000
1990   7,500,000

As a modern coin, the coin’s physical dimensions were large relative to its value and a new, smaller type was introduced in 1992 – no doubt, much to the relief of the German vending machine operators.

1996 Ireland 5p

1996 Ireland 5p

Similar to the introduction of the new (smaller) 10p coin in 1993, one has to wonder why no small 5p coins dated 1991 were found – no doubt, the P&T (Eircom) would have had to re-calibrate and test their coinboxes in the 1991. To date, no 1991 5p coins have been reported.  Maybe there was enough time in early 1992 to do the testing before the new coins were released into circulation by the Central Bank of Ireland..

Year Mintage
1992   74,500,000
1993   89,100,000
1994   31,000,000
1996   15,000,000
1998 159,000,000
2000   58,000,000
Apart from the obvious difference in size/weight on the Type II Ireland 5p coin, the bull on the reverse side faces left.

Apart from the obvious difference in size/weight on the Type II Ireland 5p coin, the bull on the reverse side faces left.

Errors & Varieties

Although none of the Irish decimal 5p coins are rare, collectors eagerly seek out hitherto unrecorded errors and varieties.  The following are just some of the spectacular errors that exist – I shall be adding more as I find them.


7 thoughts on “O’Brien Coin Guide: Irish Decimal Fivepence

  1. I like your site
    I want to inform you that I have 5p Irish coin 1993 with error double die day and harb
    I can send a photo of it if you want

    Patia Marakkou


  2. Dear Mr. O’Brien
    Thanks for your answer
    Now I’m trip in Greece
    I shall send a photo of 5p Irish double die coin after 27th of September when I shall be home
    Thanks again
    Patia Marakkou


  3. Hello! I have an Irish coin and would love to get your take on it. Would a picture help? Please tell me how to send a photo. It has a harp on one side and a bull on the other side. 1992


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