Irish Coin Daily: Elizabeth I, Copper Penny (3rd Irish Coinage)


The Irish Coin Cabinet - a daily magazine featuring just 'best of breed' example of Irish numismatics per day. It will eventually accumulate into one of the finest archives of Irish coins in the world

Date: 1601-02

Description:

1601 Elizabeth I, Copper Penny (3rd Irish Coinage), Irish Coin Database, Old Currency Exchange

Country:

  • Ireland

Category:

  • Anglo-Irish
    • House of Tudor
  • Elizabeth I
    • Third Base Coinage (Shielded Issue)
      • Tower of London Mint
  • Hammered

Notes:

The coins are known as Irish pennies. The English minted them in 1601 and 1602 and tried to introduce them as currency in Ireland, however the Irish rejected the coins and they quickly fell into disuse.

  • On 28th April 1601 an order was placed for £49,000 value in silver and £1,000 in copper. The new coins were shipped out quickly to Ireland, where in May they were proclaimed.

The reason for this coinage was to deny good silver to the rebels in the north of Ireland so they would not have anything with which to buy arms from abroad. The idea was to flood Ireland with base money and get everything else out of circulation.

  • The money was exchangeable almost at par – 21 shillings Irish for 20 shillings English, which could be converted back in London at 19 shillings English for 20 shillings Irish.
  • It was, therefore, intended to be a token currency, but one which could only be redeemed in England – only base coin was allowed in Ireland – all existing coin was to be exchanged for the new at the rates quoted, and exchanges were set up in several cities in Ireland.

It is not entirely clear as to what coins were circulating in Ireland at the time. Hoards contain mostly English coin, but there was a lot of base coin in use (which would not be hoarded) and it is no surprise that much of the existing base coin was brought in to exchange for the new legal tender base coin, but not much sterling.

  • Jamestown Island has proven to be the single largest source of the coins in the world, said Merry Outlaw, the curator of collections for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project.
  • She said the coins may have been brought to Jamestown to be used as an internal currency during the colony’s earliest days.
  • The Irish rejection of the coins left no use for them in the Old World

One of the earliest colonists was the son of the top official at England’s Royal Mint and may have been the catalyst in getting the coins to the New World. The coins are about the size of a U.S. penny and feature images of harps and Latin writing along the edges.


Further Reading:

  • Challis, Christopher, The Tudor Coinage for Ireland, British Numismatic Journal (1971)
  • Comber, Christopher, The Anglo-Irish Coinage of Elizabeth I
  • Dolley, M. The Pattern of Elizabethan Coin Hoards from Ireland, Ulster Journal of Archaeology (1970)
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