O’Brien Coin Guide: Alloy Varieties of the Morbiducci Proof/Patterns (1927)


Introduction:

When he entered the Irish Coin Design competition of 1927, Publio Morbiducci put forward eight reverse designs: namely a farthing, halfpenny (sheep/ram), penny, threepence, sixpence, shilling, florin and halfcrown design.

  • To date, no pattern / proof farthings or halfpennies have been found
  • As such, there are only 6 coins in the basic set to collect
    • Bronze Penny
    • Nickel-Silver Threepence
    • Nickel-Silver Sixpence
    • Silver Shilling
    • Silver Florin
    • Silver Halfcrown

In line with the rules, Morbiducci produced plaster casts for all of his designs for the competition but he also privately commissioned patterns for the judges to consider as part of their decision-making process. It is thought that they were all struck on his behalf by the famous Milanese medallists Lorioli Castelli.

  • Contrary to the Krause catalogue entries, no examples of his farthing or halfpenny patterns have been found.
  • Each also carries the word PROVA (Italian for “proof” on the obverse) and the signature P. MORBIDUCCI on the reverse.

Morbiducci’s Irish Proofs/Patterns:

He commissioned some pieces in different metal alloys – some in the metal intended for actual coinage and some in other metals, perhaps to test their striking characteristics. It is not known how many of these coins, struck by the Milanese medallists Lorioli Castelli, were produced, or have survived, e.g. some were struck in Nickel-Silver (or German Silver, as it is also known).

To date, the following metal alloy types have been recorded:

  • Penny
    • 5 different metal alloys
  • Threepence
    • 5 different metal alloys
  • Sixpence
    • 4 different metal alloys
  • Shilling
    • 4 different metal alloys
  • Florin
    • 4 different metal alloys
  • Halfcrown
    • 3 different metal alloys

Thus, for the advanced (and very wealthy collector), there are 25 different variations of the Morbiducci’s Irish patterns to collect. Since some of these alloy variations are unique, being wealthy is no guarantee of success at auction – on the rare occasions they turn up. Apart from their rarity value, a further premium may be applied for provenance. For example, some have belonged to famous collectors (e.g. King Farouk of Egypt), come from a famous group, or even formerly belonged to members of the Morbiducci family.

Collectors often say that coins are only worth what they sell for but consider this: only the winning bidder knows how much they were prepared to go to, i.e. above their winning bid. This is the conundrum for the under-bidder who is often left wondering:

  • “What if I went a few more bids?”
  • “Would I have got it?”

Alloy Varieties of Morbiducci’s Irish Patterns:

Known examples include the following metal alloys:

Morbiducci Penny

Morbiducci's Irish pattern (proof) penny in Copper

Morbiducci’s Irish pattern (proof) penny in Copper

Morbiducci Threepence

Morbiducci's Irish pattern (proof), Threepence in Copper

Morbiducci’s Irish pattern (proof), Threepence in Copper

  • Threepence (Diameter: 17.75 mm – weights vary according to metal)

Morbiducci Sixpence

Morbiducci's Irish pattern (proof), Sixpence in Silver

Morbiducci’s Irish pattern (proof), Sixpence in Nickel-Silver

Morbiducci Shilling

Morbiducci's Irish pattern (proof), Shilling in Silver

Morbiducci’s Irish pattern (proof), Shilling in Silver

Morbiducci Florin

Morbiducci's Irish pattern (proof), Florin in Bronze

Morbiducci’s Irish pattern (proof), Florin in Bronze

  • Florin (Diameter: 28 mm – weights vary according to metal)
    • Morbiducci florin in silver (only 4 known) – 9.98 g
    • Morbiducci florin in silver-clad copper (only 1 known) – ? g
    • Morbiducci florin in copper (only 1 known) – ? g
    • Morbiducci florin in bronze (only 4 known) – 7.77 g

Morbiducci Halfcrown

Morbiducci's Irish pattern (proof), Halfcrown in Silver.

Morbiducci’s Irish pattern (proof), Halfcrown in Silver.

  • Halfcrown (Diameter: 32 mm – weights vary according to metal)
    • Morbiducci halfcrown in silver (only 7 known) – 10.17 g
    • Morbiducci halfcrown in copper (only 1 known) – ?
    • Morbiducci halfcrown in bronze (only 2 known) – 10.55 g

Morbiducci Sets:

Very occasionally, privately held sets appear on the market but thus far, no complete (8-coin) set has been offered for sale. Sometimes, these sets yield a hitherto unknown variety.

The set illustrated below is not a ‘boxed set’ but formed part of an extensive coin collection accumulated by the Late, Major A.W. Foster and was purchased by Baldwins of London in 1982. Baldwins offered the six patterns (below) as one lot @ £65,000 stg., or individually, in their Summer Fixed Price List on 16th July 2013.

Morbiducci Irish Pattern Coin Set (obv + rev) - one of each coin type.

Morbiducci Irish Pattern Coin Set (obv + rev) – one of each coin type. Ex. Maj. A.W. Foster

 

Notes:

The above census figures for Morbiducci’s Irish proofs/patterns are dependent upon the assumption that the auctioneers’ lot descriptions are accurate. Figures may be subject to change if/when new information becomes available.

In addition to the metallic alloy variations, it has also been reported that some of the above coins are available in both coin-struck and medal-struck orientations. Given the extreme rarity of all of Morbiducci’s proofs/patterns, further research is needed before a breakdown can be provided for the ‘medal-struck’ population.

  • Why did he provide medal-struck examples?
    • Perhaps, it was to test the striking characteristics of certain coins.
    • If so, were the Italians also hoping to secure the contract to mint the new coins?

 


Further Reading:

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