Irish Milled Coins

Introduction

Hammered coins are produced by hand, whereas milled coins are produced by machine. This particular webpage is intended as a catalogue and image library of Irish ‘milled’ coins, dating from those issued by King James I (his patent farthings that were produced by third party industrialists) to King George IV.  No official coins were minted for William IV, Victoria, Edward VII or George V in Ireland – apart from a few private patterns and fantasy crowns.  Unofficial coin tokens are treated separately – see Irish Coins (Tokens).

Screw presses for striking coins were “invented” in 1506. An Italian, Donato Bramante (1444-1514) modified an existing press (perhaps a fruit or olive press) that year for striking lead seals for Pope Julius II (1503-13). Other early screw presses where built by Nicolo Grosso and used at the Florence Mint for blanking at approximately the same time. While the screw press was a major improvement, it took more than a century to replace entrenched moneyers and hammered coinage. Moneyers fought the innovation despite the fact coins could be struck with a screw press in quicker time creating a far more uniform coin with a better rim by cold coining. The screw press was introduced at the London Mint in 1551, the moneyers revolted, the screw press rejected, and it was not until 1662, 111 years later that it finally was in full use there.. The Old Currency Exchange is Ireland's leading retailer for collectible banknotes, coins and tokens. best good shop for Irish coins and banknotes, Dublin, Ireland

Screw presses for striking coins were “invented” in 1506. An Italian, Donato Bramante (1444-1514) modified an existing press for striking lead seals for Pope Julius II (1503-13). Other early screw presses where built by Nicolo Grosso and used at the Florence Mint for ‘blanking’ at approximately the same time. While the screw press was a major improvement, it took more than a century to replace ‘entrenched’ moneyers and hammered coinage. Moneyers fought the innovation despite the fact coins could be struck with a screw press in quicker time creating a far more uniform coin with a better rim by cold coining. When the screw press was introduced at the London Mint in 1551, the moneyers revolted, the screw press rejected, and it was not until 1662, over a century later, that it fwas in full use there. The development of the screw press, delayed for over a century, was then widely accepted at mints around the world. It was first powered by men, and continued so, but some mints adapted it for water power, then for steam power.

By way of illustrating what we buy and sell, please link to our Pinterest image pages and/or read the relevant blog posts on Irish numismatic and exonumia topics.

  • All of the hyperlinks (in blue) link to a Pinterest image gallery, unless otherwise stated,
    • e.g. Blog Post, Coin Guide or Rare Coin Review
    • This website is updated on a frequent basis, so do please ‘re-visit’ as often as you can.

Please note: this is a constant “work in progress” and I will be adding more links + more images on an on-going basis.  Collectors are quite welcome to send me images of coins that I do not already have, or better images of the one’s I have posted.

The concepts behind this page are as follows :-

  • Irish coins are placed in their historical context
  • Relevant historical articles will be added to give additional insights into why these coins were issued and/or withdrawn
  • The technical details, such as dates, varieties, proofs and patterns are all listed
  • Where possible, the multiplicity of commercial or academic reference numbers are correlated and simplified
  • We all have a single reference point and image source to share

Where possible, a simplified chronological order has been applied to coins minted in Ireland, minted elsewhere but intended for circulation in Ireland, or (in the instance of the earliest coins) those found in Ireland as a result of trading, gifts, votive offerings, or other forms of transaction.

Irish Milled Coinages

Milled coins were introduced in order to prevent clipping.  The edges of these coins were ‘milled’ in order to give them a rough texture and show clearly if they had been tampered with.  Clipping was the financial scourge of medieval times and a coin could lose up to 50% of its weight (silver value) if clipped.  The penalty was high, if one was caught – the loss of a hand – but, since the main perpetrators were the bankers themselves – few seem to have been caught.

  • The Great European Currency Crisis of the 1700’s
  • The Painful Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism
  • The Irish Plantations of James I
    • James I sells Irish political prisoners as slaves to the West Indies
    • 30,000 Irish prisoners as ‘slaves’ to the New World

House of Stuart

James I of England and VI of Scotland

  • 1603–1625 James I

James I (pictured above) was the first English Monarch to issue ‘milled’ coins for Ireland, i.e. manufactured by machine. He granted a patent to Lord Harrington, and later to Lord Lennox, to produce ‘machined’ farthings and, although not popular and (initially) easily counterfeited, these small copper coins were the first ‘milled’ coinage for Ireland.

Charles I, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, by George Villiers

  • 1625–1649 Charles I

Charles I (pictured above) was the second English Monarch to issue ‘milled’ coins (manufactured by machine), albeit a continuation of the ‘patent’ copper farthings issued in the name of his father, James I.  Like his father, he felt the issue of copper coins was beneath him, so he licensed their production to third parties. His continuation with ‘patent’ farthings did little to reduce forgery and only resulted in a more acute shortage of ‘small change’ in Ireland and England.

In 1642 when the Puritans took control of the Parliament the copper farthing monopoly was abolished and the minting of the patent farthings ceased. In Ireland, our history is usually taught in an “Ireland struggling for independence from England” context but the Great Rebellion of 1641-49 can be viewed as part of an European-wide crisis. English history also focuses on a purely Royalist v Roundhead narrative but this too, is an over-simplification of the pan-European crisis.

The middle years of the seventeenth century saw a scale of disruption, social as well as political, that has caused some historians to write about a ‘seventeenth-century crisis’. It was a period of poor climate, bad harvests and food shortages but can these alone account for the widespread disorder?

From around 1640 major upheavals occurred in Scotland, Ireland, England, Catalonia and Portugal; in 1647 in Naples and Sicily; in 1648 and 1660 in Denmark; from 1648 to the early 1650s in France; from 1648 in Poland and Muscovy; from 1652 in Sweden.

  • In many respects it was a crisis of political legitimacy.
  • These revolts became more serious when the monarchy was weak and incompetent as in Spain and Great Britain, or when the king was a child, as was the case with France after the death of Louis XIII in 1643.
    • Thus, the idea that France or Spain could ‘financially afford’ to come to the aid of the Irish in their attempts at independence was ill-founded. The money simply wasn’t there – a military campaign had to be well funded in order to succeed – and centralised tax-raising efforts led to rebellion by those aristocratic families who traditionally gathered tax in the provinces (and profited from it).
    • Meanwhile, the various churches were both perpetrators and victims of the vicious politics of the time … and since no religion (or monarchy) emerged from the 17th C with much credit … the Age of Enlightenment dealt with the many unresolved issues of the mid-17th C crisis.
    • At the centre of this social upheaval and political uncertainty, was money.
    • The revolts were triggered when in the 1630’s and 1640’s when kings adopted desperate and unprecedented fiscal policies because of military budgetary requirements.

Charles I was a deeply unpopular king – distrusted by all sides of the religious divide, leading to a conflict known as the War of the Three Kingdoms (which included the Bishops’ War in Scotland, the Civil War in England and the Great Rebellion in Ireland).

With the outbreak of war, various towns declared for the King or for Parliament and long sieges began. The local governments of these towns had to pay their soldiers, who in turn, had to pay for their food and other expenses … and they produced silver coin from plate to supplement whatever currency existed in the town before the sieges began.

  • These rough, hand-made coins became known as ‘siege money’, ’emergency money’, ‘obsidinal money’ and ‘coins of necessity’
  • With the outbreak of The Great Rebellion in Ireland, ’emergency’ coins were also produced here for similar reasons – those in silver and gold to pay the soldiers and the coppers to pay for small transactions

Strictly speaking, these ’emergency’ coinages are ‘hammered’ coinages – some were cut directly from silver plate, where others were produced from flans made from an alloy of melted plate.

  • James I issued the last ‘hammered’ coinage specifically for use in Ireland
  • Charles I issued the last ‘hammered’ coinage for use in England

Irish Emergency Issues & Coins of Necessity

These coins are very different to the later ‘unofficial’ 17th C Irish farthing tokens that proliferated from the the 1750’s onwards in Ireland, insofar as they were :-

  • legal tender minted and issued in gold, silver or copper to the proper weight for such denominations of coins, i.e. they were not under-weight tokens
    • they were issued by the authorities who were in charge of the besieged cities / towns
    • they were worth their weight in whatever they were made from
    • they were constituent parts of the ‘de jure‘ currencies of these places
One of only 2 gold coins to have been minted and circulated in Ireland - Duke of Ormonde’s gold coinage of 1646-7, Pistole, Dublin, undated, stamped 4dwt 7grs both sides, rev. without secondary colons, 6.62g/4h (Seaby and Brady 3, dies 1 and 3; S 6552; DF 269). Strictly fine but extremely rare, believed one of only two specimens available to collectors.

One of only 2 gold coins to have been minted and circulated in Ireland – Duke of Ormonde’s gold coinage of 1646-7, Pistole, Dublin, undated, stamped 4dwt 7grs both sides, rev. without secondary colons, 6.62g/4h (Seaby and Brady 3, dies 1 and 3; S 6552; DF 269). Strictly fine but extremely rare, believed to be one of only two specimens available to collectors.

  • Image Gallery: Blacksmith Money
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: The Blacksmith Money of 1646
      • Timeline 1646 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England
  • Image Gallery: Ormonde Pistoles & Double Pistoles
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: The Ormonde Gold ‘Pistole’ of 1646
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Ormonde Gold ‘Pistole’ Forgeries – coming soon !
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: The Ormonde Double ‘Pistole’ of 1646 – coming soon !
  • Image Gallery: Cities of Refuge
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Bandon 1646-49)
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Cork 1646-49)
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Kinsale 1646-49) 
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: Coinage of the Cities of Refuge (Youghal 1646-49) 
      • Timeline 1647 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England
      • Timeline 1648 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England
      • Timeline 1649 – The Great Rebellion in Ireland & Civil War in England

A 1656 Samuel Cooper portrait of Cromwell

 The Interregnum (1649-1660)

The Interregnum was the period between the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the arrival of his son Charles II in London on 29 May 1660 which marked the start of the Restoration. During the Interregnum England was under various forms of republican government led by Oliver Cromwell (pictured above) and his son, known as the Commonwealth of England.

  • Charles I Executed / The ‘Interregnum’ Begins
    • Image Gallery: Posthumous Ormonde Money
    • O’Brien Rare Coin Review: The Posthumous Ormonde Money of 1649
      • Timeline 1650 – The English Civil War is extended to Ireland
      • Timeline 1651 – The Cromwellian Campaign in Ireland
      • Timeline 1652 – The Cromwellian Campaign in Ireland
  • Blog Post – Selected Biographies of the Great Irish Rebellion & English Civil War
  • Blog Post – Economic Ruin, Land Confiscation, Transportation & More Adventurers
    • Famine & Disease in Ireland (25% of the population die)
    • Act of Settlement
    • The Civil Survey & the Down Survey
    • Trans-Plantation to Connacht, or Transportation to the West Indies
  • No Irish coins were issued under this ‘experimental’ English Republic
  • Although the Commonwealth did not issue any coins for Ireland, they did issue good quality silver and gold coins for use in England and Ireland.
  • Parliament cancelled the ‘patent’ for issuing farthings – something that both James I and Charles I had continued throughout their reigns. This resulted in both Irish and English commerce being hit by a chronic shortage of small change, i.e. low denomination ‘copper’ coins.
    • This led to a proliferation of private issues collectively known as the Tradesmens’ Tokens – although there are significant differences between the tokens of each country at this time.
    • The earliest issues of the so-called Tradesmens’ Farthings began to appear both here in Ireland and also throughout England during the Interregnum – and the authorities did nothing to stop their manufacture or circulation.
    • The earliest Irish tokens are dated 1653 onwards but, despite being farthing-sized, comprised mostly of penny tokens. These Irish tokens are still known as Tradesmens’ Farthings. 

For a more indepth treatment of tokens, please go to my Irish Tokens page.

The Restoration of the Monarchy (1660)

Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, by John Riley

  • 1660–1685 Charles II

  • With no sign of lasting peace under an inevitable ‘minority religious dictatorship’, the Puritans invited Charles II (pictured above) to return as an integral part of ‘constitutional monarchy’ – the termination of the ‘divine right of kings’ was confirmed and a broadly acceptable Protestant monarchy restored. However, Charles II began his reign with vastly reduced powers, especially in the realm of taxation which had been transferred to Parliament’s control.
    • Consequently, Charles had to beg the parliament for money as he struggled to pay his vast pile of bills.
    • His reign would be characterised by his profligacy, his furtive fiscal and financial scheming, and the spectre of the return of an ‘absolutist’ Catholic monarchy.
  • Blog Post – Monetary Crisis (1660), as Charles II Fixes Exchange Rates for Foreign Coins in Ireland

James II, King of England, Scotland & Ireland

James II (pictured above) was the second son of Charles I and the younger brother of Charles II. During the English Civil War he was captured but fled to exile on the continent. He distinguished himself a soldier, returning to England at the Restoration of his brother, Charles II, in 1660. When Charles II converted to Catholicism on his death bed, people suspected that he was a Catholic throughout his reign, thus raising fears of a Catholic monarchy re-asserting itself in England.

In 1660, James married Anne Hyde, daughter of Charles II’s chief minister and they had two surviving children, Mary and Anne (both raised as Protestants) but in 1669, Prince James converted to Catholicism and took a stand against a number of anti-Catholic moves, including the Test Act of 1673.

  • This did not impede his succession to the throne on Charles’ death in 1685.
  • Later that year James faced rebellion, led by Charles II’s illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth. The rebellion was easily crushed after the battle of Sedgemoor in 1685, and savage punishments were imposed by the infamous lord chief justice, Judge Jeffreys, at the ‘Bloody Assizes’. Monmouth himself was messily beheaded.

This, together with James’s attempts to give civic equality to Roman Catholic and Protestant dissenters, led to conflict with parliament.

  • In 1685, James (like his father, Charles I) prorogued Parliament and ruled alone
  • He attempted to promote Catholicism by appointing Catholics to military, political and academic posts.
  • In 1687, he issued a Declaration of Indulgence aiming at complete religious toleration and instructed Anglican clergy to read it from their pulpits.
  • In June 1688, James’s second wife Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward.

Fearing that a Catholic succession was now assured, a group of Protestant nobles appealed to William of Orange, husband of James’s eldest daughter Mary. What began as the Glorious Revolution (a bloodless coup) ended in one of the bloodiest conflicts in Irish history (the Williamite Wars).

Before his forced abdication in 1688, James II attempted to alleviate the chronic shortage of coppers in Ireland by introducing regal halfpennies.

After his abdication, he introduced a completely new ‘fiat’ currency – made from a ‘base’ metal, and a promise to redeem its value in silver at a later date – although he had no silver or gold reserves to back it. Although ‘sneered at’ by his enemies and other detractors at the time, the idea was enthusiastically taken up by his nemesis (William III) and by the newly formed Bank of England less than a decade later. A currency without ‘specie’ reserves is now called a ‘fiat currency’ and every country in the world today now runs a ‘fiat currency’ based on trust – just like that of James II in the late 17th C.

William III & Mary II

The Williamite Campaign in Ireland can best be summed up by looking at a timeline of the gunmoney coinage issued by the deposed King James II during the early reign of William & Mary. Uniquely, these coins displayed the month + year of issue.

  • Blog Post – Provisional government for England met on 12 December 1688
    • William refused the crown as de facto king and instead called another assembly of peers on 21 December 1688
  • Blog Post – The Convention Parliament met on 22 January 1689
    • It was resolved that England was a Protestant kingdom and only a Protestant could be king, thus disinheriting the Catholic claimant (James II)
  • Blog Post – The Declaration of Right finalised on 12 February
    • William and Mary were proclaimed King and Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland on 13 February 1689
    • King William III convened the Convention into a regular parliament by dissolving it and summoning a new parliament on 23 February 1689
  • Blog Post – James convened the Irish Parliament on 7 May 1689
    • The Irish Parliament Declares James II to be the King of Ireland
    • Naturally, the English Parliament (and William & Mary) Dispute this

The ‘War of the Two Kings’ in Ireland would be swept up into the larger War of the Grand Alliance, a nine year conflict that raged throughout north-western Europe from 1688 to 1697. The Grand Alliance would be an allied effort of various European powers arraigned against France, and the combat in Ireland was one of the earliest clashes in this larger war. In effect, it was only a side show for a much greater conflict between William of Orange (and his allies) and the King of France, Louis XIV, le Roi-Soliel – the sun King.

  • Gunmoney: March 1690 (timeline) – New Year’s Day = 25th March (Lady Day)
    • From the viewpoint of the production of James II’s gunmoney, March 1690 lasted only 6 days, therefore gunmoney dated March 1690 is comparatively scarce. The ‘war of the two kings’ was over before 1st March 1690 arrived.  
  • Gunmoney: April 1690 (timeline)
  • Gunmoney: May 1690 (timeline)
  • Gunmoney: June 1690 (timeline)
  • Limerick (Siege) Money

Following the economic damage and political disruption caused by the mint in Dublin (used by James II to produce his gunmoney), William & Mary ordered the production of all future Irish coinages to be moved to London. The two coin presses, production tools and dies were taken to London and retained by the Royal Mint.

King William III of England

Queen Anne, at the time of her marriage - Scottish National Portrait Gallery

  • 1702–1714 Queen Anne

The early 18th C was a period of relative peace in Ireland, unlike the catastrophic religious, political and military upheavals on both sides of the Irish Sea during the previous century. This gave Irish trade & commerce a chance to develop, and a democratic two-party system emerged in the Westminster and Dublin parliaments – albeit with a very limited electorate. Once again, small change (copper coinage) was in short supply and kept small businesses in check – this would be a problem for her successor (George I) to sort out.

No Irish coins were issued under the name of Queen Anne

  • O’Brien Coin Guide: Irish Coin Weights used during the reign of Queen Anne
    • 1704 An act passed to reduce the legal Interest Rate to 8%
    • 1709 An act passed for the better payment of inland Bills of Exchange and for making Promissory Notes more obligatory

The House of Hanover

George I of England

  • Blog Post – The Accession of George I
    • September 1715 – Jacobite Rising in Scotland (The Old Pretender)
    • October 1715 – Jacobite Rising in England
  • Blog Post – The South Sea Bubble Collapse of 1720
    • 1721 An Act passed reducing the legal Interest Rate to 7%
  • Blog Post – The Mississippi Bubble Collapse of 1718-20
  • Blog Post – Dean Swift & The Drapier Letters

George II of England

  • 1727–1760 George II

  • Blog Post – The Accession of George II
    • 1729 An Act passed making the forging of Bills of Exchange, Goldsmith’s Notes and Banknotes above the value of £5 a felony – punishable by ‘burning of the hands or transportation
    • 1731 An Act passed reducing the legal Interest Rate to 6%
    • July 1745 – Jacobite Rising in Scotland (The Young Pretender)
    • November 1745 – Jacobite Invasion of England
  • Blog Post – Shortage of copper coins leads to private token issues (1728-1736) 
  • Blog Post – The Irish Famine of 1740–1741 

George III of England

George IV 1820-1830

The Act of Union between Great Britain & Ireland formally took place in 1801 but monetary union did not happen until 1825. Before this happened, George IV issued copper pennies and halfpennies for Ireland – the last Anglo-Irish coinage to be produced.

William IV

  • 1830–1837 William IV

    • No Irish coins were issued under the name of William IV

House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha

Queen Victoria of England (1845)

Edward VII

  • 1901-1910 King Edward VII

    • No Irish coins were issued under the name of King Edward VII

House of Windsor

George V

  • 1910–1936 King George V

    • No Irish coins were issued under the name of King George V but the rise of Irish nationalism resulted in unofficial currencies in internment camps and militarised zones. Political independence from Britain was finally achieved in 1922 but monetary independence took a while longer – when we ‘broke with Sterling’ in 1978 ! 
    • Blog Post – The 1916 Rising in Dublin
    • Blog Post – The War of Independence
    • Blog Post – The Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922
    • Blog Post – The Emergence of the Irish Free State 1922-25
    • Blog Post – Money & Banking in the Irish Free State 1922-29
    • Blog Post – Heads of the Ultimate Financial Settlement, 1926
    • Blog Post – The Abdication Crisis of 1937 & the New Irish Constitution

_____________________________________

If you have any queries regarding Early Irish ‘milled’ coins, please email us on

old.currency.exchange@gmail.com

____________________________________________________________

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