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Coinage of the Republic of Ireland
The state now called the Republic of Ireland decided in the mid-1920s to design its own coins and banknotes, at this stage it was decided that the Irish currency would be pegged to the Pound Sterling. The Coinage Act, 1926 was passed as a legislative basis for the minting of coins for the state and these new coins commenced circulation on December 12 1928.
See also: Banknotes of the Republic of Ireland
The first coins minted in Ireland were done so by King Sitric III , a Hiberno-Norse King of Dublin, about 995 AD in Dublin. These penny coins bore the head and name of the King and the word "Dyflin" for Dublin. John of England was among the first Norman monarch to mint coins in Ireland, these coins were farthings, halfpennies and pennies. It was not until the reign of Henry VIII that Irish coins started to bear the harp and later in the reign the year, for the first time as well. Over the coming centuries coins were issued from gold, silver and copper and at one stage from melted-down gun barrels; the so called "gun money". Coins issued in the 18th century and 19th century often included the word Hibernia on the harp side. The last Irish coins issued, prior to independence, were issued during the reign of George IV in 1823 and finally in 1826 Irish coins were withdrawn on foot of the integration that resulted from the Act of Union 1800. Occassional "fantasy" coins were minted in the next century but these were neither circulated nor legal tender.
When the Irish Free State decided to introduce new coins and notes it was decided that these be pegged to the Pound Sterling; this was taken primarily for economic considerations as in 1924 Irish exports to Great Britain and Northern Ireland was 98%, whilst imports from these areas was 80%. Additionally the stability and backing of the Pound Sterling reassured the government that the new currency was on a firm foundation and did not detract from rebuilding the social and economic fabric of the country which was the then governments first committment.
As is common with numismatic terminology the side of the seal of the state is termed the "obverse"; this is often called the common side; the "reverse" is the side with the denomination specific design. In Ireland the obverse and reverse are often incorrectly attributed to the wrong sides.
The government of the state, the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, set up a committee under Senator WB Yeats to determine the designs suitable for the coins. This committee consisted of Thomas Bodkin, Dermot O'Brien, Lucius O'Callaghan and Barry Egan.
Early in the design process a number of decisions were made, it was decided the harp should be on most if not all coins and all lettering should be in Irish. Also it was determined that people associated with the time should not be incorporated on any designs, this eliminated anyone except those in antiquity. It was later decided that anything with religious or cultural cognitions should be avoided because this may of lead to coins becoming relics or medals. At the time, and for centuries previous, agriculture was essential to the economy of Ireland and this theme was decided upon for the coins, with the used of animals and birds.
Finally the decision was taken to use the harp and the word "Saorstát Éireann" on the obverse side of all coins. A number of pictures and photographs of animals and birds were presented to the chosen artists to design the reverse and they were also given pictures of the Galway and Trinity College, Dublin harps for guidance. Later in the design process the Minister for Finance decided that the value of the coins should be in numerals as well and also suggested using plants, this latter suggestion was decided against because the competition was at an advanced stage and also the difficulty of getting good fascmiles of plants.
Three Irish artists Jerome Connor , Albert Power and Oliver Sheppard were shortlist and accepted and also the foreign artists Paul Manship (American), Percy Metcalfe (English) Carl Milles (Swedish) and Publio Morbiducci (Italian); a number of other artists were invited but did not take part. Each artist was compensated for his time and was allowed to produce designs in plaster or metal with a prize for the winner; when the committee reviewed the designs all identifying marks were removed so that the committee did not know whose designs were being reviewed. Ultimately Percy Metcalfe's designs were chosen and a number of modifications were incorporated into these designs with assistance from civil servants at the Department of Agriculture.
The first coins were struck and dated 1928 and were minted in the Royal Mint in London. In 1938 on the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland the obverse of the coins was modified with the new states' name "Éire" and the harp was also modified so that it wore better. The Central Bank Act, 1942 Section 58 allowed pure nickel to be substituted with a cupro-nickel alloy. The designation of the state as the "Republic of Ireland" did not have any effect on the name on coins issued after 1948. The Coinage Act, 1950 changed the law on coinage principally with the removal of silver from coins then in existance. The final piece of primary legislation for predecimal coins was the Coinage (Amendment) Act, 1966 which allowed for a ten shilling coin to be minted and circulated.
|Summary: Predecimal coins|
|English name||Irish name||Numeral||Introduction||Withdrawal||£1 Fraction|
|Farthing||Feorling||¼d||12 December 1928||1 August 1969||1/960|
|Halfpenny||Leath Phingin||½d||12 December 1928||1 August 1969||1/480|
|Penny||Pingin||1d||12 December 1928||1 January 1972||1/240|
|Three-Pence||Leath Reul||3d||12 December 1928||1 January 1972||1/80|
|Sixpence||Reul||6d||12 December 1928||1 January 1972||1/40|
|Shilling||Scilling||1s||12 December 1928||1 January 1993||1/20|
|Florin||Flóirín||2s||12 December 1928||1 June 1994||1/10|
|Half-Crown||Leath Choróin||2s6d||12 December 1928||1 January 1970||1/8|
|Ten Shilling||Deich Scilling||10s||12 April 1966||10 February 2002||1/2|
Decimalisation of currency was actively done and discussed in the 1960s and Ireland was no exception, however chief among the Irish Governments concern was the Pound Sterling which remained tied to the Irish currency. When the British Government decided to decimalise their currency the Irish Government followed suit. The legislative basis for decimalisation in the republic was the Decimal Currency Act, 1969; the Decimal Currency Act, 1970 which made additional provisions for the changeover not related with the issue of coins.
Decimalisation was overseen by the Irish Decimal Currency Board which was created on June 12 1968, it provided a variety of changover information including a phamphet called "Everyone's Guide to Decimal Currency". The new decimal coins issued for Decimal Day required three new designs; these were completed in bronze, by the Irish artist Gabriel Hayes and based upon various manuscript designs of ornamental birds with a Celtic knotwork theme. The designs of Percy Metcalfe were retained for the new five and ten pence been from the shilling and florin respectivly. The design of the new fifty pence retained the image of the farthing, which was not of the same value. The design selection was low key and the designs themselves were quite simple using only figures and symbols to indicate the value; this left some ambuiguity as to weither "P" on the coins meant "penny" or "pingin", the latter been the Irish word for penny. Notwithstanding this the legislative basis for coins in the republic has always used English words irrespective of final design mints.
In the 1970s the European Monetary System was introduced and the republic decided to join. The European Exchange Rate Mechanism finally broke the one-for-one link that existed between the Irish pound and the Pound Sterling; by March 30 1979 the parity link between the two currencies that existed for over 150 years was broken and an exchange rate was introduced. By this time Irish exports to the United Kingdom (UK) were 50%, whilst imports were 47%; the Irish economy had diverged greatly since the introduction of the currency in 1928 and was less dependent on trade with the UK. Until this exchange rate was neccessary UK currency was accepted, in the republic, on a one-for-one basis by many institutions.
The rising expense in minting coins necessitated the introduction of the twenty pence coin in 1986, the halpenny pence coin was also withdrawn at this time as inflation greatly reduced its buying power. The introduction of the Irish pound coin required the Decimal Currency Act, 1990 and this law provided for certain other matters including the issue of European Currency Unit (ECU) coins which were specifically stated not to be legal tender in the legislation, instead intended as collectors items. These ECU coins were issued in 50 ECU, 10 ECU and 5 ECU, which were issued in gold, silver and silver respectively. These coins used the Irish red deer as on the Irish pound coin with a mountain relief in the background and other notable differences such as the 12 stars of the European Flag surrounding the harp somewhat similar to the Irish euro coins.
The coins issued under the Decimal Currency Acts were finally "called in " in 2002 by the Irish Pound Coinage (Calling In) (No. 2) Order, 2001 which revoked an earlier similar order; the date was set for February 10, 2002.
|Summary: Decimal coins|
|English name||Irish name||Numeral||Introduction||Withdrawal||£1 Fraction|
|Halfpenny||Leathphingin||½p||15 February 1971||1 January 1987||1/200|
|Penny||Pingin||1p||15 February 1971||10 February 2002||1/100|
|Two Pence||Dhá Phingin||2p||15 February 1971||10 February 2002||1/50|
|Five Pence||Cúig Phingin||5p||8 September 1969||10 February 2002||1/20|
|Ten Pence||Deich bPingin||10p||8 September 1969||10 February 2002||1/10|
|Twenty Pence||Fiche Pingin||20p||30 October 1986||10 February 2002||1/5|
|Fifty Pence||Caoga Pingin||50p||17 February 1970||10 February 2002||1/2|
|Irish Pound||Punt||£1||20 June 1990||10 February 2002||1|
- Main article: Irish euro coins
The introduction of the euro was overseen by the Euro Changeover Board of Ireland which was a special agency created on May 5 1998 by the Minister for Finance; this agency provided a wide variety of information including converters, training packs, images and public advertisements on a wide range of media to ensure a successful transfer. As with all eurozone countries, Ireland continued to mint her own coins after the currency changeover to the euro. One side of euro coins is common across the eurozone, it is the obverse which has a design unique to Ireland. Although some other countries used more than one design, or even a separate design for each of the seven coins (1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, €1 and €2), Ireland used only one design. A redesigned harp (superficially identical to that used on earlier coins) was used, having been designed by Jarlath Hayes . Some other eurozone members have unique lettering around the €2 coin. The edge on Irish €2 coins merely has the sequence "", repeated three times.
The first collectors' commemorative coin issued since the changeover was a €10 silver coin, to mark the accession of the ten new European Union member states on 1 May 2004. One side depicts a swan sitting on ten eggs, with the reverse depicting the harp and the names of all ten members in their native language.
No commemorative Irish euro coins have been issued for general circulation, as of 2005, but as all eurozone members are now permitted to issue commemorative €2 coins from time to time, this may change in the future.
Both decimal day and the euro changeover lead many in Irish society to believe that prices had been improperly risen by traders taking advantage of the confusion, exchange rates notwithstanding, in the case of the euro the government took special measures to prevent any unneccessary price changes.
References and further reading
"Coinage of Saorstát Éireann", William Butler Yeats, The Stationery Office, Dublin, 1928.
"The Irish Coinage Designs", Thomas Bodkin DLitt, Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin, November 30th, 1928.
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