Poll

Which designs should have been placed on Ireland's decimal bronze coins?

The designs, by Miss Hayes, that were actually used
2 (22.2%)
The hare on the ½p, the pig on the 1p and the hen & chicks on the 2p - (Senator Kelly's suggestion)
4 (44.4%)
Some other combination of Metcalfe's old designs
0 (0%)
New animal designs but in the style of Metcalfe
0 (0%)
Designs of plants and / or flowers
0 (0%)
Some other option
3 (33.3%)
Don't know
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 9

Voting closed: August 02, 2017, 11:50:24 PM

Author Topic: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series  (Read 2102 times)

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Offline <k>

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Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« on: March 29, 2017, 08:40:30 PM »
On February 15 1971 the Republic of Ireland went decimal, simultaneously with the UK, since in those days the Irish pound was kept at par with the UK pound. Though the UK adopted an entirely new design series for its decimal coinage, Ireland had initially wanted to retain most of Percy Metcalfe’s designs from the predecimal barnyard series. Metcalfe’s bull, salmon and woodcock designs were duly transferred to the reverses of the 5p, 10p and 50p coins, but the ornamental Celtic birds that eventually graced the reverses of the ½p, 1p and 2p coins were entirely different in style. This curious mismatch caused some controversy at the time and was even re-examined as late as 1990.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2017, 07:30:45 PM by <k> »

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2017, 08:41:06 PM »
Though there had been no public competition for the decimal designs, the Irish artist Gabriel Hayes submitted a sketch of an ornamental Celtic bird copied from a medieval manuscript. The generally accepted story is that the Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, so admired this sketch that he abruptly ditched some of Metcalfe’s designs and commissioned Miss Hayes to design all the bronze coins. The true story is rather more complicated. In early 1969, special decimal sets went on sale at Ireland’s post offices, to help educate the public prior to decimalisation in 1971, and an Irish Times article of 24 April 1969 reported the story behind Miss Hayes’ designs:

Mr. Haughey said he would have liked to have retained all the old range—he admitted fighting a hard but losing battle for the horse—but it was not practicable. None of the decimal “coppers” will correspond in size and value with any present coin, so there would have been a risk of confusion of values if existing designs had been used. The new designs came almost by accident. Official thinking had been to put simply a figure denoting the value on the reverse of the “coppers”. Then Miss Hayes volunteered a design, it was liked and she was commissioned to produce three.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2017, 08:41:51 PM »
In response to the article, the artist Mr. Oisín Kelly wrote a letter of protest to the Irish Times:

Coins are paltry conveniences and all one should expect from them is that they be decent. We have such a set of coins, modest and harmonious and not attempting to carry a metaphysical significance too heavy for them to bear. To break up the unity of this set and issue coins under two formal principles is barbarous, and it is depressing to think that the Arts Council should have condoned this absurdity.

We have no peculiar right to Celtic art. Celtic art is a “heaven-ward leading” art and as such entirely incomprehensible to us. To use these hieratic symbols, which we can no longer read, for our huckstering is not only silly, it is impious.


Simply put, it was disrespectful to wrench such sacred art from its medieval context and place it on the coinage of a modern, uncomprehending and money-grubbing world. The Arts Council, however, denied condoning this, since the government had never even requested its advice.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2017, 08:43:29 PM »
The controversy continued when Senator Professor John Kelly, of the opposition Fine Gael, launched a parliamentary motion against the adoption of the new designs: Coinage (Dimensions and Designs) Regulations, 1969: Motion for Annulment. The ensuing parliamentary debate took place on May 27 1970, with only nine months remaining before decimalisation. By this time George Colley had replaced the former Minister for Finance, Charles Haughey, who was now Taoiseach.

Senator Kelly described the procedure by which the government had adopted the designs as entirely defective, claiming that:
“Coinage is not something which can be designed by a Department or to which the artistic sense of the Central Bank or the Minister can be brought to bear”, and adding, “It appears that no alternative designs were commissioned or invited. No competition was held and no advice was sought from people competent to give advice.” By contrast, in 1926 a six member committee had overseen the design of the coinage, and eight international artists had submitted designs in a competition.

“Not only have we now a set in which three denominations bear motifs which have no relation to the motifs of the rest of the set, but even the new 5 pence and 10 pence coins are not remotely the same in design as the old 2s and 1s coins. Furthermore, the beading has gone from inside the frame. The lettering has gone and the digits which the coins bear are of a different size. When Percy Metcalfe drew that salmon and that bull, he did so as part of a larger design carrying the words “flórín” and “scilling” and the figures 2s and 1s. Only a barbarian assumes that you will get the same design and as good a result by merely transferring the central element.”

He asked the Minister to “reconsider the matter of coinage and possibly to recall the small numbers of the new coins that have been issued and to consider now, in time for decimal day in February of next year, whether something cannot be saved from the wreck”. He suggested “it might be possible to get professionally adapted the designs on some of the missing coins” by putting the hare on the decimal halfpenny, the pig on the 1p and the hen and chicks on the 2p piece.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2017, 08:44:10 PM »
Mr Colley, Minister for Finance, responded that:

“The common features between the old and new coins would simplify the change-over for the general public, and this has been proved by the readiness with which the 5, 10 and 50 new pence coins have been accepted. It was not possible to use any existing reverse designs for the three bronze decimal coins. None of these coins will correspond in size or in value with any of the present coins and there would be a risk of confusion if existing designs were used. This risk would be particularly great during the change-over period following Decimal Day when both old and new coins will be in circulation. Therefore, it was necessary to obtain new designs for the reverse sides of the bronze coins.

“The obverse design of the harp provides a unifying factor for the coinage as a whole and accords well with both the old and the new reverse side designs. The old designs will be on the reverse sides of the cupro-nickel coins and the new designs will be on the bronze coins. The different metallic appearance of the cupro-nickel and bronze coins already divides our coinage into two sub-sets. The different treatment of the reverse side designs accords with that division. It further differentiates those decimal coins which have exact equivalents in our present denominations from those which have not.”

He added that there had been insufficient time for a design competition, which typically took two to four years. Furthermore, Miss Hayes was an artist of high standing, and Percy Metcalfe himself had expressed praise for her designs. She had also prepared the inscriptions on the 5p, 10p and 50p pieces, and the beading had been eliminated on her advice. A sufficient number of bronze coins had had to be minted both for training purposes prior to Decimal Day and for the changeover itself, and it would be impossible to produce an alternative set of designs in time. Post-decimalisation, once the public was used to the system, there was nothing to prevent a completely new set of coins being issued.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2017, 08:44:54 PM »
Senator Kelly complained that Mr Metcalfe’s opinions on how to adapt his designs had not been sought, nor was it clear whether Mr Metcalfe had been shown Miss Hayes’ designs before their adoption:

“It is all very well to ask a very old man if this “will go all right with the coins you designed 42 years ago” and then tell him that “We are keeping your bull and your salmon, and here are the ornamental birds to keep them company.” “

Senator Kelly concluded, “This is the way a Tsar would have done things, but this is not what the Irish Republic is all about.”

Despite his spirited performance, the Senate defeated Mr Kelly’s motion by 25 votes to 17, and Miss Hayes’ designs survived.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2017, 08:45:21 PM »
My own aesthetic judgment is that Miss Hayes’ designs, considered in isolation, are highly accomplished. The circular shape of each design fills and fits the coin perfectly. However, their elaborate detail is ill-suited to such small coins and not in keeping with modern coin design. Metcalfe’s designs are more sparsely detailed and look accordingly more modern – indeed, he helped define modern coin design. Together, though, these two very disparate styles clash badly. Perhaps another artist could have provided new designs of animals not depicted by Metcalfe - but rendered in his style - for use on the bronze coins.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2017, 08:46:44 PM »

Ireland: One pound, 1990.  Irish red deer: Cervus elaphus.


The design is by Irish artist Thomas Ryan and depicts a stag: the male of the species.



Meanwhile, Percy Metcalfe died in October 1970, aged 75, only a few months before decimalisation, and Gabriel Hayes died in 1978, aged 69. The decimal halfpenny, which bore one of Miss Hayes’ designs, was demonetised on January 1 1985. Ireland added a 20p to the standard coinage on October 30 1986. Unlike the UK 20p, this was a round nickel-brass coin, which proudly bore Metcalfe’s old horse design. A pound coin was introduced in June 1990. Unlike its UK counterpart, it was a large, thin cupro-nickel coin, 31mm in diameter. The Irish Ministry of Finance thought that a high denomination deserved a suitably large coin. The reverse, created by Irish artist Thomas Ryan in the style of Percy Metcalfe, featured a beautiful new design of a red deer, and the new coin blended seamlessly into the existing set.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2017, 08:49:03 PM »
In presenting his Decimal Currency Bill of March 1990, Minister for Finance Albert Reynolds (Fianna Fáil) had earlier previewed his other plans for the coinage:

"The Government's aim is to overhaul the coinage fully over the next three to four years. The introduction of the £1 coin is but one of many changes which we will see. I am concerned that the coinage, generally, is too heavy. The first priority in 1991 will be the issue of a new, lighter and round 50p. The coin will be reduced in size by about 5mm and will carry the current woodcock design.

“Next it is planned to issue a new 5p and 10p on which the two existing designs, the bull and the salmon, will be reversed to face left. This will give a uniform orientation to all the motifs. Both coins will be reduced in size. For the 1p and 2p coins it is proposed to revert to the Metcalfe designs. The 1p will feature the Irish wolfhound from the old sixpence while the 2p will have the hare which appeared on the pre-decimal 3d.

“The design of our coins is very good. The original Metcalfe designs were excellent and our coinage was much admired around the world. I do not think the Celtic scroll designs which were introduced more recently are as attractive."

Significantly, Mr Reynolds added that the Arts Council had been consulted about the changes at an early stage. The amendments to the 5p and 10p were duly carried out in 1992 and 1993 respectively. Ultimately a round Irish 50p was never issued, and the heptagonal 50p survived until the introduction of the euro. My own judgment is that the introduction of a round 50p would have left all of Ireland’s coins round, thereby impeding their easy recognition. The equilateral curve heptagon was however a Royal Mint invention, of which the first example was the British 50p, so perhaps the Irish were keen to ditch this British cultural relic. More importantly, the Irish were tied to buying their 50p blanks from the Royal Mint, and they had wanted to be free to choose different suppliers if necessary.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2017, 08:49:53 PM »
Ireland also intended to resurrect the wolfhound and the hare from the old predecimal designs. The two other available alternatives would have been the hen and chicks and the pig and piglets. I would conjecture that they were rejected because the heavily stylised hen and chicks looked too old-fashioned, whilst pigs never rank highly in any beauty contest! Ultimately, even the proposed hare and hound designs never came about, because momentous changes were taking place in Europe. Having supported the reunification of Germany in 1990, President Mitterand of France urged Chancellor Kohl of Germany to commit to the early introduction of a single European currency. As the 1990s progressed, Ireland’s awareness of the imminence of the new currency, which it planned to adopt, presumably inhibited any further changes to the Irish coinage.

Upon adoption of the euro in 2002, Ireland retained only Metcalfe’s harp on the national side of its coins. By then, Ireland’s rapid economic growth had earned it the nickname of “the Celtic tiger”, for which Metcalfe’s barnyard beasts were no longer appropriate. The popularity of his animal designs lives on, though, and some have been adapted for Irish collector coins in recent years. By contrast, Miss Hayes’ ornamental bird designs, which were fewer in number and had a shorter lifetime, are now largely unlamented and forgotten.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2017, 09:31:03 AM »
My appreciation of the two styles go the other way around. I think the Metcalfe series was indeed most excellent in its time. They did age, though: Ireland moved from a poor, agriculture based economy and emigration upon leaving university or losing job to a successful, service based economy and people starting to arrive from other countries. Moreover, the style of the animals (the hen and chicken is the prime example) is in the fashion of the thirties.

The question is rather if the Celtic designs were more representative of the modern Ireland. As far as subject is concerned, clearly not. However, in spirit, they do represent the Celtic essence of the country. In addition, their abstract quality makes them timeless: they could be used on textile and apparel as well as form the central part of a museum logo; you could imagine the Celtic style being applied to a lawn mower with cable, a necktie or even a computer mouse, just as singers can sing modern songs in Celtic style.

That leaves the "unity of series" argument. I think it is carried too far in the discussion as reflected above. For a considerable time, all UK copper had a seated Britannia, while the rest of the series was heraldics only. That is not the only example. There are quite a few series that have designs in a different style for the coppers. I have sympathy for the changeover argument, so I understand a design that signals "a shilling is 5 pence". However, logically that means that the style can also signal "a penny is not 1 pence".

Therefore, the designs I would have chosen differently is that of the 20p and the pound. While they would not necessarily have had more Celtic birds, they could have been decorated with other Celtic designs and their introduction could have been used to do the same thing with the 5, 10 and 50. After all, it was no longer necessary to specify "new pennies" either.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2017, 12:36:32 PM »
They did age, though...Moreover, the style of the animals (the hen and chicken is the prime example) is in the fashion of the thirties.

Latter point, yes, I agree, which is why I agreed with the 1990s decision (never carried out) to adopt the hound and the hare but NOT the hen and chicks. However, all designs age: sometimes after only 10 years, but usually after 15 years their vintage is apparent. But is that a good reason to drop them, if they are nonetheless still popular, as the Metcalfe designs were in Ireland? Switzerland's designs date from the 1860s, I understand. I remember complaining about the return of hoary old Britannia to the UK coinage, on the 2 pound coin, and was astonished to find the forum's token "social justice warrior" disagreeing with me.  :D  Popularity isn't everything, of course, but the Metcalfe designs most certainly are popular, not just in Ireland but around the world. And that is why, as I pointed out, his designs have been adapted for collector coins but those of Miss Hayes have not.

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The question is rather if the Celtic designs were more representative of the modern Ireland. As far as subject is concerned, clearly not. However, in spirit, they do represent the Celtic essence of the country.

I would beware of speaking of the essence of a country. (I'm thinking of my evolving series of topics on fascism). All nations are composed of different facets.

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In addition, their abstract quality makes them timeless

I'd disagree. They always looked distinctly medieval to me. Nor did they age well, as I saw circulated pieces on the Isle of Man in the 1970s, and they looked dreckid, whereas the circulated pre-decimal bronze pieces still look very attractive. However, designs rarely look timeless, as that is probably impossible, nor is there any requirement that they should, of course.

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That leaves the "unity of series" argument. I think it is carried too far in the discussion as reflected above. For a considerable time, all UK copper had a seated Britannia, while the rest of the series was heraldics only.

Yes, for a while the series was a distinct mish-mash, as it included the wren farthing and the ship ha'penny, amid the symbolic and the heraldic.

Quote
That is not the only example. There are quite a few series that have designs in a different style for the coppers.

It's true, but whether it is a good idea is another matter. Some design series, such as the Austrian pre-euro series, were a total mess.

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I have sympathy for the changeover argument, so I understand a design that signals "a shilling is 5 pence". However, logically that means that the style can also signal "a penny is not 1 pence".

 :o  Apart from anything else, that is also ungrammatical.

"Just gotta warn ya,
Give you the strap,
Stand you in the corner,
Dunce's cap!"

 ;D

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Therefore, the designs I would have chosen differently is that of the 20p and the pound. While they would not necessarily have had more Celtic birds, they could have been decorated with other Celtic designs and their introduction could have been used to do the same thing with the 5, 10 and 50.

While for various reasons I do not think the 20p was a success, I regard the Irish pound as a classic. The stag is a superb design.  8)  It took the Metcalfe template and improved on it, making it modern and relevant. Shame on you, for not seeing that! And Celticise EVERYTHING?  :o  OK, uniformity is better than a lack of it, but I would have modernised in the Metcalfe style, since that would have been more democratic, as in "what most Irish would have wanted", given the continuing popularity of the Metcalfe designs.

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After all, it was no longer necessary to specify "new pennies" either.

Mr Figleaf, please! You really haven't done your homework. Unlike the UK coinage, the Irish coins never did include the word "new", only the denominational numerals alongside a "p".

In sum, I charge you with the heinous crime of having all the wrong opinions. I hereby suspend you for a fortnight and sentence you to pay half the Brexit withdrawal fee. You are also ordered to pay a 15 euro note to every Irishman, wherever he may live (but not to every Irishwoman, for fear she might donate it to the Catholic church). Finally, you are required to attend my master class in coin design: Circulation sets with poorly unified design.

 >:D >:D >:D

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2017, 01:51:13 PM »
Unlike the UK coinage, the Irish coins never did include the word "new", only the denominational numerals alongside a "p".

I didn't say they did. I first argued the signal function of e.g. the bull, which is the same as the word "new" on UK coins and a similar function of the break in design for the lower values and then argued logically that after some time, this function was no longer necessary, just like the word "new" on UK coins. If you kindly permitted the UK to dispense with "new", you should also concede that the argument of continuity would wear off with time also.

Since you have already conceded that the Metcalfe designs have aged, you may halve the portion of crow you should eat.

>:D >:D >:D

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline <k>

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2017, 04:09:22 PM »

Offline chrisild

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Re: Ireland's hybrid decimal design series
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2017, 12:06:24 PM »
Admittedly I like both parts of that series - the rather ornamental ½p, 1p and 2p designs, and the animals on the others. The three "copper" pieces are adorned by letters from the Book of Kells: the bird-style initials "O" (half penny), "C" (penny), and "U" (two pence). Interestingly, the idea of using those characters was brought back - to collector coins only though - ten years ago: The €10 piece about Celtic Culture features four bird figures, Book of Kells style, with modern additions ...

Christian