Author Topic: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland  (Read 462 times)

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Offline <k>

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2018, 08:24:39 PM »

Image courtesy of COINZ.eu



In 1988, Ireland issued its first commemorative decimal circulation coin, a fifty pence piece celebrating Dublin's millennium.

Offline <k>

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2018, 08:28:23 PM »
In March 1990, Ireland's Ministry of Finance revealed some of its plans for the future of the Irish coinage:

Dáil Éireann - Volume 396 - 01 March, 1990.
Decimal Currency Bill, 1990: Second Stage.

Minister for Finance (Mr. A. Reynolds) Albert Reynolds.


"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 and we will be endeavouring to reduce the weight of the coins where possible. 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. The metallic composition of both coins will be altered to make them lighter.
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, which were introduced back in the twenties at the foundation of the State, 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."




So there we have the government's implicit admission that using Gabriel Hayes' designs had been a mistake, and that their adoption had ruined the artistic unity of the decimal series.

It is interesting to read about the proposed introduction of a round 50p. That would have meant that the entire coinage of Ireland would become round. My own opinion is that a modern coinage should contain at least two different shapes, so as to make it easier to distinguish between the coins. The Irish 50p was seven-sided, like the UK 50p. In fact, it was the British, in the guise of the Royal Mint, who first invented the equilateral curve heptagon, as it is known. In my opinion it is one of the greatest inventions of modern numismatics. The UK 20p coin was also made heptagonal, but the Irish chose to make theirs round. Wherever you find a heptagonal coin in the world, it will usually be a product of the Royal Mint. Perhaps the Irish intention of scrapping their heptagonal 50p revealed a desire to rid themselves of a British cultural relic? In the event, the stated first priority of amending the 50p never came about, and it continued as a large heptagonal coin until the introduction of the euro.

Whatever we may read into the apparent Irish dislike of heptagons, they were still in love with the designs of Metcalfe, an Englishman, and intended to resurrect the wolfhound and the hare from the old predecimal designs. The two other designs that were available to them were the hen and chicks design from the old penny, and the pig and piglets design from the predecimal halfpenny. Why were these not chosen? The hen and chicks design stands out from the others as being the most heavily stylised: the birds resemble clockwork toys, whereas the other designs, though stylised, look much more lifelike; the hen and chicks design also looked the most old-fashioned of them all, ill-suited to the 1990s. What about the pig and piglets? It was a fine design in itself, but the Irish presumably wanted a modern and attractive set of designs. If you were organising a beauty contest, would you invite a pig to take part? Not necessarily...  But again, despite the good intentions, these proposed changes to the designs of the 1p and 2p coins never came about.

I assume that the above announcement was made after the specifications of the forthcoming pound coin had been made known, as there is no mention of its design theme, but it was released only three months later.



See also: From the Irish Archives.

Offline <k>

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2018, 08:30:33 PM »

The Irish pound coin.

Image courtesy of
COINZ.eu



In June 1990 the new Irish one pound coin was unveiled. The UK had issued its circulation pound coin in 1983, and I had wondered when the Irish would follow suit, and what the new coin would look like. It was well worth the long wait. Instead of resurrecting another Metcalfe design, the Irish artist Thomas Ryan had created a superb new design that depicted an Irish red deer. It was most definitely in the tradition of Metcalfe, but it was a classic modern design with a style all of its own.

The new coin, with a diameter of 31.1mm, was rather large in comparison to the coins of other countries. The Irish Ministry of Finance had specifically stated that they thought a high denomination deserved a suitably large coin. Its thickness, though, was only 1.1mm, and at 10 grams it was surprisingly light for its size. It also had a security edge, and when I held one in my hand I had the impression that the obverse and the reverse had been sandwiched together, and that, because it was so light, it must have had a hollow interior. Whether or not it is hollow is something I still do not know. I liked the light feel but found it unnecessarily large for a modern coin. Nevertheless I regarded it as an exciting and innovative addition to the Irish coinage. I particularly liked the stylish and exuberant way in which the foot of the pound sign curved under the adjacent numeral. Once more, when they had had a free hand, the Irish had taken a completely different approach from the British: the large but light copper-nickel punt coin couldn't have been more different from the small, heavy, chunky brass UK pound coin.



See also: The story behind the Irish pound coin.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2018, 08:35:24 PM »

1990 5 ecu piece.



Also in 1990, a silver 5 ECU collector coin was issued to coincide with the new pound coin. It also carried Thomas Ryan's red deer design, but with the addition of a background depicting the Irish countryside. It was a most attractive design. The ECU was the predecessor of the euro, though unlike the euro it was not a circulating currency.



See also: Irish red deer on Punt and 5 ECU coins of 1990.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2018, 08:51:14 PM »

The smaller Irish 5 pence coin.



The UK reduced the size and weight of its five pence coin in 1990. In 1992 the Irish followed suit, amending the design as promised, so that the bull faced to the left. The new coin was 18.5mm in diameter and weighed 3.25g, whilst the old larger coin was 23.6mm in diameter and weighed 5.6g. The denomination was moved from the top to the bottom of the coin.

The older, larger five pence coins, and the old shillings, which had still circulated until then, were demonetised on the 1st January 1993.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #20 on: August 15, 2018, 08:53:29 PM »

The smaller Irish 10 pence coin.



The UK reduced the size and weight of its ten pence coin in 1992. In 1993 the Irish followed suit, amending the design as promised, so that the salmon faced to the left. The new coin was 22mm in diameter and weighed 5.45g, whilst the old larger coin was 11.31 g 28.5 mm in diameter and weighed 11.31g. Unlike the previous coin, the new coin had a beaded rim on both obverse and reverse.

The older, larger ten pence coins, and the old florins, which had still circulated until then, were demonetised on the 1st June 1994.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #21 on: August 15, 2018, 08:55:42 PM »

The older, larger Irish 5 pence and 10 pence coins.



Here is a reminder, for comparison purposes, of the older demonetised 5 and 10 pence coins. The coins are of course not shown to scale: they were not identical in size.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #22 on: August 15, 2018, 08:57:31 PM »
After the release of the new 5p and 10p coins, the animals on the designs did now indeed all face left. They were the last changes to the Irish circulation coinage. As already mentioned, the smaller, round 50 pence, and the 1p and 2p with the old Metcalfe wolfhound and hare designs respectively, never came about. That original announcement was made in 1990, but in that same year momentous changes were taking place in Europe. The reunification of Germany was one of them, and in return for his support of that process, President Mitterand had asked Chancellor Kohl to support the speeding up of the introduction of a single European currency. Ireland most definitely wanted to be part of the coming euro, and perhaps the awareness of its imminence made the Irish decide that it would not be worthwhile to make any further changes to the Irish coinage.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2018, 08:58:52 PM »

In the year 2000, Ireland issued its first and only commemorative pound coin, depicting an ancient Broighter boat.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #24 on: August 16, 2018, 02:33:03 PM »

Irish collector euro coins with "Metcalfian" designs.



In 2002 the Irish pound died, as the euro was introduced into Ireland. On the whole the Irish seemed positive about the new development. They were unaware of the financial tribulations to come, and not just those involving the euro.

For me, though, 2002 marks the second great tragedy of modern Irish numismatics. The first was the adoption of Gabriel Hayes' designs for the decimal bronze coins. The second was the complete loss of the Metcalfe designs, coupled with the fact that the Irish chose only a single design for the national side of their new euro coinage: the harp. Logically, however, Metcalfe's old farmyard designs were no longer appropriate for the Ireland that had become the "Celtic Tiger" economy.

The popularity of Metcalfe's animal designs lives on, though, and some have been adapted for Irish collector euro 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.

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Re: Milestones in the decimal coinage of Ireland
« Reply #25 on: August 16, 2018, 02:33:23 PM »
Though the title of this topic refers to the decimal coinage of Ireland, and the euro is also a decimal coinage, I have deliberately restricted its scope to Ireland's national pound.



This topic is part of a series about the decimal coins of the sterling area. To see the other topics in the series, click on the link below:

The Decimal Coins of the Sterling Area



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