Irish Copper Coinage that Found its way to the American Colonies

Various "Irish coins" circulated in the colonies beginning in the late 17th century (as pictured below), but as in England, there were an overwhelming number of lightweight counterfeit coppers, too:

The St. Patrick coins (so-named because of the image of the saint that appears on the back of the coins) were struck sometime prior to 1681, when some of them were brought to America by a man named Mark Newby. The front of the coins show a crowned king on his knees playing a harp and gazing up at a crown. The back of the Farthings show St. Patrick driving serpents into the sea; the back of the Halfpennies show St. Patrick surrounded by a crowd of people. Although these coins were struck overseas, they became legal money in New Jersey in May 1682 because of the pressing need for coins in the Colonies. Some of the copper pieces can be found with a brass plug inserted deliberately to give the crown a golden color.

King David playing harp with a brass plug for the crown (top coin) and St. Pat on the reverse with a crowd rather than snakes on the second coin.

For David says concerning Him:

'I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover, my flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'

Official Crown Coinage

As William Wood's coinage (although official) was unpopular in Ireland much of the issue was shipped to the American colonies where numismatists have considered them part of the 'colonial" coinage of the era ( (Rosa Americana)). Wood issued halfpennies and farthings of two types in 1722. The coins of 1723 and 1724 are of the second type only. (Hibernia) Pictured are Wood's two distinctive issues of the time.

The Lordship of Ireland, the medieval realm of Ireland that existed between 1171 and 1541 under the English crown, had separate arms. A commission of Edward IV in c. 1467-8 into the arms of Ireland found them to be blazoned Azure, three crowns in pale Or, bordure Argent (three golden crowns ordered vertically on a blue background with a white border). It is believed that the three crowns were abandoned as the arms of Ireland after Henry VIII's split with the Papacy. Strictly speaking, following the Norman invasion of the 12th century, Ireland was a feudal possession of the Pope under the overlordship of the English monarch. The decision to change the three crowns arms may have sprung "from an idea that they might denote the feudal sovereignty of the pope" — whose tiara has three crowns — "whose vassal the king of England was, as lord of Ireland.

Whatever its origins, the harp was adopted as the symbol of the new Kingdom of Ireland, established by Henry VIII, in 1541. A document in the Office of the Ulster King of Arms, from either the late reign of Henry VIII or the early reign his son of Edward VI, states that they were the arms of the kingdom of Ireland. The arms were incorporated into the unified Royal Coats of Arms of England, Ireland and Scotland upon the Union of the Crowns of the three kingdoms in 1603. Upon the secession of the Irish Free State from the United Kingdom in 1922, the harp was taken as the emblem of the independent Irish state.

A possible distant cousin may have owned Roche's Mint, King Street, in Dublin. By 1760 small coppers were scarce in Ireland. No royal Irish farthings had been issued since 1744 and no royal Irish halfpence since 1755. Both were to be minted in 1760, but did not arrive in Ireland until 1762. So somewhat underweight Voce Populi farthings and halfpence appeared in Dublin, all with the date 1760. They have been attributed to a man named Roche, a button maker and may have been produced through 1761 using the same dies. Production seems to have stopped by 1762 when the regal (heavier) 1760 copper coins finally arrived, but both the regal and Voce coppers continued to circulate. Over time, they were replaced by regal George III Irish halfpence, but many lightweight counterfeit and imitation Irish coppers remained in use, in Ireland, in Britain and in the colonies.

Current Newsletter -- 17th Century British Coppers

New: 05/11/16