The history of the Ireland Half Penny began in the early 1200’s during the reign of King John. It ended in 1987.
The collector has 9 centuries worth of Irish halfpennies to collect! Well.. There were gaps. In particular, virtually all of the 1300’s through the 1500’s. But if you include all the token halfpenny issues from Ireland, there is a fascinating variety to collect. The following is a thumbnail sketch of Irish halfpenny history.
1200-1210: Silver halfpennies are struck in provincial mints and in Dublin in the name of King John.
1279-1302: A small number of silver halfpennies are struck during the reign of Edward I in the Irish mints of Dublin, Waterford and Cork.
1327-1377: A VERY tiny number of silver halfpennies are struck in Ireland during the reign of Edward III.
1483-8147: After the coinage turmoil of the late 1300’s to the late 1400’s, Richard III introduced a new Irish coinage: a series of coin denominations with an obverse showing three crowns, and a reverse featuring the British shield of arms. Henry VII continued this coinage when he took the throne in 1485. The ‘three crowns’ Irish coinage ended in 1487. Among the denominations struck, were silver halfpennies, though the silver was lower-grade than that of England’s silver coinage.
1601-1602: The halfpenny returns to Irish commerce, but in the form of a copper halfpenny token, about the size of the current U.S. dime, privately struck under royal contract during the last two years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Some of these halfpenny tokens have been excavated at the Jamestown fort site in Virginia. The obverse featured a crowned harp, while the British Tudor shield of arms adorned the reverse.
1670-1675: St. Patrick Halfpenny tokens are privately struck. These well-made copper tokens, featuring a kneeling monarch with harp on the obverse, Saint Patrick standing before a town scene on the reverse, were brought to Colonial America (specifically, the New Jersey area) in pretty fair numbers around 1682.
1680-1684: In 1680, King Charles II grants a patent to have copper halfpennies struck for Ireland, thus beginning a multi-century tradition of copper Irish halfpennies showing the British monarch bust on the obverse, the Irish harp on the reverse. The Charles II Irish halfpennies of 1680-84 are well-made, so this halfpenny format continues into the reigns of subsequent monarchs.
1685-1688: Irish halfpennies continue to be struck into the reign of James II. These copper halfpennies, of course, feature a bust of James II on the obverse, Irish harp on the reverse.
1691: Copper halfpenny production is interrupted when James II abdicates his throne, but then tries to regain it in 1689. Returning from exile in France, James II makes his base in Dublin. There, he institutes the peculiar “gunmoney” coinage– brass shillings and half crowns to be redeemed in good money once he regains his throne. After the Battle of Boyne in 1690, the mint at Limerick continues to strike coins in the name of James II. “Limerick” halfpennies and farthings were struck, dated 1691. The Limerick halfpennies of 1691 feature James II on horseback on the obverse, Britannia with harp on the reverse.
1692-94: When William and Mary ascended the throne of Britain, they also had gained supreme control over Ireland. Consequently, the coins they issued for Ireland were regal issues, not private patent coins. The Irish halfpenny resumed under William and Mary, continuing the models of Charles II and James II. The obverse featured the dual busts of William and Mary, Irish harp on the reverse.
1696: By this time, Mary, wife of William III had passed away. This one-year only Irish halfpenny featured a bust of William III only on the obverse.
1722-24: After the Irish copper halfpenny had slumbered for over 25 years, King George I issued a patent to William Wood to strike halfpenny tokens (and farthings) for Ireland. These copper tokens, featuring a bust of George I on the obverse, Britannia with harp on the reverse, were roundly rejected in Ireland for being lightweight. Many of the William Wood halfpennies were exported to the American Colonies.
1736-1760: The copper Irish halfpenny tradition was revived during the reign of George II, with halfpennies struck for most years of George II’s reign.
1766, 1769, 1775-1782: The minting of halfpennies for Ireland during the reign of George III is sporadic. The 1766 and 1769 issues feature a small-chinned bust of George III, the 1775-82 issues feature a larger, more thin-faced George III bust. All have the Irish harp on the reverse.
1805: This George III Irish copper halfpenny (struck only in 1805) was thicker, more artistically pleasing. It was the work of master coin-maker, Matthew Boulton.
1804-1811: Due to the poor economy and copper coin shortage throughout Britain, a number of privately-struck copper and brass halfpenny tokens appear in Ireland. Design types vary widely.
1822-1823: This Irish copper halfpenny of George IV was the last of the monarch/harp halfpennies. It would be the last halfpenny of Ireland for over 100 years.
1928-1969: The Irish halfpenny returns. It’s still made of copper. Now, the halfpennies are struck under the authority of the Irish Free State. On the obverse is a 16-stringed harp, and on the reverse, a sow with piglets. The legend, “SAORSTAT EIREANN” is Irish for “Irish Free State.”
1971-1986: The last of the Ireland halfpennies circulates during this period. These halfpennies feature the standard Irish harp on one side, and on the other, a Celtic-styled bird with Celtic knot work. The Irish halfpenny was finally demonetised in 1987.