The first coins minted in Ireland were produced in about 995 AD in Dublin for King Sitric, the Hiberno-Norse King of 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 Anglo-Norman monarchs to mint coins in Ireland; these were farthings, halfpennies and pennies. It was not until the reign of Henry VIII that Irish coins bore the harp and, later in Henry's reign, the year.
In the following centuries gold, silver and copper coins were issued, and at one time, metal from melted-down gun barrels was used; this was called "gun money". Coins issued in the 18th and 19th centuries often included the word Hibernia on the harp side. The last Irish coins issued prior to independence were during the reign of George IV, in 1823. Irish coins were withdrawn in 1826 following the full political union of Ireland and Britain in the 1800 Act of Union. Occasional "fantasy" coins were minted in the next century but these were neither circulated nor legal tender.
The Irish Free State decided soon after its foundation in the 1920s to design its own coins and banknotes. 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 12 December 1928. The decision was mainly for economic reasons because, in 1924, 98% of Irish exports went to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, while 80% of imports were from those territories. Additionally, the stability and backing of the pound sterling reassured the government that the new currency was on a firm foundation and did not weaken efforts to rebuild the country socially and economically, which was the government's first commitment.
There have been three sets of coins in Ireland since independence. In all three, the coin showed a Celtic harp on the obverse. The pre-decimal coins of the Irish pound had realistic animals on the reverse; the decimal coins retained some of these but featured ornamental birds on the lower denominations; and the euro coins used the common design of the euro currencies. The pre-decimal and original decimal coins were of the same dimensions as the same-denomination British coins, as the Irish pound was in currency union with the British pound sterling. British coins were widely accepted in Ireland, and conversely to a lesser extent. In 1979 Ireland joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism and the Irish pound left parity with sterling; coin designs introduced after this differed between the two countries.
Irish silver coinage, Irish bronze coins, Irish copper coins. Many interesting varieties exist in the world of collecting Irish coins, especially farthings. There is a comprehensive selection of Irish coins for sale live on eBay. All major categories and denominations included, eBay is a great place to buy Irish coins.
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