Mark Newby's St. Patrick coinage

Hoover, Oliver D. Oliver David 1972- .
Coinage of the Americas Conference
American Numismatic Society
New York
Worldcat Works




Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.


Table of Contents



The Denominations of the St. Patrick Coinages

Philip L. Mossman

Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York

November 11, 2006

© 2009 The American Numismatic Society


Of all the early currency of British North America, I know of none more shrouded in obscurity than the St. Patrick series. I am not much further along in unraveling the mysteries of this fascinating Irish coinage with its New Jersey connection than I was when I began 25 years ago. To help direct my thinking, I have developed a brief topical outline of the multiple unknowns about this series that have perplexed me. I only address one of them in this paper—namely their intended denominations when first minted—a subject I have pondered for years because of my interest in the circulation patterns of early coinages.

  • Why is it that there is no definitive paper trail or oral tradition about the origin of this series? We have only a string of frequently contradictory speculations that have attempted to answer the "when," "where," "how," and "by whom" they were minted. The only firm dates are 1675, the year when two small coppers were lost in a shipwreck, and 1679, when the coins were demonetized on the Isle of Man.
  • What is the relationship, if any, between the small and large coppers?
  • What was the purpose of the silver issues?
  • Where and when was the series originally intended to circulate?
  • How and where did Mark Newby come into their possession?
  • Was it only the small coppers that came to America?
  • What were the intended denominations of the two copper and two silver emissions when originally minted?

For over 300 years, students of the coinage have been searching for any concrete facts that would establish an official, semi-official, commercial, or ecclesiastical context for the St. Patrick series. Although the large St. Patrick copper "incorporates the arms of Dublin as part of the design... it may therefore be a token issue, but whether authorised or not must remain an open question in the absence of documentary evidence."1 If the coins were officially or regally sponsored, one would anticipate some enduring paper trail or oral history. Whenever token coinages were private or semi-official substitutes for money, they were generally promissory in nature or clearly identified as merchant tokens with some provision for conversion into specie by their issuer. To further obfuscate their original purpose, the inscriptions on the St. Patrick money provide no guarantee for redemption, indication of sponsor, or mark of value. In the absence of any documentation regarding the intended denominations of the St. Patrick series, one must take a tangential approach and examine the coins themselves for what they can teach us; in other words, heed the advice of Hamlet’s Lord Chamberlain and "By indirections find directions out."

To start a very important factor must be kept in mind: all base copper coinages of that century were minted at a profit to someone, be it the king, a merchant, or a royal patent holder. As a first step in determining their proposed denominations, it is important to recall that in that era, the market value of official copper coinages equaled the combined cost of the metal, all mint charges, plus a substantial profit for the Crown and/ or patent holder. They were never emitted as an altruistic gesture for the benefit of the public, except perhaps for those few instances during an acute small change shortage, such as siege money, or where tokens issued as promissory notes declared they were redeemable in specie.

End Notes

H. A. Seaby and M.Russell, eds., British Copper Coins and Their Values (London, 1963), 69.

Preparing Coins for Circulation

To mint coins and place them in circulation involves a significant capital outlay that can include the following: [1] the expense of metal planchets; [2] the fixed production costs—die preparation, minting, fees, etc.; [3] storage, transportation, emission, and distribution costs; [4] profit to the issuers; [5] other fees, payments and bribes; and [6] the added expense of currency exchange rates between England and Ireland (if made in England for Irish use). Considering the above disbursements, one can predict the minimum market rate at which the St. Patrick series was originally intended to pass, a value that may never be less than the sum of the itemized list above since the coinage would never be generated at a financial loss. The word "originally" makes an important distinction since the intended market value of the coinage, when first emitted, may have changed over time as a result of economic factors. One must bear in mind that since these were tokens, their size (diameter) and weight relationships do not necessarily determine value in the marketplace.2 While the maximum fixed production costs for the St. Patrick series can be estimated from the contemporary records of the Tower Mint for similar coinages, we cannot know with certainty the many hidden expenses, such as transportation, profit commissions/bribes, and the cost of entering the tokens into circulation. In summary, the minimum intended denominations for the St. Patrick coinages can be expressed by the following word equation into which I shall attempt to insert the appropriate numbers:

minimum intended denomination ≥ planchet cost + fixed mint costs + distribution + profit + hidden fees and exchange

1. Estimating Planchet Costs

The initial step in calculating production costs is to find the cost of the planchet stock, which is determined by multiplying the prevailing market price of refined copper by the average mint weight of the struck coppers:

planchet cost = weight of planchet x cost of metal

The first requirement in solving this equation is to determine the mint weight of coins fresh from the presses, which, in the absence of both records and sufficient uncirculated examples, can be a rather complex exercise. There was variation in the weight of newly struck coppers from the Tower Mint in that era; we find for example that George III halfpence had a 6.4% disparity as made or ± 4.83 grains.3 English coppers were authorized to be minted at a specific number of coins per pound and were not weighed as individual planchets. Hence, there can be a great variation between the measured weights of individual regal coins; this disparity in weight is especially evident in copper tokens and other unofficial emissions for which there were no published standards. On the other hand, silver and gold blanks were individually weighed and, if necessary, were manually adjusted prior to striking. With specie coins, any overweight members entering circulation would be immediately culled out for the melting pot and converted into bullion at a profit. Mint officials did not expend the same effort on lowly coppers whose market value included not only the expense of the metal but also the entire production cost plus a hefty profit for the issuer.

End Notes
Robert Heslip, Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland, personal communication, January 15, 1997.
Charles W Smith, "Weight Analysis, Weight Loss, Wear, Porosity and Grade in Copper Coinage," The Colonial Newsletter 120 (2002): 2349.

2. Calculating Planchet Mint Weight: The Effect of Wear on Weight

Returning to the above equation, we have no records of the planchet weights for uncirculated St. Patrick coppers and therefore these values must be derived by measuring existing survivors. In my previous study of the subject, I proceeded on the hypothesis that one could average higher grade coins to arrive at a close approximation of the actual mint weight of the total population of a series.4 This premise was based on a project I did comparing numismatic grade versus weight for two American copper series, Machin’s Mills imitation halfpence and Massachusetts cents. I found no appreciable difference in the average weights among the various collectable grades. Whatever variation there might have been was probably hidden by the wide range of planchet weights as indicated by the first standard deviation or error.

Table 1: Average decrease in weight in Lincoln cents with decreasing grade; mint weight 47.99 grains. 5

ANA Grade % Weight Loss
Uncirculated 0%
Extremely Fine 0.12%
Very Fine 0.31%
Fine 0.42%
Very Good 1.07%
Good 2.82%
About Good 4.43%

The study of weight loss from planchet wear, as it reflects on grade, was amplified by Charles W Smith (Table 1) in his study of Lincoln cents that recently appeared in the Colonial Newsletter.6 In this article, he presented the weights of 50 pre-1942 Lincoln cents from each of seven grades, ranging from Uncirculated to those labeled About Good. Within the collectable range of numismatic examples, Smith found that the weight loss from wear of Lincoln cents was negligible.

In the same paper, Smith interpreted a table of measurements originally compiled by Damon Douglas, who did a similar study with 130 U.S. large cents by first sorting according to technical grade and then recording the average weight of each group.7 Compared to the modern small cents, Douglas’s large cents had a greater percentage weight loss as the grades decreased with increasing wear (Table 2). This percentage loss within each grade can be used as a tool to estimate the full mint weight of uncirculated large coppers.

Table 2: Decrease in weight of 130 U.S. large cents (dated 1817 and 1851) according to wear; mint weight 168.0 grains.8 By adding the "% weight loss" factor for any grade, one can approximate original mint weight.

Condition % Weight Loss
Uncirculated 0
Extremely Fine 0.59%
Very Fine 1.19%
Fine 2.38%
Very Good 3.57%
Good 4.76%
Fair 6.55%
Poor 8.93%

Smith attributed the difference in the weight loss with diminishing condition between Lincoln cents and large cents to the fact that the much finer surface detail of small cents accounts for a small percentage of their gross weight and proportionally a smaller amount of metal is lost to abrasion. There is relatively less loss of substance for the small coins as the grade diminishes when compared to the large cents, which involve a greater quantity of metal in raised features like thick lettering and complex rims; these large and thicker elements, representing a greater percentage of the coins’ mass, must be worn away before grade is adversely influenced. Also we do not have the details of Douglas’s large cent population. The use of older production technology for large cents may have led to a greater variation in original planchet weight than that observed for small cents manufactured in a modern mint.

Encouraged by Smith’s work, which supported my hypothesis, I revisited my 1986 and 1992 data for Massachusetts and Machin’s Mills coppers and expanded the census by adding more data points from recent auctions (see Tables 3 and 4, respectively). These two coinages had been originally selected because of their positions at the opposite ends of the Confederation coppers spectrum in that Machin’s Mills had no known standards and the Massachusetts mint conformed to the Federal weight of 157.5 grains.9

Table 3: Tabulation of weight loss compared to decreasing grade for Massachusetts cents, 1787 to 1788.

Grade Number Average Median % Loss p Value
Full Weight 153.6 (norm)* 0
Uncirculated 25 153.6±6.8 153.2 0
About Uncirculated 35 153.1±7.9 152.7 0.3% 0.7724
Extremely Fine 42 152.9±7.5 154.6 0.5% 0.7045
Very Fine 44 154.1±7.7 154.7 -0.3% 0.7978
Fine 13 149.1±5.7 150.3 2.9% 0.0383
Very Good 6 146.4±9.7 146.0 4.7%
Total 165 152.8±7.6 0.5%

*The average for the 25 uncirculated examples at 153.6 grains was taken as the norm, although 2.48% below the authorized standard of 157.5.

The average weights of the About Uncirculated, Extremely Fine, Very Fine, and Fine groups of Massachusetts cents were examined by the Student T-test whereby each of these grades was compared to the mean weight of the 25 Uncirculated examples to determine whether any statistically significant differences existed in their average weights. A p (probability) value of 0.05 or greater indicates there is no significant difference between the two compared groups whereas a value below 0.05 is statistically significant and the calculated differences are real and cannot be explained by a mere chance occurrence. There was no statistical difference between the About Uncirculated, Extremely Fine, and Very Fine groups and their average weights can be considered uniform and viewed the same as uncirculated specimens. There should be caution in interpreting the potentially meaningful p = 0.0383 for the Fine group because the small sample size may be a cause for error.

The weight to grade ratio for Massachusetts cents was unchanged from my previous study and both sets of results are in keeping with Douglas’s large cent data. Certainly coins graded from Fine to Uncirculated would give a close approximation of mint weight, a value that could be made more accurate by adding the correction factors as prescribed by Douglas. All weight data are compared in Table 8.

The census of the Machin’s Mills coppers was expanded from the 133 coins tabulated in the 1992 tables to a new total of 227 examples with the addition of recent auction material. While there was no significant difference in weights, the new larger sample size increases precision.10 If there was any mention of porosity, microscopic granularity or roughness in its catalogue description, its weight was recorded separately. I found that 91 out of 227 specimens (40%) had some minimal planchet problems, but that the presence of these minor surface irregularities was inconsequential in influencing the average weights for the group within any grade.11 This comparison could not be not done for the Massachusetts cents, since there was no porosity noted in their descriptions.

Table 4: Tabulation of the weight loss compared to decreasing grade of Machin’s Mills imitation halfpence with 115.0 grains taken as the standard (estimated from Douglas’s data for large cents).

Grade No. Average Median % Loss Porous % Porous p Value
Full Weight est. 115.0 n/a
AU, EF, 36 112.2±9.7 111.9 2.4% 5/36 14%
VF 113 116.2±9.0 115.3 -1.0% 39/113 35%
Fine 55 112.9±7.8 112.7 1.8% 32/55 58% 0.7016
Very Good 23 107.2±7.4 106.8 6.8% 15/23 65% 0.0318
Total 227 113.9±9.1 114.0 1.0% 91/227 40%

Range total sample = 88.3–146.0

It is notable that the Very Fine examples seem to have better weight retention (-1.0%) than the other higher grade specimens. A possible explanation is that although collectors view these imitation halfpence as a single series, they may have been minted in a number of locations where standards were inconsistent. Another feature is that many were struck from very shallowly engraved dies, therefore a major loss of grade may occur with relatively little loss of mass. However as a group, they seem to behave as a single entity, showing minimal weight loss until they reach a grade of Very Good.12

To summarize up to this point, a weight study of large U.S. cents, Machin’s Mills imitation halfpence, and Massachusetts cents shows that when these coinages were worn to a numismatic grade of Fine, no more than 2.9% of their mass was lost (see Table 8). Using Douglas’s analysis of large cents (Table 2), one can extrapolate a percentage value that can be added to the weight of a lesser grade coin to obtain a reliable indication of what the full mint weight is likely to have been. Smith’s Lincoln cent study for coins graded as Fine reveals only a 0.49% loss for which a reasonable explanation is offered. Since there is no recorded mint weight standard for the St. Patrick series, these studies were quoted here in order to estimate their unworn planchet mass in an attempt to arrive at a weight from which to estimate production costs.


Figure 1. Large St. Patrick halfpenny." Courtesy of Neil Rothschild.

End Notes
Philip L. Mossman, Money of the American Colonies and Confederation (New York, 1992), 207–208; Philip L. Mossman "Money of the American Colonies and Confederation," The Colonial Newsletter 74 (1986): 132–133.
C. Smith, "Weight Analysis," 2347.
C. Smith, "Weight Analysis," 2345–2357.
Gary Trudgen, ed. The Copper Coinage of the State of New Jersey, Annotated Manuscript of Damon G. Douglas (New York, 2003), 100.
C. Smith, "Weight Analysis," 2352–2353.
The results were essentially unchanged by averaging the additional 52 Massachusetts cents from Stack’s, John J. Ford , Jr. Collection. Part V, (October 12, 2004) into the 1992 data base of 113 examples.
The mean in 1992 was 111.5 ± 10.4 as compared to 113.9 ± 9.1 grains.
Within the total group, the unblemished coppers weighed 114.0 ± 8.2, while those with some indication of porosity averaged 113.3 ± 10.2 grains. Examination with the Student T test revealed a p value of 0.5374, indicating no significant difference in these values.
The p value of the Fine group shows no difference between these coins and those of the AU, EF group whereas a difference starts to become apparent with the Very Good group, which could be removed with a larger sample.

3. Estimating the Mint Weights of St. Patrick Coppers

Seventy-one examples of large St. Patrick coins (Fig. 1; Table 5) were examined: their technical grades compared to their respective weights as was done for the Machin’s Mills coppers and Massachusetts cents. I found that examples above the grade of Fine behaved in similar fashion to the other large coppers.13 Only four within the sample were noted as having porosity in catalogue descriptions. With the availability of 31 high-grade coppers of consistent weight, I averaged the Extremely Fine and Very Fine groups to which was added the correction of 1.1% recommended by Douglas in order to compensate for modest wear. This correction factor was proportional to the numbers of the two combined grades, suggesting a mint weight of 143.5 grains. Aquilla Smith in his 1854 paper noted that the weights of his four well-preserved large St. Patrick coppers ranged from 142 to 148 grains, averaging 144.75 grains. Similarly, Crosby’s heaviest example weighed 144 grains.14 The above historic values are consistent even considering potential sampling errors. From these measurements, I have concluded that full weight large St. Patrick coins were intended to weigh about 143.5 grains and their production costs, to be figured later, will be based on this figure. This average is more than I used in my previous work (135.7 ± 9.5 grains) of 21 specimens.15 With the increase of the number of specimens to 71, the new figure is considered more reliable.

Table 5: Weight and grade of 71 large St. Patrick coppers with average mint weight taken as 143.5 grains.

Grade Sample Size Average Weight Median % Loss p Value
EF, VF 31 141.9±11.6 142.3 1.1%
Fine 26 135.7±10.2 137.1 5.4% 0.0345
Very Good 14 130.0 (±11.0) 127.4 9.4% 0.002616
Total 71 137.3±11.8 138.5 4.3%

Range of total sample = 108.0–173.6

Moving on to the small St. Patrick coppers (Fig. 2), I had derived a putative mint weight of 92.3 ± 9.2 for the small St. Patrick coins in my 1986 and 1992 calculations by measuring only 46 mixed grade examples recorded from a few private collections and auction catalogues. I have now identified a significant sampling error within my prior study. With the increasing popularity of this series and more auction experience, the census of small St. Patrick coppers in the present study has been increased to 251 undamaged examples. Although I accepted minor porosity, granularity and roughness as described in their auction lot descriptions (those coins with surface irregularities are noted in the Porous column of Table 6) any specimen with significant and disfiguring porosity (although counted in the last row of the table) were excluded from any computations. The new sample included the majority of the material used for the 1986 and 1992 tabulations. Not only are there over five times more coins in the current data base, but also there are significant qualitative differences. Twenty years ago most of the recorded coins were from pristine collections where 59% were graded at Very Fine or better.17 In the current sample, just 39% fall into this category. The most significant difference within the present census of 251 coins is that 20% are Very Good while in the 1986 and 1992 studies, only 6% were in that lower grade. The reason for this major sampling error is that the older auctions of the 1980s specialized in prime numismatic material, whereas more recently there has been an increase in research oriented collections, where all grades and conditions have been examined and nothing rejected in order to do a comprehensive study of die varieties. These newer numbers more accurately reflect the entire spectrum of survivors; because of the availability of 24 high-grade examples, I selected their average as the closest representative value of the weight of freshly minted coins. Because of the slight wear as indicated by their About Uncirculated/Extremely Fine status, I added the 0.59% correction factor endorsed by Douglas to compensate for their reduction from full mint weight. The average mint weight that I now assign to small St. Patrick coppers is 95.3 grains. Aquilla Smith’s collection of 10 high quality examples ranged from 77 to 102 grains.18 Crosby’s heaviest small St. Patrick copper was 98 grains.19


Figure 2. Small St. Patrick "farthing." Courtesy of Stack’s Rare Coins.

I became aware of the increasing frequency of porous planchets (Porous column), especially in the lower grade examples—a feature shared by the Machin’s Mills coppers (Table 5)—while recording the updated census of 251 coppers. (It is to be recalled that my 1992 data contained a greater proportion of higher grade small St. Patrick coins, which masked this finding of porosity in worn coppers.) Within each group, if any example had microscopic or minor porosity, granularity, or roughness noted in its catalogue description, the coin was also listed in the Porous column. For example, 26 out of 51 Very Good graded coins showed some minor planchet problems. The average weight within each grade of coppers with problem-free planchets was compared to the average weight of those in the same numismatic grade of preservation with planchet irregularities (enumerated in the Porous column) to ascertain whether or not this minor porosity had any significant impact on the average weight of the entire sample. For example, the 25 Very Good coppers with normal planchets had an average weight of 82.7 ± 9.6 while the remaining 26 from the total sample of 51 weighed 81.9 ± 11.4. The p value for these results was 0.7706 indicating no difference between these two groups. The p values for the blemished versus the unblemished within the Very Fine and Fine groups were 0.3733, and 0.4165, respectively. In all cases, as with the Machin’s Mills coppers, the average values within each grade for the porous and non-porous surfaces were not significantly different.20

When the Fine through Good conditions were compared to the About Uncirculated/Extremely Fine group, it is noted from the p value of their weight differences attains extreme significance as compared to the marginal difference for the Massachusetts, Machin’s Mills, and large St. Patrick coppers in the previous tables. As these small St. Patrick coppers decrease in numismatic grade, there is an unexplained weight loss not seen in the other coppers examined.

Table 6: Weight and grade of 251 small St. Patrick coppers with full mint weight assumed at 95.3 grains.

Grade Sample Size Average Weight Median % Loss Porous % Porous p Value*
AU/EF 24 94.7±10.6 91.5 0.6% 3/24 13%
VF 75 90.7±8.3 91.2 4.8% 19/75 25% 0.0942
Fine 84 85.9±8.3 85.3 9.9% 30/84 25% 0.00068
VG 51 82.3±10.5 81.2 13.6% 26/51 51% 0.000019
Good 17 79.4±7.7 81.5 16.7% 14/17 82% 0.000004
Total 251 87.0±9.9 86.4 8.7% 92/251 37%
Excluded (porosity) 36 77.2±9.0 77.1 19.0% 36/36 100%

Range of total sample = 56.7–116.8 grains

* This p value compared the weight of the various conditions with the AU/EF group. Any value below 0.05 achieves significance.

Thirty-six examples were rejected outright (not included in the 251) because of extensive porosity or some indication that they had been recovered from the ground. Others were also excluded because of an attempt by some literal "gold-digger" to pry loose the brass splasher. These brass splashers are a mystery unto themselves but have no influence on weight since the specific gravity of brass is 8.4 to 8.7, very close to that of copper (8.8 to 8.95).21 This suggests that the presence or absence of a splasher does little to alter a coin’s weight.

To summarize Table 6, the weight analysis of the small St. Patrick coppers looked like a rather straightforward exercise similar to the previous tables, but there were some unexpected findings:

  • As the small St. Patrick coppers decrease in grade, their percentage weight loss is greater than expected in comparison to the other coinages, including the large St. Patrick coins (see Table 8).
  • Although examples with significant porosity were excluded from calculations, the small St. Patrick coppers had no more minor porosity or planchet problems than the Machin’s Mills coppers (Table 5), as noted in their catalogue descriptions.22
  • Within any single grade, those coins with minor porosity have an average comparable weight to those of the same grade with trouble-free planchets; the minor porosity does not seem to be a factor in the reduced weight.

The reasons for these observations, if valid, may be:

  • The small St. Patrick coppers may be composed of an alloy subject to greater weight degradation with wear.
  • There may be more than one planchet population, or some that wore better than others.
  • This may be an artifact or statistical quirk.

In an attempt to account for these findings, the specific gravity of a single, clean, large St. Patrick copper was measured and found to have a specific gravity of 8.90. Two small coins—one with excellent surfaces and the second with minor microporosity—were calculated at 8.89 and 8.73, respectively. These values were all within the range of copper at 8.8–8.95, but prove nothing because they could represent the average of metals in a complex bronze. In a further study of the observation that lower numismatic grade small St. Patrick tokens are proportionately lighter than other coppers of equal grade, the surfaces of two undamaged examples were cleaned with a solvent and examined with X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to learn their composition.23 The weights of both specimens were representative of their respective Very Good and Very Fine condition grades as noted in Table 6. The first coin had the appearance of a rich brass while the second looked like leaded bronze; considering their high copper content, they, no doubt, would have passed for pure copper by seventeenth-century standards.24 The results are recorded in Table 7.

Table 7: Elemental composition of two selected Small St. Patrick Coppers examined with a scanning electron microscope.

Coin Grade Weight Comparison with Table 6 Composition
#1 VG 74.2 grains 82.3 ± 10.5 grains average weight of 51 examples 97% copper; 3% zinc
#2 VF 95.5 grains 90.7 ± 8.3 grains average weight of 75 examples 98.4% copper; 1.4% lead; 0.2% aluminum

As a preliminary answer to the questions raised above, there is no immediate evidence that the two planchets examined were made from an alloy, but it must be stressed that the results from two samples is neither definitive nor considered representative of the entire coinage where there may have been other planchet populations lurking. In regard to the increased weight loss, a large sample may prove this observation to have been a statistical idiosyncrasy.

Table 8: Weight loss vs. grade for the six selected coinages tabulated in Tables 1 to 6. The small St. Patrick coppers lose a higher proportion of weight with decreasing technical grade.

Grades Lincoln Cents Large U.S. Cents Mass. Cents Machin’s Mills Large St. Patrick Small St. Patrick
Uncirculated 0% 0% 0.0%
AU 0.3%
AU, EF 2.4 0.6%
Extremely Fine 0.12% 0.59% 0.5%
EF, VF 1.1%
Very Fine 0.31% 1.19% -0.3% -1.0% 4.8%
Fine 0.42% 2.38% 2.9% 1.8% 5.4% 9.9%
Very Good 1.07% 3.57% 4.7% 6.8% 9.4% 13.6%
Good 2.82% 4.76% 16.7%
About Good 4.43%
Fair 6.55%
Poor 8.93%
Total 0.5% 1.0% 4.3% 8.7%
Excluded (porosity) 19.0%

In my effort to arrive at an average mint weight for freshly struck small St. Patrick coins, I discovered that as their numismatic grade decreases, there is a greater proportional weight loss than is seen with other copper coinages. Consequently, it is no longer valid to estimate the weight of freshly struck specimens by averaging a cross-section of circulated examples unless a correction factor is applied. There is the possibility that within this census there were hidden several planchet emissions of different metals, alloys or weights. Therefore, only Extremely Fine or better small St. Patrick coins can be reliably used for accurate metrological data concerning newly minted coins. We have certainly come all around "Robin Hood’s barn" to find this figure to fit into the simple formula that answers the question, "What were the denominations of the St. Patrick coinages?"

End Notes
Summary of weights provided by Roger Moore, personal communication, November 7, 1999.
Aquilla Smith, "On the Copper Coins Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," Proceedings and Transactions of the Kilkenny and South-eastern Archæological Society 3 (1854–1855): 1–10 and Sylvester Crosby, The Early Coins of America (Boston, 1875), 136–137, where Aquilla Smith’s paper is partially summarized.
Mossman, Money, 126.
Because of the small sample size, the accuracy of this p value is suspect.
Mossman, Money, 126.
A. Smith, "St. Patrick’s," 6.
Crosby, Early Coins: 138.
These results were subjected to the student T test to discover if the differences between the two means is significant or due to chance. None of the differences between porous and non-porous coppers of any particular grade was significant and so they could be considered as a single group.
The specific gravity of tin bronzes varies from 7.4 to 8.9 depending on their tin content (7.9 to 14% respectively).
In many instances, the cataloguer for both series was the same person, thus lessening the degree of observer bias.
Jeol JSM-6480LU Scanning Electron Microscope. This study was arranged and financially supported by Raymond Williams whose participation is gratefully acknowledged.
The results were reviewed by Dr. Charles W. Smith whose helpful comments are appreciated.

A Digression About Porosity

It is instructive to digress for a moment to consider why coins lose weight. The normal decrease in grade of the small St. Patrick coppers—or any coin for that matter—may be due to genuine wear, which consists of two factors: surface abrasion of metal in which micro-fragments are sloughed into the environment and the peening effect in which the copper in the elevated design is hammered into the surface so that the dulling of identifying devices occurs without an accompanying loss of weight. The combination of wear and peening in Smith’s study accounted for a 2.82 % weight loss for Lincoln cents graded Good and 4.43% for those considered barely identifiable. Smith’s controlled study shows that the decreasing grade of circulated Lincoln cents is primarily the result of surface peening rather than the loss of abraded metal. However, there may be another more significant factor at work with low grade small St. Patrick coins, namely porosity. From both Tables 4 and 6, we have seen that minor porosity did not adversely affect weight in either the small St. Patrick or Machin’s Mills series, but the observation that significant numbers of small St. Patrick coins in lower grades have some degree of porosity leads one to think about the nature of porosity and how it might adversely affect this particular coinage in very low grades (36 examples in Table 6).

Copper is soft and relatively chemically reactive; "Thus the state of preservation of a coin can be thought of as the integrated effects of its entire physical and chemical history, from the time of its production to its current local situation."25 These irreversible changes can be induced when a copper coin is subjected to an acidic environment—such as being buried in a coniferous region, a field treated with fertilizers, or stored in a tanned leather purse, rather than residing peacefully for years in dry neutral sand. The chemical influence of an acidic milieu may produce water soluble copper salts that leach out causing macroscopic surface granularity and discoloration from complex copper oxides in a process we identify as porosity.26 Cast planchets, with their natural micro fissuring created by escaping gas during the supercooling of the metal, are more susceptible to porosity, since these minute clefts become conduits for the entrance of environmental contaminants beneath the surface of the coin with subsequent acceleration of chemical deterioration. "These voids remain available over time as host locations for weight-loss chemical activity."27 Additionally, as cast planchets cool, small gas bubbles accumulate beneath the surface causing microscopic "pock marks" and as porosity progresses, the "pock marks" extend to the surface. Perhaps the extensive porosity that appears with this series is the result of being struck on several populations of cast planchets of mixed metals that were not detected in the small sample that underwent elemental analysis.

Another situation, unrelated to casting, may also add to premature porosity. When metals are worked and subjected to stress, their internal crystalline configuration is altered making their structure harder and less malleable (so-called "work-hardening"). If such a metal is stressed again, it may crack unless, prior to reworking, it is annealed in a procedure that consists of heating the metal to a precise temperature and cooling it slowly according to a formula specific to each metal or alloy. Thus, if coins were struck from non-annealed work-hardened planchets, they would be brittle and less ductile with surfaces more prone to invasion by environmental contaminants promoting porosity. In the seventeenth century, planchets were annealed between all phases of the minting process, namely the repeated rolling of the refined metal stock into desired planchet stock thickness, planchet cutting, and planchet flattening. Adequately annealed planchet material greatly added to the longevity of the embossing dies.

One can observe the positive effects of annealing by examining the surfaces of a state copper that has been overstruck on an existing coin such as in the New Jersey Maris 56-n variety. If the host planchet were well annealed and softened, very little residual host coin detail would be evident on the parasitic 56-n, perhaps only some ghost letters around the periphery. Whereas if struck on a work-hardened, host copper that has not been annealed, there will be lighter impressions from the 56-n dies and even the central devices of host coin will remain visible. However, because the 56-n die pair was so long-lived, it is apparent that the host planchet stock was generally well annealed before receiving a New Jersey identity.

The occurrence of porosity in buried coins has been mentioned; there is at least one uncontrolled experience that speaks to this question. In 1731, some 50 immigrant families from Londonderry, Ireland, settled at Pemaquid, Maine. This fledging colony, which disbanded two years later, has been the site of intense archeological activity and revealed 17 Wood’s Hibernia coppers among the site finds.28 Charles W Smith and I had the opportunity to examine these numismatic recoveries and found that most were significantly porous, but judging from the retained surface detail, they were obviously in excellent condition when they were lost, buried, or discarded. Here is a natural experiment in which new high-grade coins were subjected only to the deteriorative effects of environmentally induced porosity. The three porous farthings averaged 46.4 grains (a 20% reduction from mint weight); the 14 halfpence without physical damage averaged 103.1 grains.29 When three well-preserved halfpence with minimal or no porosity were excluded, the average of the eleven remaining was 101.9 grains. In nature’s laboratory, where several eight-year-old coppers of known weight had been discarded and developing porosity for 270 years, the average weight loss was from 11.6% to 12.2%. Even though the numbers here are few and subject to sampling error, we are still left with another indication that the small St. Patrick tokens do not behave like other coins since even the 36 highly-porous small St. Patrick coppers lost 19.5% of their estimated mint weight. Again we must be aware of sampling errors and realize that we are describing a trend.

End Notes
C. Smith, "Weight Analysis," 2346.
C. Smith, "Weight Analysis," 2348.
C. Smith, "Weight Analysis," 2348.

4. Production Costs for St. Patrick Coppers

Having made some estimation of the average weights of the coppers as they left the mint, I now return to the question of the denomination of the St. Patrick coinages. The small planchets do not seem to show the typical degradation pattern with wear as evidenced by the large St. Patrick pieces, or any other pure copper coin. What is urgently needed is a non-destructive planchet analysis of a large sample of high-grade specimens before any surface degradation has occurred. We must be cautious because there may have been several populations of planchets: some of pure copper that behaved accordingly, and others of an alloy that was subject to a more rapid weight loss. Lacking this definite information, I have used the cost of pure copper for both coinages. These data are subject to modification as more information becomes available regarding typical planchet composition.

From his work on Lord Baltimore denaria from the Tower Mint, Louis Jordan has investigated his lordship’s potential profit from his copper coinage during the same period that interests us.30 Since Ireland did not have a copper industry at this time and relied on outside sources,31 finished planchet preparation would most likely have been done elsewhere—England in this case—and the costs presented in pounds sterling. Although Peck listed the 1672 price at 12d per pound, Challis adds an additional 4.5d for the price of finished planchets and another 2.5d for charges related to coining and distribution.32 An earlier estimate of costs by Thomas Violet places the cost of copper at 12d33—but to this, the cost of planchet manufacture and minting must be added. Considering all these variables, a reasonable estimate of the sterling cost to mint one pound of copper would be:

Copper per pound avdp. = 12d,

Planchet manufacture = 4.5d,

[Total finished planchets = 16.5d]

Cost of minting, dies, and distribution 2.5d per pound avdp. = 19d.

We may never be certain about the total production cost for St. Patrick coppers, which could have been less than 19d, because that overall fee at the Tower Mint included a number of salaries of mint officials who were not involved in token production. Furthermore, the 19d are taken as a maximum total cost, but it could have been less if there was a less expensive source for some of the small planchets. These ameliorating reductions in planchet cost could have been offset by the additional expenses incurred for transportation to Ireland and local distribution, and also by the added expenditure for the 140 or more hand-engraved die pairs which is an excessive number for such a small output. We also have no idea if the placement of the splashers required special handling at an added expense. For ease of computation, the maximum cost will be taken at 19.0d per pound of copper.

Table 9: The costs for both the large and small St. Patrick coins.*

Large St. Patrick Small coins as 1/4 d Small coins as 1/2 d
1. Assumed full weight 143.5gr. 95.3gr. 95.3gr.
2. Coins per lb. 48.8 73.5 73.5
3. Irish value d/lb 24.4d 18.4d 36.8 d
4. English mint costs/lb 19.0d 19.0d 19.0d
5. Costs in Irish funds** 20.1d* 20.1d** 20.1d*
6. Profit = Value - Cost 4.3 d (1.7d) 16.7d
7. Profit/Total Cost as % 21.4% 8.5% loss 83.1%

*Assuming that they were made in England but passed in Ireland. Values are given for the small coin as both a farthing and a halfpenny.

**Based on the period exchange rate of 1.00:105.56, English to Irish.

From these data, it would appear that the sponsor(s) of the large St. Patrick copper realized a 21.4% profit if it passed as a halfpenny. Assuming that the small St. Patrick coppers had the same author(s), this issue would have incurred an 8.5% loss if marketed as farthings. There would also be a significant profit if they were emitted as a lighter version of a halfpenny, but, of course, the sponsor(s) would have no control over the future business climate that could easily readjust their value downwards, since neither token carried an indication of value, the identification of the issuer, or any promise of future redemption.

In Money of the American Colonies and Confederation, I presented the evidence for why both coins were originally intended to pass as halfpence. The major premise was that they were not minted in the 1:2 weight ratio that one would expect if their sponsor(s) adhered to a farthing/halfpenny relationship. Also, because these coppers were only tokens representing real money issued for somebody’s personal gain, there was insufficient profit if the small token passed as a farthing.34 On this point, Robert Heslip of the Ulster Museum, Belfast, adds, "With a token coinage all the cost of production can give us is the minimum value at which a coin could economically circulate and size relationships do not necessarily equate to value either."35 Thus when first minted, it is the potential profit margin that determines the intended denomination, be it a farthing or a halfpenny. The distinction must be made between the denomination designated at the time of production and the subsequently adopted monetary value.36

End Notes
I wish to thank the Maine State Museum and Dr. Edwin Churchill for the use of their data.
Eleven were dated 1723, one was 1724, and two were undecipherable; the three farthings were 1723.
Louis E. Jordan, "Lord Baltimore Coinage and Daily Exchange in Early Maryland," The Colonial Newsletter 126 (2004): 2651–2768.
Robert Heslip, personal communication, June 27, 2006.
Christopher E. Challis, A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992), 366.
Challis, Royal Mint, 369.
Mossman, Money, 124–130. In 1992, using a smaller and less representative sample with a less accurate mint weight, I calculated a mere profit of 9.8% for the small copper if it were to pass as a farthing and a profit of 49.1% for the larger piece when it passed as a halfpenny.

Other Contemporaneous Irish Coppers

Regarding small change, what other minor coins were the Irish people accustomed to receive and spend in the late seventeenth century? In order to study the relationship between the two St. Patrick issues and other contemporaneous Irish coinages, it is important to recall the weights of other Irish coppers of the period (see Table 10), all of which are significantly lighter. The Armstrong patent farthing is about one-quarter the weight of the small St. Patrick coin, also called a farthing by many.37 One should bear in mind that for any coin to circulate, it must be acceptable in commerce based on either its intrinsic worth or its acceptable token value as a promissory note with the prospect for redemption. Typically such tokens were minted at a considerable profit to the authors. Numismatic history is replete with examples of rejected coinages that the citizenry considered lightweight and overvalued. The unpopular copper farthings of the Harington, Lennox, Richmond and Maltravers patents are good examples.

In comparing the St. Patrick coinages (Table 9) with other coppers of the era in Table 10, it is instructive to see how much heavier they are. In estimating potential profit from each of the coinages (Table 11), many of the earlier patent coinages returned significant profits to their sponsors. This table gives us a rough idea of the minimum expected profit for patent halfpenny tokens in Ireland during that period. I suspect that since the large St. Patrick coins did not offer a great potential for profit (21.4%) the whole operation was redesigned with a small sized halfpenny intended to capture an 83.1% profit.


Figure 3. Irish billon penny of Queen Elizabeth I. Tower Mint, 1601. Department of Special Collections, University of Notre Dame.


Figure 4. Harington patent copper farthing. ANS 1940.113.462.


Figure 5. Richmond patent copper farthing. Department of Special Collections, University of Notre Dame.


Figure 6. Armstrong patent copper farthing. Author’s collection.


Figure 7. Mic(hael) Wilson copper halfpenny token, 1672. ANS 1933.93.17.


Figure 8. Irish copper halfpenny of King Charles II (Armstrong/Legge patent), 1682. ANS 1940.113.464.

Table 10: A list of official Irish small change during the early to midseventeenth century. The St. Patrick pieces were much heavier but their legal basis is unknown.

Sponsor Dates Denomination Weight in grains
Elizabeth I 1601–1602 penny 31.1
Elizabeth I 1601–1602 halfpenny 14.5
Harington patent 1613–1614 farthing Type 1: Range 3–7.6; Average 5
Type 2: Average 9
Lennox patent 1614–1625 farthing Average 9
Richmond patent 1625–1634 farthing Average 8.5
Maltravers patent 1634–1636 farthing Average 9
Rose farthings 1636–1644? farthing Range 9–17; Average 13
Armstrong patent 38 1660–1661 farthing 20
Mic(hael) Wilson 1672 halfpenny token 62.739
Dublin halfpenny40 1679 halfpenny token 134.6
Charles II (Armstrong/Legge patent)41 1680–1684 halfpenny Authorized at 110

Table 11: Using 1672 mint costs, these are the relative profits from official small change Irish coppers of the seventeenth century from Table 10. Compared to similar data (Table 9, line 7), the St. Patrick coppers were not a profitable venture. All weights are given in grains.

Period 1601–1602 1613–1636 1660–1661 1680–1684
Coinage Elizabeth I halfpenny James I and Charles I patent farthings Armstrong patent farthing Charles II halfpenny
Patent weight 14.5 average 9.0 20 110
Coins/lb 482.8 778 350 63.6
Mint costs/lb 20.1d (Irish) 20.1d (Irish) 20.1d (Irish) 20.1d (Irish)
Irish value/lb 241.4d (Irish) 194.5d (Irish) 87.5d (Irish) 31.8d (Irish)
Profit 221.3d 174.4d 67.4d 11.7d
Profit/total cost 1101% 867.7% 335.3% 58.3%

End Notes

Personal communication, January 15, 1997.
Michael Dolley, "St. Patrick’s Half-Groats and Pennies," Irish Numismatics 61 (1978): 39.
See John J. Horan, "Some Observations and Speculations on St. Patrick Halfpence & Farthings," The Colonial Newsletter 47 (1976): 567.
James Simon, An Essay Towards an Historical Account of Irish Coins (Dublin 1749, repr. 1810), 49–50.
M. B. Mitchiner, C. Mortimer, and A. M. Pollard, "The Chemical Compositions of English Seventeenth-Century Base Metal Coins and Tokens," British Numismatic Journal 55 (1985), 57. The Mic Wilson tokens are brass composed of 17.8% zinc and 77.2% copper.
Simon, Essay, 53–54
Simon, Essay, 54–55.

Other Opinions Regarding the Denominations of the St. Patrick Coinages

Since both varieties of the St. Patrick coins are mute as to their proposed denominations, I will concentrate on the historical documentation that may assist us in learning about the rate at which they were entered into commerce (Table 12). It is unclear which of the opinions summarized in Table 12 are supported by evidence, which are just parroting previous colleagues, and which are unsubstantiated personal biases. Based undoubtedly on the ecclesiastical symbolism, early writers linked the coinage to the 1642 General Assembly of Kilkenny.42 Although this time frame is not generally supported by other considerations, an anonymous account, appearing in 1832, described the small coin as having been minted in the 1640s by the Catholic Confederation, "who in the Castle of Lea coined some of that brass money, known by the name of St. Patrick’s Halfpence, and which are of the value of a four-thirteenth of a penny sterling; but which in that period, bore a currency of one shilling." They enjoyed only a brief circulation as token shillings and then as the report infers, were reduced in value to become current as "St. Patrick’s Halfpence."43 In reference to Table 9, using a sterling value scale, such a "St. Patrick’s Halfpenny," passing at four-thirteenths of a penny, sterling (0.31d), would have cost about 0.26d to mint in 1675 funds, providing about a 20% profit. Originally provided out of necessity as shillings, not unlike the Irish gun money of a later period, there was a period when indeed this commentary confirmed that these small coins were once valued as halfpence. No mention is made of the large St. Patrick coin. Granted that this 1642 scenario may lack other historic substantiation, in terms of this current paper, the monetary considerations are logical.

Considering that more observers date these coins to the mid- to late-1670s, it has always amazed me that there were not some earlier contemporaneous comments as to their existence and appearance, let alone monetary value, particularly if some royal patronage were involved. It is certain that some of the small coppers were minted prior to 1675, since two were recovered from the yacht Mary, which sank that year in a storm.44 The only other firm piece of evidence for their early history is cited by Charles Clay in his 1869 review of Manx coinages, in which he stated that the St. Patrick coins arrived there from Ireland in about the year 1670 and were among a number of tokens tolerated on the island because of a severe shortage of small change.45 The large piece "was generally called a penny," but Clay did not comment on the value of the small coin. We have no idea how, when, or why the St. Patrick coinages arrived on the English-controlled Isle of Man, but we learn that a 1679 Act of Tynwald officially demonetized the widely counterfeited "Butchers Halfpence,"46 the "Patrick Halfpence, and copper farthings or any other of that nature." The same legislation specifically endorsed the currency of regal coppers and "the brass money called Jno. [John] Murrey’s pence." The probable motive for this repudiation of anonymous coppers was that the "Butcher" and "Patrick" tokens and plentiful forgeries were suppressing the circulation of English coinage. The 1668 Murrey piece was favorably received because it was issued by a politically well-connected local tradesman who financially secured the circulation of his tokens.

In his classic article, Aquilla Smith summarized the opinions expressed by several numismatists from the early eighteenth century.47 From the data in Table 12, based on opinions expressed between 1679 and 1869, it is evident that at least in the first quarter of the 1700s, the large and small St. Patrick’s coppers were passing as halfpence and farthings, respectively. However, those authors, writing fifty years after the St. Patrick coppers were presumed to have been minted, admitted that no clear consensus as to their origins and denominations existed, although others inferred they were both halfpence. In fact, so little was known about the St. Patrick issues, that Evelyn, the first numismatist to write about them stated in 1697, "I think" they are "Irish."48 There cannot be much less incertitude than that for an issue that may have been no more than 25 years old! Simon felt they were halfpence and farthings whereas Batty, Lindsay and "other distinguished Numismatists" considered them pennies and halfpence.49 More recently, Michael Dolley noted,

What is still not known for certain is how the two denominations were valued at the time of their first utterance. It is irrelevant that later generations of students have assumed them to be halfpence and farthings, or perhaps pence and halfpence...What concerns us is the value put on them at the time of their striking, and prima facie there appears to be no compelling reason they should not have been accepted as half-groats and pence.

Later, he concluded, the large pieces may have been retariffed as halfpence.50

Table 12: Denominations of the St. Patrick coins in earlier literature.51

Date Source and Proposed Denominations
1679 Act of Tynwald: demonetized "Patrick Halfpence, and copper farthings."
1681 Thomas Dineley illustrated the large coin as a "... halfpenny issued for the ready change of this nation [i.e. Ireland]."52
1697 Archbishop (of York) John Sharpe: "halfpence and farthings."
1715 Thoresby presumed they were current for halfpence and farthings based on their size.
1724 Bishop Nicolson: ".are still common in Copper and Brass;" and "are current for half-pence and farthings in Ireland."
1724 Swift spoke of "the small St. Patrick’s coin which now passeth for a farthing,—and the great St. Patrick’s halfpenny" (italics mine).
1726 Leake wrote about "copper pieces, which have passed for halfpence (130–135 grains) and farthings (90–96 grains) in Ireland, but for what purpose they were coined, and by whom is uncertain...but for what value they were originally intended, or made current, is uncertain...Afterwards they passed for the value the common people put upon them; and being something heavier than King Charles the Second’s best Irish Halfpence, went currently for such."53
1745 Harris concluded, "In this Reign (Charles II) two or three Kinds of Copper Halfpence were coined." He described the small coin and then added, "These afterwards passed for farthings, and a large Sort were coined for Halfpence" (italics mine). The implication here is that all the St. Patrick coins started as halfpence but later some passed for farthings.
1749 Simon wrote, "...the copper pieces, called St. Patrick’s Halfpence and Farthings."
1832 The anonymous "Historical Account of the Castle of Lea" dates the small St. Patrick coins to the 1640 Catholic Confederation where they originally issued as token shillings, then (after c.1650) revalued as 4/13 penny, sterling, passing as halfpence.
1851 Cane called them pence and halfpence.
ND Dean Dawson and Lindsay both called them pence and halfpence
1854 Aquilla Smith, himself, while attributing the series to the period between 1660 and 1680, sidesteps the denomination issue with the disclaimer that the question "can only be decided by some better authority than has yet been discovered."
1869 Clay: On the Isle of Man in 1670 were "Patrick pence, and halfpence, or as stated by some, halfpence and farthings...the large piece ... is generally called a penny." The other coin is called "the small piece."
1978 Michael Dolley wrote that the coins could have started in 1675 as "half-groats and pennies."

The review of these comments by earlier numismatists regarding the intended value of the two copper tokens indicates that they all make the assumption that the two different sized issues represented two separate denominations that were minted and circulated simultaneously. It appears to me that prior writers were so completely mesmerized by the putative size correlation of farthing to halfpenny that they completely overlooked the implication of the cost/profit relationship in their manufacture. The large planchet coppers probably came first and were then replaced by the small planchets to increase minting profits. Both were intended as halfpence but the small tokens were subsequently retariffed as farthings.

This is precisely what Swift wrote in 1724. In George Faulkner’s 1735 edition of The Drapier’s Letters, which included Swift’s revisions,54 we read his comparison of William Wood’s halfpence to the halfpence of earlier periods:

... Butchers Half-Pence, Black Dogs and the Like, or perhaps the Small St. Patrick’s Coyn which passeth now for a farthing55...For I have now by me some Half-Pence coyned in the Year 1680 by vertue of the Patent granted to my Lord Dartmouth, which was renewed to Knox, and they are heavier by a ninth Part than those of Woods, and in much better Metal.56 And the great St. Patrick’s Half-penny is yet large than either.

Since this remark appears during a discussion of halfpence, it seems that Swift’s intention was to convey the impression that the small St. Patrick copper—once a halfpenny—was now passing, some 55 years later, as a farthing. Harris, writing in 1745, further supports this same position by stating:

In this Reign [i.e., Charles II: 1660–1685] were two or three Kinds of Copper Half-pence coined... These afterwards passed for Farthings, and a large Sort were coined for Half-pence, with this Difference; on the Reverse, St. Patrick standing before a Crowd of People, with the Arms of the City of Dublin at his Back.57

End Notes

Simon, Essay, 47.
"Historical Account of the Castle of Lea, Queen’s County," from the Leinster Express (1832) at Last accessed July 27, 2007.
Dolley, "St. Patrick’s Half-Groats and Pennies," 39.
C. Clay, Currency of the Isle of Man (Douglas, 1869).
Clay thinks this was the 1672 Mic(hael) Wilson halfpenny of Dublin. See Figure 7.
A. Smith, "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," passim.
A. Smith, "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," 1.
D. T. Batty, Batty’s Descriptive Catalogue etc, (Manchester, 1886) vol. III, 725–729, describing seven pence and 38 halfpence.
Dolley, "St. Patrick’s Half-Groats and Pennies."
These comments are either recorded in Aquilla Smith’s paper or come from other footnoted references.
Michael J. Hodder, "The Saint Patrick Copper Token Coinage: A Re-evaluation of the Evidence," The Colonial Newsletter 77 (1987): 1016. See also, Colm Gallagher, "The Irish Copper Coinage 1660–1700," NumismaticSociety of Ireland, Occasional Papers 24–28 (1983): 26–27.
Authorized patent weight was 110 grains; observed weight was 105 to 199 grains (Mossman, Money, 126, Table 13).
Herbert Davis, ed., The Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland (London, 1935, repr. 1965), lxviii. See also, Sir Walter Scott, ed., The Works of Jonathan Swift, DD (Edinburgh, 1814), vol. 7, 143.

St. Patrick coinages in New Jersey

Following the Manx rejection, these unwanted tokens somehow came into the possession of Mark Newby, an English Quaker who was established as a merchant in Dublin where he suffered religious persecution. In 1681, at age 43, Newby and his family emigrated from Dublin to West Jersey and settled in a Quaker community established by William Penn.58 Newby brought with him an unknown quantity of St. Patrick’s tokens. When he was elected to the West Jersey Assembly in May 1682, legislation was soon enacted authorizing his St Patrick coppers to "pass for halfe pence Current pay of this Province" which would be a rate of 24 to the West Jersey shilling, money of account.59 For his tokens to circulate as legal tender, he was obliged to post "sufficient surety" which parenthetically was the same financial arrangement required of John Murrey for his coppers to circulate on the Isle of Man. Being an astute business man, one can speculate that Newby acquired his tokens, probably the small variety, both in bulk and at a considerable discount, which he quickly arranged to circulate in West Jersey as halfpence.60

Crosby cited a reference indicating that many "Patrick half-pence have been ploughed up" on Newby’s original farm.61 Indeed any recovered coppers were halfpence because that was their legal West Jersey rating. Unfortunately the author of this statement failed to note whether the coins were of the large or small variety. None of the large variety traditionally known as "halfpence" have been reported, but to date I have compiled a census of nine small St. Patrick coppers recovered by metal detectors and a single silver coin found in an archeological site in Playwicki, PA. Nothing more is known about the latter.62 Of the small coppers, four were found in New Jersey, and one each in Laurel, MD; New Bern, NC; Greene, NY; Philadelphia; and one near the Massachusetts/Connecticut state line. The Laurel, MD, coin appeared in the Colonial Coin Collectors’ Club Convention auction (November 8, 1997), as lot 309. I agree with the cataloguer’s statement that "No conclusions of any sort can be drawn from an isolated discovery, but it becomes one small piece in the jig saw puzzle of which denomination[s], Halfpence or Farthings, actually circulated in North America."


Figure 9. Silver St. Patrick "shilling." Courtesy of Neil Rothschild.


Figure 10. Norweb gold St. Patrick "guinea." ANS 1988.166.1.

End Notes

In the original 1724 edition, Swift wrote "passes for a Farthing"; in the 1725 and 1730 editions this was revised to read "passed for a Farthing," while in the authoritative 1735 version, edited by Swift, he states "passeth now for a Farthing" (Davis, Drapier's: 43, n. 43).
The 1680 patent is for the regal halfpence of Charles II that was renewed to Knox for the subsequent coppers of James II from 1685–88; both issues of regal halfpence were authorized at 110 grains while the weight for the large St. Patrick copper I have assumed at 143.5 grains.
A. Smith, "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," 3.
Mossman, Money, 128–129.
Crosby, Early Coins, 133.
See also the paper by Siboni and Yegparian in the present volume.
Crosby, Early Coins, 135n.
Michael Stewart, "The Indian Town of Playwicki," Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology, 15 (1999): 48.

The Off-Metal St. Patrick Coins

The Playwicki find provides a natural segue for discussion of the silver St. Patrick coins popularly described as "shillings" (Fig. 9). While little is known about their copper cousins and even less is known about the silver varieties. They were first mentioned in 1697, when Evelyn placed them among the medals of Charles II.63 Thornsby, 18 years later, likewise considered them medals rather than a circulating currency, an opinion shared by both Leake and Harris. This conclusion may have been supported by the fact that they were all minted with a medal turn, although I am not aware of any that have been pierced for suspension.64 Dr. Robert Cane and later James Simon in his 1749 essay considered them shillings struck at the same time as the small copper coins by the Kilkenny Assembly in 1643.65 Currently there are 14 known silver varieties, of which nine were struck from die pairs also used for the small copper tokens.66 Two silver coins are known in both early and intermediate die states, indicating that minting occurred over time.67 Aquilla Smith reported owning three small-sized silver pieces and a "somewhat worn" large silver St. Patrick piece of 176.5 grains that was struck from a pair of dies identical to a pair used for the large copper series. These dies have since been identified as Vlack 1-B.68 Smith concluded that if the small silver coins were shillings, the large one must have been intended as a higher denomination. However, it was his final opinion that all the silver specimens were "model" or proof pieces from the same dies as the copper series. He supported this statement with the fact that he also had a lead proof from a pair of small dies.69

Currently there are four opinions as to the origins of the two species of silver St. Patrick coins: they were either 1) medals, 2) currency coins (shillings), 3) models or proofs of the two copper varieties, or 4) struck much later from original dies, replicating a practice that is well known for Irish gunmoney. To further complicate matters, there are two small St. Patrick specimens struck in gold from different sets of dies. The first, weighing 184.4 grains, struck at an unknown time from genuine dies, recently appeared in the Ford Sale;70 the second is the controversial Norweb plain-edged piece of 125.1 grains struck from 0.917 fine gold using a pair of new and otherwise unknown dies (Fig. 10).71

In returning our attention to the silver St. Patrick coins, I do not know what they represented—but I do know that they were not Irish shillings. Again in the absence of any documentary evidence, we are obliged to turn to the coins themselves to find our answers. I have been able to trace 37 examples ranging from 77.8 to 123.0 with a median of 102.2 grains and an average of 101.5 ± 11.7. Since many of the silver coins were in high grades, it would appear that the intended weight was about 102.0 grains. I do not have a metal analysis to determine silver content, but a single specific gravity of 10.495 is indicative of a high silver content.72

Note that the standard deviation of ±11.7 of the silver St. Patrick coins confirms their wide range of planchet weights. In comparing these coins with other silver coins of the period, it is evident that these planchets did not have the same weight tolerance as those from the royal mints. An analysis of 50 high grade English shillings of Charles I revealed an average weight of 88.7 ± 4.0 grains (range 84.7 to 92.7) for a coinage authorized at 92.9 grains of sterling silver, although some of the sample could have been subtly clipped.73 Even John Hull’s Massachusetts silver shillings of the same period had much less variation in weight than did these silver St. Patrick pieces, suggesting that they were not made in a quality controlled environment such as the Tower Mint. The supposed "Irish" St. Patrick "shillings" at 102.0 grains are 9.1 grains or 9.8% heavier than the English.

Considering that the contemporary English to Irish exchange rate was 100.00:105.56, an Irish shilling should contain 88.0 grains of silver. The average of the 37 examples in this data is 14 grains or 15.9% too heavy. If any shilling of this weight ever hit the Irish shores, its first and only stop would have been the melting pot for reduction into bullion at a handsome profit for the silversmith. As they stand, these "Irish" shillings are actually Irish 14d pieces, a situation that never would have existed.

88 grains ÷12d = 7.33 grains per penny

102 ÷ 7.33 = 13.9–14d Irish

If the coins were below sterling grade they might not be worth as much, but we know how actively the English government resisted any coins that were not 0.925 fine. The best guess is that the silver St. Patrick issues were presentation pieces struck contemporaneously from small copper dies, but were never meant to circulate as currency. Indeed, all this is a guess, since no supporting evidence has accompanied any of the preceding opinions.

End Notes

A. Smith, "On the Copper Coins Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," 1.
One "plugged" example has been brought to my attention, a possible repaired hole, but without any accompanying details. Stanley Stephens, personal communication, January 10, 2007.
Simon, Essay: 48; Smith, "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," 1.
Stanley Stephens, personal communications, January. 9–10, and 17, 2007.
Personal communication, James LaSarre, May 6, 2006.
Stanley Stephens, personal communication, January 9–10, 2007. For the latest Vlack die variety attributions of the large St. Patrick coppers, see Roger A. Moore, Stanley E. Stephens II, and Robert Vlack, "Update of the Vlack Attribution of St. Patrick Halfpence with Visual Guide," The Colonial Newsletter 129 (2005): 2921–2928.
A. Smith, "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s": 5–6.
Stack’s Rare Coins, John J. Ford, Jr. Collection: Coins, Medals and Currency. Part VII. (January 18, 2005), lot 2.
Bowers and Merena, The Norweb Collection, part III (March 24–25, 1988), lot 2386. See also the appendix by Robert Wilson Hoge in the present volume.
Harrington E. Manville, "Review of Brian J. Danforth’s Paper on St. Patrick Coinage," The Colonial Newsletter 127 (2005), 2783.
Weights supplied courtesy of Robert Heslip. In a comment, Louis Jordan notes that "the pyx trial allowed a tolerance or remedy of 24 grains per troy pound of sterling or two grains per troy ounce of 480 grains, or, about a remedy of 0.387 grain per coin, which is 92.5 to about 93.3; based on the pyx trial these items may have been slightly worn or shaved. Personal communication, January 8, 2007.

Concluding Remarks

In conclusion, I do not think that I have provided any definite answers regarding the intended denominations of the St. Patrick series. However, the following clarifications clearly contribute to our knowledge of the denominations of the St. Patrick series.

For the large St. Patrick copper we can say:

  • There is presently no existing documentation for its sponsor(s) or its initial denomination; historically it has been considered a halfpenny, a penny, and even a twopence—fully recognizing that its trading value may not have been consistent over the years.
  • We have no firm evidence linking the emission of the large and small coins except a common iconographic theme and a brass splasher, presumably inserted as an anti-counterfeiting measure (like the brass plug in "rose" patent farthings). It would appear that the farthing/ halfpenny relationship has been traditionally assumed based only on their weights.
  • Lacking any justification to call this pair of tokens the St. Patrick halfpenny and farthing, I would advocate referring to them as the "large" and "small" St. Patrick coppers.
  • A full weight coin is assumed at 143.5 grains—but this does not preclude the possibility of several populations of planchets of varying weight since there is no known authorized weight.
  • There is at least one known silver example struck from genuine dies.
  • The copper issues behave like all other coppers in their wear/weight loss behavior.
  • It was minted at a fair profit—but certainly nothing comparable to other copper tokens of the period.
  • There is no archaeological or metal detection evidence that it ever circulated in West Jersey.

For the small St. Patrick copper:

  • There is presently no existing documentation for its sponsor(s) or initial denomination; historically it has been usually considered a farthing probably based on its approximate size relationship with the large coin. It is recognized that the value received in the market place may have changed with time due to economic forces.
  • We have no firm evidence linking the emission of the large and small coins except for a common iconographic theme and splashers.
  • With wear and decreasing grade, these pieces lose more weight than the large sort and do not behave like other typical coppers. The reason for this is unclear. This may be artifact or statistical quirk. A large sample should be examined by energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence to settle the issue. Two recently examined examples are seen to be copper. There may have been several populations of planchets, including those without splashers, or some may be a bronze alloy, yet to be defined by further studies.
  • If initially issued as farthings, these would have been minted at a loss. It is entirely possible that they were originally issued as another variety of halfpenny minted at a lighter weight for an improved profit. At a later period, the small copper may have been received as a farthing as indicated by Dean Swift and Harris. A single reference suggests that in the 1640s it was minted as a token shilling which, after a short time was devalued as a halfpenny.
  • These have been the only variety recovered in North America suggesting they were the ones made current in West Jersey and authorized as halfpence.

For the off-metal examples:

  • Of the fourteen identified silver varieties, nine are known to have been struck from original small token dies, probably during the same period.
  • The small silver examples were not shillings since they were too heavy to have successfully circulated as such.
  • The silver pieces could well have been presentation pieces.
  • One gold coin is reported to have been struck from original small coin dies and the other is a copy, possibly struck in a later period.
  • There is at least one lead proof trial piece struck from small coin dies.

If I have failed to answer the question of what the intended denominations of the St. Patrick coinages were, at least I am in good company. Dr. Aquilla Smith, another physician, closed his 1854 paper "On the Copper Coins Commonly Called St. Patrick’s" with the statement, "I now leave the subject open for further investigation." And so do I.


I would like to thank those whom I consulted during the preparation and presentation of this paper including John Griffee, Bennett Hiibner, Michael Hodder, Robert Hoge, Oliver Hoover, Louis Jordan, James LaSarre, Roger Moore, Neil Rothschild, Wayne Shelby, Roger Siboni, Charles W. Smith, and Stanley Stephens. In particular, I wish to recognize Raymond Williams for allowing me to use the data from the elemental analysis of his small St. Patrick coins. Since this article was in a development phase over so many years, I apologize to others who helped along the way whom I may have inadvertently omitted.


Batty D. T. Batty’s catalogue of the copper coinage of Great Britain, Ireland, British isles and colonies, local & private tokens, jettons &c. Vol. III. Manchester: T. Sowler and Co., 1868.
Bowers and Merena. The Norweb Collection. Part III. March 24–25, 1988.
Challis, Christopher E. A New History of the Royal Mint. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Clay, Charles, ed. Currency of the Isle of Man. Douglas, Isle of Man: The Manx Society, 1849.
Crosby, Sylvester. The Early Coins of America. New York: Burt Franklin, 1983 [1875].
Davis, Herbert, ed. The Drapier’s Letters to the People of Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1935.
Dolley, Michael. "St. Patrick’s Half-Groats and Pennies." Irish Numismatics 61 (1978): 39.
Gallagher, Colm. "The Irish Copper Coinage 1660–1700: Notes Towards a History." Numismatic Society of Ireland, Occasional Papers 24–28 (1983): 21–39.
Hodder, Michael J. "The Saint Patrick Copper Token Coinage: A Reevaluation of the Evidence." The Colonial Newsletter 77 (1987): 1016–1018.
Horan, John J. "Some Observations and Speculations on St. Patrick Halfpence & Farthings." The Colonial Newsletter 47 (1976): 567.
Jordan, Louis E. "Lord Baltimore Coinage and Daily Exchange in Early Maryland." The Colonial Newsletter 126 (2004): 2651–2768.
Manville, Harrington E. "Review of Brian J. Danforth’s Paper on St. Patrick Coinage," The Colonial Newsletter 127 (2005): 2781–2785.
Mitchiner, Michael. B., C. Mortimer, and A. M. Pollard. "The Chemical Compositions of English Seventeenth-Century Base Metal Coins and Tokens." British Numismatic Journal 55 (1985): 144–163.
Moore, Roger A., Stanley E. Stephens II, and Robert Vlack. "Update of the Vlack Attribution of St. Patrick Halfpence with Visual Guide." Colonial Newsletter 129 (2006): 2921–2928.
Mossman, Philip L. "Money of the American Colonies and Confederation." The Colonial Newsletter 74 (1986): 964–1156.
Mossman, Philip L. Money of the American Colonies and Confederation. New York: The American Numismatic Society, 1992.
Scott, Sir Walter, ed. The Works of Jonathan Swift, DD. Edinburgh: Tout & Sons, 1814.
Seaby, Herbert A. and Monica Russell, eds. British Copper Coins and Their Values. London: Seaby, 1963.
Simon, James. An Essay Towards an Historical Account of Irish Coins. 2nd ed. Dublin: G.A. Porter, 1810.
Smith, Aquilla. "On the Copper Coins Commonly Called St. Patrick’s." Proceedings and Transactions of the Kilkenny and South-eastern Archæological Society 3 (1854–1855): 1–10.
Smith, Charles W "Weight Analysis, Weight Loss, Wear, Porosity and Grade in Copper Coinage." The Colonial Newsletter 120 (2002): .
Stack’s Rare Coins. John J. Ford, Jr. Collection: Coins, Medals and Currency. Part V. October 12, 2004.
Stack’s Rare Coins. John J. Ford, Jr. Collection: Coins, Medals and Currency. Part VII. January 18, 2005.
Stewart, Michael "The Indian Town of Playwicki." Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 15
Trudgen, Gary, ed. The Copper Coinage of the State of New Jersey. Annotated Manuscript of Damon G. Douglas. New York: The American Numismatic Society, 2003.

Ye King and I: King David as King Charles I on the St. Patrick Coinage

Oliver D. Hoover

Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York

November 11, 2006

© 2009 The American Numismatic Society

Although the iconography of the seventeenth-century St. Patrick “farthings" and “halfpence" is very rich (Pl. 1–2), it has rarely garnered serious attention from numismatists, and on the few occasions when it has, the results have tended to be mixed. Because of this situation, a number of peculiar iconographic interpretations have evolved in the modern literature as well as within the general lore of the series passed on by collectors. The present paper deals with the interpretive problems of the iconography of the king who appears on the obverse of both series of the St. Patrick coinage. Discussion of the St. Patrick reverse types as symbols of the Protestant Ascendancy appropriated from Catholic sources will appear elsewhere.

It is not infrequently claimed that the obverse type of King David playing the crowned harp on both denominations of the St. Patrick coinage was intended as a portrait of King Charles I, and that, therefore, the series must be dated to the 1640s, or if a Restoration date is accepted, that the coinage was produced under Charles II to commemorate his deposed father. However, a close review of the iconography reveals very little that is distinctly Caroline in the King David type, suggesting that it was really intended to depict David as himself, rather than Charles I as David. This being said, there can be little doubt that the type was intended as an allusion to contemporary English divine-right kingship.

It is interesting to note that while many of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century students of the St. Patrick coinage speculated that the coins were issued or at least used by the Confederate Catholics of Kilkenny in the context of the Irish Revolt of 1641–1652,1 none of them seem to have suggested that the David type was actually a portrait of Charles I prior to Edward Maris’ publication of A Historic Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey in 1881. In this work, the author reported that, “I have been fortunate in securing one of each of the different sizes in perfectly uninjured condition. In the figure representing King David kneeling, I recognize the features of Charles I."2 This view was later endorsed by Walter Breen in a 1968 Colonial Newsletter article and at last canonized for American readers in his 1988 Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. 3 But is it true? Was the face of Charles I actually used for King David on the St. Patrick coinage?

The king’s head, which is only about 5mm from beard tip to crown on the "halfpence" and 3mm on the "farthings," is far too small to distinguish the facial features of Charles I (Pl. 1, 3–4). Thus it seems most likely that the features recognized by Maris in the David type were the pointed beard and shoulder-length hair, rather than the details of the face. There can be little question that the hair and beard of the David figure on the "halfpenny" are reminiscent of some numismatic portraits of Charles I (Pl. 1, 5), but these same features also appear on the portraits of the king’s European contemporaries, such as the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III (Pl. 1, 6), Georg Wilhelm, the Elector of Brandenberg (Pl. 1, 7), and others. More importantly, a similar style of hair and beard is worn by a harp-playing David on a Nuremberg 10-ducat portugaloser of 1641 (Pl. 2, 8). Since a portrait of Charles I is no more likely to appear on a gold multiple of Nuremberg than that of Ferdinand III is to be found on Irish coppers, it seems clear that the beard and hairstyle cannot be taken as personal identifiers of Charles I, and should be understood instead as generic elements of royal fashion in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Also problematic for the portrait theory is the fact that the figure of King David on the St. Patrick "farthing" appears to have a different and fuller style of beard and lacks the shoulder-length hair worn by the king on the "halfpenny." The "farthing" type seems to represent King David in old age, with thinning hair and long beard. A similar image of David appears later on the eighteenth-century psalmenpfennige of the Swiss city of Brugg (Pl. 2, 9) and probably derives from earlier artistic depictions, such as "David Playing the Harp" (Fig. 1) by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640).

Breen attempted to support Maris’ dubious portrait identification by citing a remarkable halfpenny pattern made by Nicholas Briot for Charles I (Pl. 2, 10).4 The shorter hairstyle and goatee treatment of the beard actually serve to undercut the portrait argument. King David appears to have longer hair on the "halfpenny" and a full beard on both denominations of the St. Patrick coinage. The main interest here must be the radiate crown, which is indeed very similar to that worn by David on the St. Patrick coinage. However, despite this similarity, there is no evidence that portrait coins depicting Charles I wearing this form of crown ever saw circulation and therefore could have served as a model for David on the St. Patrick coinage. In any case, the radiate crown (also known as the eastern or antique crown in heraldic terminology), like the beard and hairstyle, was not an attribute specific to Charles I, and therefore cannot be taken as proof that David was a representation of Charles I. As part of a continuing Renaissance tradition going back to the Quattro cento, Charles’ contemporaries King Felipe IV of Spain (Pl. 2, 11) and Cnosimo II de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (Pl. 2, 12) were depicted wearing radiate crowns on coins struck in their Italian possessions as indicators of their classical erudition.5 This form of crown was generally associated with antiquity because it frequently appeared on the Roman coins that were avidly collected by Early Modern rulers.6


Figure 1. Peter Paul Rubens, David Playing the Harp, 1577–1640.

In the Roman Empire, imperial portraits wearing radiate crowns were regularly used to indicate double value, as on the brass dupondius (worth 2 copper asses) (Pl. 2, 13) and the silver antoninianus (worth 2 denarii) (Pl. 2, 14), but also became associated with debasement.7 The antoninianus, introduced by the Emperor Caracalla in 213, was rated at 2 denarii and yet it contained only 80% of the silver needed for this intrinsic value. Over the course of the third century, the silver content was increasingly reduced until the antoninianus became a billon coin.7 The fact that Charles I wears not only the radiate crown, but also the draped cloak (paludamentum) of a Roman general clearly signals a Roman model—probably the antoninianus—for this representation. All of his other numismatic portraits depict him in contemporary costume; often involving plate armor with a ruff or lace collar.8 In the case of the Briot pattern, the radiate crown may have been intended to signal the use of debased silver for the proposed halfpenny, lest unscrupulous individuals try to pass it as good sterling. The pattern specimens cited by Peck all have the appearance of silver, but specific gravities that point to the use of impure silver or a base metal core.9 Perhaps most telling against the association between the radiate crowned portrait type of the Briot pattern and King David of the St. Patrick coinage is the fact that this crown form was often connected not only with Roman antiquity, but with ancient times in general. As such, it was not uncommon for the kings of the Biblical age to be depicted wearing a form of the radiate crown in seventeenth century art (Figs. 2–5). As David was one of the greatest of these kings, it is not surprising that he appears wearing this crown in painting (Figs. 2 and 5) and medallic art (Pl. 3, 15), as well as on several series European coins that also depict him with a harp and in a suspiciously similar pose to that found on the St. Patrick coinage. These include the psalmenpfennig of the Swiss city of Bern, struck in the period 1659–1680 (Pl. 3, 16), the quadrupla scudo d’oro of Pope Clement X, issued in 1673 and 1674 (Pl. 3, 17), and the psalmenpfennig of Brugg, produced from 1750 to 1775 (Pl. 2, 9).10 In short, the radiate crown is an expected attribute of David in the seventeenth century and therefore cannot be taken to signal an intended portrait of Charles I on the St. Patrick coinage.


Figure 2. Rembrandt van Rijn, David Playing the Harp before Saul, 1655–1660.

More recently, a variant of the crown form argument has been resurrected by Michael Sharp.11 He suggests that the crown worn by David is actually a type known as a celestial, or martyr’s, crown and that it therefore identifies him as Charles I, whose execution by Parliament in 1649 gave him holy martyr status among Royalists. Shortly after his death, a handkerchief soaked in his blood was said to miraculously cure disease, and following the Restoration in 1660 Charles was officially canonized as a saint by the Church of England.12


Figure 3. Valentin de Boulogne, The Judgement of Solomon, c. 1620.


Figure 4. Matthaeus Merian the Elder, Hezekiah Orders the Destruction of the Idols, 1625–1630.


Figure 5. Hendrick ter Brugghen, David Playing the Harp, 1623.

While this is an interesting idea, it founders on the fact that David’s crown appears to be the radiate antique type that we have already mentioned rather than the celestial type. Depictions of the celestial crown of Charles I in posthumous engravings (Fig. 6) and on a commemorative medal (c. 1695) by John and Norbert Roettier (Pl. 4, 18) clearly show that the rays of this crown type were regularly tipped with shining stars, a feature that is completely absent from David’s crown on the St. Patrick coins.13 Indeed, we should not really expect a celestial crown here. If it were present it would


Figure 6. Posthumous engraving honoring King Charles I as a martyr.

send a peculiar message, since the wearer seems to look admiringly at the temporal crown that hovers above the harp. This would be an inversion of the usual martyr iconography for Charles I, typified by William Marshall’s frontispiece for the first edition (1649) of the anonymous Eikon Basilike (Fig. 7), a work of royalist propaganda casting the king as a saintly—almost Christ-like—figure suffering at the hands of his own people.14 Marshall’s allegorical masterpiece shows the king, having discarded his temporal crown on the ground, holding a crown of thorns while setting his gaze upon a martyr’s crown that hovers before him. It would be highly improper for a saint, upon attaining his heavenly reward, to set his gaze upon the trappings of earthly power.

In 1987, Michael Hodder already cast serious doubt on the theory of Charles I as David by noting the close similarity of the depictions of David on the St. Patrick coinage to images of the Biblical king on the Nuremberg portugaloser and the Brugg psalmenpfennige that we have already seen (Pl. 2, 8–9).15 He further suggested that all of the images probably derived from a common prototype, but this seems implausible since the details of David even on the two St. Patrick denominations differ. We have already mentioned the differences of the beard and hairstyle between the "farthing" and the "halfpenny."


Figure 7. William Marshall, Frontispiece to the Eikon Basilike, 1649.

The general arrangement of the King David type for both denominations seems to be roughly modeled after the portugaloser on which David kneels playing the harp while gazing heavenward. On the Nuremberg piece, the object of his gaze is the Tetragrammaton of God’s name surrounded by rays of glory, but on the St. Patrick coinage this feature is replaced by a temporal crown, not entirely unlike the one that David wears on the portugaloser. It may be that the decision to apply the brass splasher to the temporal crown on the St. Patrick coinage was made in emulation of the shining glory of God depicted on the Nuremberg multiple, as the splasher makes the crown shine in its own way.

The checkerboard floor below David on the halfpenny appears to be taken directly from the Nuremberg medal, as Hodder has already pointed out, but the form of the king’s clothing closely follows that of David on a Bern psalmenpfennig that was not mentioned by Hodder.16 On both coins the king wears a cape with a noticeable upturning at the end and a fringe of ermine at the shoulder and along the edge. David also wears a distinctive short tunic that reveals his lower leg and the pillow on which he kneels. Also visible on the halfpenny and the Bern psalmenpfennig is a calf-length boot worn by the king.

On the other hand, the St. Patrick "farthings" omit almost all of these details. Here the king still retains his cape, but the ermine has disappeared from the edge and the shoulder. David does not wear the short tunic of the "halfpence," but rather a long flowing robe that covers his lower extremities down to his ankle. This form of clothing is somewhat closer in style to that of the king on the Nuremberg portugaloser and the Papal quadrupla scudo, but neither can be said to be a precise match to the farthing. On the Nuremberg piece David’s feet are covered and there is an ermine fringe at the shoulder. On the Papal coin the feet are visible and there is no ermine, as on the farthing, but the folds of the cape and robe are much more animated and the king faces to the right. As an aside we would add that the superior engraving technique and skilful Baroque treatment of David on the quadrupla scudi should put to rest the old belief that the St. Patrick coinage might have been produced by the Vatican as a means of subventing the Irish Rebellion of 1641–1653.

It seems improbable that the various Swiss, German, and Papal coins that appear to have provided design elements for the St. Patricks’ David type all could have been physically available to the designer of the farthings and halfpence. While it is true that the silver starved Irish economy relied heavily on foreign coins, there is no evidence that Swiss psalmenpfennige, which were actually struck as school prizes rather than as regular coinage, circulated in the kingdom in any kind of quantity. It also seems unlikely that the rare10-ducat portugaloser of Nuremberg could have been easily pulled from circulation to provide a model for Irish coppers. Assuming that the "farthing" was produced as late as the 1670s, it is similarly improbable that quadrupla scudi of Pope Clement X would have been immediately at hand. Although his predecessors, Gregory XIII and Innocent X had financially supported Irish resistance to England during the Second Desmond Rebellion (1579–1583) and the Irish Rebellion (1641–1653), respectively, there is no hint that Clement X ever attempted to meddle directly in Anglo-Irish affairs during his brief pontificate and therefore there is little reason to expect his silver multiples in Ireland. Indeed, interventions there in the period 1673–1674 would have been politically counterproductive since, in 1673, James Stuart, brother of Charles II and his probable successor had openly revealed his adherence to the Catholic faith.


Figure 8. King David in manuscript illuminations of the fifteenth century.

In short, actual coins should be ruled out as the sources for the design elements used to construct the images of David for the St. Patrick "farthings" and "halfpence". Thus, it seems most likely that the designer of the St. Patrick coins had access to some sort of model book or books that included engraved images of the several European coin types or other artworks from which they were derived. Almost all of the iconographic elements found on the German, Swiss, and Papal coins, as well as the St. Patrick series appear in earlier works of art. David dressed in the ermine fringed robes of a contemporary medieval or early modern monarch and gazing heavenward can be traced back through the medium of manuscript illumination into the fifteenth century (Fig. 8), if not earlier, indicating an iconographic tradition that was at least 200 years old by the time of the various David coin issues of the mid- to late 1600s. It must be stressed, however, that the St. Patrick coinage is unique, if not daring, in its replacement of the glory of God or an angel that David traditionally looks up to with the temporal crown that serves to transform his harp into the badge of the Kingdom of Ireland.

David’s kneeling pose can also be dated to the fifteenth century, when it appears to have been developed as a conflation of two distinct iconographic types—that of the king playing the harp and the king at prayer. In earlier depictions, David usually plays his instrument in a seated rather than a kneeling position.


Figure 9. Detail of Erasmus Quellen II, David and Saul, c. 1635.


Figure 10. Detail of Charles-Nicholas le Jeun, David Playing the Harp before Saul, 1715–1790.

Even the decoration of David’s harp with a semi-nude winged female figure on the St. Patrick coinage was ultimately inspired by an artistic tradition in which the harp was given a face and sometimes wings. This sort of embellishment was added to symbolize the music that came from the harp and had the power to drive out the demons that plagued King Saul.17 The head appears in painting and engravings of the seventeenth century and continued to be in vogue during the eighteenth century (Figs. 9–10). Thus a bearded head, somewhat akin to that found on the harp in Ersamus Quellen’s David and Saul (c. 1635) can be found on the harp of the Nuremberg portugaloser, while the chubby head and wings of a puto appear in the art and on Brugg psalmenpfennige of the eighteenth century (Pl. 4, 19). The St. Patrick coinage charts a slightly different course by employing a full female figure, but its connection to contemporary models is unmistakable.

Having now reviewed the several theories claiming that the image of David on the St. Patrick coinage is actually that of King Charles I and having looked at the contemporary artistic and numismatic evidence, it seems that there is no iconographic indication that the harper-king is anyone other than King David as himself. Whether contemporary coinusers may have interpreted the type as depicting Charles I is entirely another matter and cannot be addressed in the absence of documentary evidence. Even if they did, there is absolutely no sign within David’s typology that this was intended by the designer.

It is hoped that in some small way, like the great Irish saint, whose most celebrated miracle was the driving of the snakes out of Ireland, the discussion presented here has at last managed to drive out an interpretive fallacy that has now bedevilled the coinage that bears his name for over a century.


Breen, Walter. " Comment on St. Patrick Halfpence and Farthings." The Colonial Newsletter 22 (1968): 16–19.
Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Cane, Robert. " On the Ormonde Coin and Confederate Money." Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1.3 (1851): 442–453.
Corpus Nummorum Italicorum: Primo tentativo di un catalago generale delle monete medievali e moderne coniate in Italia o da Italiani in altre Paesi. 20 vols. Bologna: Forni, 1982.
Eikon Basilike, The Pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings. London: No Publisher, 1649.
Griffiths, Antony. "Advertisements for Medals in the London Gazette ." The Medal 15: 4–6.
Harl, Kenneth. Coinage in the Roman Economy 300 B.C. to A.D. 700 Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1996.
Hodder, Michael. "The St. Patrick Token Coinage: A Re-evaluation of the Evidence." The Colonial Newsletter 77 (1987): 1017.
Leake, Stephen Marin. Nummi Britannici Historia: or, An historical account of English money, from the conquest to the uniting of the two kingdoms by King James I. and of Great-Britain to the prsent time. London: W. Meadows, 1726.
Madan,Francis F. A New Bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of Charles the First London: Bernard Quaritch, 1950.
Maris, Edward. A Historic Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey. Philadelphia: W K. Bellows, 1881.
Peck, Wilson C. English Copper, Tin and Bronze Coins in the British Museum, 1558–1958 London: The British Museum, 1960.
Reber, B. Fragments numismatiques sur le canton d’Argovie. Geneva: Imprimerie Dubois, 1890.
Ritter von Schulthess-Rechberg, K.G. Die Ritter von Schulthess-Rechbergische Münz- u. Medaillen-Sammlung: Als Anhang zum Thaler-Cabinet. 3 vols. Dresden: No Publisher, 1868–1869.
Scher, Stephen K. The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance New York: Harry N. Adams, 1994.
Sharp, Michael. "The St. Patrick Coinage of Charles II." British Numismatic Journal 68 (1998): 160.
Simon, James. An essay towards an historical account of Irish coins, and of the currency of foreign monies in Ireland. Dublin: S. Powell, 1749.
Spink. Coins of England and the United Kingdom. 40th edition. London: Spink, 2005.

Key to Plates

  • Copper St. Patrick "halfpenny". Courtesy of Neil Rothschild.
  • Copper St. Patrick "farthing". Courtesy of Stack’s Rare Coins.
  • Enlargement of David’s head on the St. Patrick "halfpenny."
  • Enlargement of David’s head on the St. Patrick "farthing."
  • Gold unite of King Charles I. Oxford mint, 1643. Fritz Rudolf Künker Münzenhandlung 117, September 28, 2006, lot 5257.
  • Silver reichstaler of Emperor Ferdinand III. Kremnitz mint, 1649. CNG 64, September 24, 2003, lot 1380.
  • Gold ducat of Elector Georg Wilhelm. Königsberg mint, 1634. Fritz Rudolf Künker Münzenhandlung 117, September 28, 2006, lot 5940.
  • Silver portugaloser of Nuremberg, 1641. Auktionshaus Meister & Sonntag 2, September 21, 2004, lot 2323.
  • Silver psalmenpfennig of Brugg, 1750–1775. UBS Gold & Numismatics 63, September 6, 2005, lot 1098.
  • Billon (?) halfpenny pattern by Nicholas Briot for King Charles I. Wilson C. Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze Coins in the British Museum, 1558–1958 (London, 1960), no. 362.
  • Gold doppia of King Felipe IV. Milan mint, 1621–1665. Triton VIII, January 11, 2007, lot 1672.
  • Silver tallero of Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici. Pisa mint, 1616. Fritz Rudolf Künker Münzenhandlung 98, March 8, 2005, lot 5206.
  • Brass dupondius of Emperor Trajan, Rome mint, 112–114. Gorny & Mosch Giessener Münzhandlung 151, October 9, 2006, lot 429.
  • Silver antoninianus of Emperor Caracalla, Rome mint, 216. Gorny & Mosch Giessener Münzhandlung 152, October 10, 2006, lot 2259.
  • Silver medal depicting David and Goliath and David and Jonathan (1537) by Wolf Milicz. Auktionshaus Meister & Sonntag 3, October 6, 2005, lot 1004.
  • Silver psalmenpfennig of Bern, 1659–1680. UBS Gold & Numismatics 58, January 27, 2004, lot 468.
  • Silver quadrupla scudo d’oro of Pope Clement X. Vatican mint, 1673–1674. Auktionshaus H.D. Rauch GmbH 76, October 17, 2005, lot 1301.
  • Copper commemorative medal of King Charles I (c. 1695) by John and Norbert Roettier. Baldwin’s Auctions Ltd. 42, September 26, 2005, lot 1441.

Plate 1


Plate 2


Plate 3


Plate 4

End Notes

See, for example, Stephen Marin Leake, Nummi Britannici Historia: or, An historical account of English money, from the conquest to the uni-ting of the two kingdoms by King James I. and of Great-Britain to theprsent time. (London, 1726); James Simon, An essay towards an historical account of Irish coins, and of the currency of foreign monies in Ireland (Dublin, 1749); R. Cane, “On the Ormonde Coin and Confederate Money," Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1.3 (1851): 442–453.
Edward Maris, A Historic Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey (New York, 1881), 4.
Walter Breen, "Comment on St. Patrick halfpence and farthings," The Colonial Newsletter 22 (1968): 16–19; Walter Breen, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins (New York, 1988), 34.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 34.
Corpus Nummorum Italicorum: Primo tentativo di un catalago generale delle monete medievali e moderne coniate in Italia o da Italiani in altre Paesi (Bologna, 1982), vol. V, no. 31; vol. IX, no. 330.
For the general influence of Roman coins on Renaissance portraiture, see Stephen K. Scher, The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance (New York, 1994).
Kenneth Harl, Coinage in the Roman Economy 300 B.C. to A.D. 700 (Baltimore, 1996), 129–132.
The Stuart taste for Roman numismatic style goes back to the gold laurel and its fractions struck for James I from 1619 to 1625 (Spink, Coins of England and the United Kingdom (London, 2005), nos. 2637–2642B), which look back to the Roman aureus for inspiration. Romanizing portrait types with laurel crown, paludamentum and/or cuirass were also common features of the milled coinages of Charles II and James II in silver, copper and tin. This style was continued under William III and was passed on to the House of Hanover. It was terminated by the production of the new coinage of George III in the period 1816–1820.
Wilson C. Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze Coins in the British Museum, 1558–1958 (London, 1960), no. 362.
K. G. Ritter von Schulthess-Rechberg, Die Ritter von Schulthess-Rechbergische Münz- u. Medaillen-Sammlung : Als Anhang zum Thaler-Cabinet (Dresden, 1868), no. 659; Corpus Nummorum Italicorum: Primo tentativo di un catalago generale delle monete medievali e moderne coniate in Italia o da Italiani in altre Paesi (Bologna, 1982), no. 41; B. Reber, Fragments numismatiques sur le canton d'Argovie (Geneva, 1890), nos. 26–28 and 35.
Michael Sharp, "The St. Patrick Coinage of Charles II," British Numismatic Journal 68 (1998): 160.
See the anonymous pamphlets, A Miracle of Miracles: Wrought by the Blood of King Charles the First, Of Happy Memory, upon a Mayd at De ford, foure miles from London, who by the violence of the Disease called the Kings Evill was blinde one whole yeere; but by making use of a piece of Handkircher dipped in the Kings blood is recovered of her sight (London, 1649) and A Letter Sent into France to the Lord of Buckingham His Grace: of a Great Miracle wrought by a piece of a Handkerchefe, dipped in His Majesties Bloud (London, 1649).
Antony Griffiths, "Advertisements for Medals in the London Gazette," The Medal 15: 4–6.
Eikon Basilike, The Pourtraicture of His Sacred Majestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings (London, 1649); F. F. Madan, A New Bibliography of the Eikon Basilike of Charles the First (London, 1950).
Michael Hodder, "The St. Patrick Token Coinage: A Re-evaluation of the Evidence," The Colonial Newsletter 77 (1987): 1017.
Die Ritter von Schulthess-Rechbergische Sammlung, no. 1390.
1 Samuel 16.14–23.

Old and New Takes on the St. Patrick Coinage

William Nipper

Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York

November 11, 2006

© 2009 The American Numismatic Society

Remarkably, even the most basic facts about the so-called St. Patrick farthings and halfpence (Figs. 1–2)1 have eluded numismatists for more than three centuries. When and how were they made? Where, by whom and at whose command? How were they distributed, used and valued? Given the turbulent environment out of which the St. Patrick coinage emerged, it is possible that a definitive solution to any one of these basic questions might quickly lead to the solution of them all. Thus, anyone working to solve the mysteries runs the risk of instantly having his or her work quickly become obsolete.

Nevertheless, with the objective of stimulating new research and discussion, this two-part paper begins with an overview of theories about the dating and origins of the St. Patrick coins. It concludes with an introduction to Sir Edward Ford, a seventeenth century inventor-knight who may or may not have had a hand in producing the St. Patrick coinage, but whose actions are at least worthy of further study.

Background: Ireland

Queen Elizabeth’s conquest of Ireland at the turn of the sixteenth century left scars that never have healed. Under James I, large numbers of Englishmen and Scots began emigrating to Ireland, to seek a better life. The English Crown made it easy for the colonists to displace Irish landholders, in much the same way that North American Indians were later removed from their ancestral lands. Discrimination against the native Irish increased as the colonial government in Dublin gained power. Old Irish traditions and powerful clans were losing their influence. Ireland became increasingly divided along ethnic and religious lines.

The situation exploded with the Ulster Rebellion of 1641, which began as a popular uprising by Irish Catholic peasants, spurred by the local aristocracy. It was met with harsh reprisals from the colonial government in Dublin. To regain control, in 1642, the Catholic aristocracy formed an alternative confederation government that existed for six years. This Catholic Confederation held Kilkenny as its seat of government.


Figure 1. Copper St. Patrick farthing. Courtesy of Stack’s Rare Coins.


Figure 2. Copper St. Patrick halfpenny. Courtesy of Neil Rothschild.

Meanwhile, Charles I was embroiled in the English Civil War and was forced to soften his anti-Catholic views. He began courting the Confederation for its military resources. Throughout the 1640s, Ireland was a seething, violent mix of discontented factions: Royalists, rebelling Puritans, Catholics and the old Irish who clung to their traditions and wanted to rid the country of foreign interlopers. During this period, the Vatican supported its Irish flock by periodically sending emissaries and aid in various forms.

Finally, in 1650, the year after Charles I’s beheading, Oliver Cromwell pacified Ireland with a crushing invasion. Before the long conflict, two-thirds of good Irish land was owned by Catholics. By 1660 and the Restoration of Charles II, land ownership was two-thirds Protestant.2 Charles II knew that the ruinous state of Ireland presented an untenable situation and began efforts to rebuild the country.

End Notes

Note that throughout this paper, the terms "halfpenny" and "farthing" are used to denote the large and small St. Patrick pieces, respectively. This is done purely for convenience. The true denominational values are still uncertain. See Mossman above, chapter 1.
James G. Leyburn, The Scotch Irish (Chapel Hill, 1962), 105–125.

Coming to America

By almost every account, the St. Patrick coinage was conceived and produced during the reign of one of these two Kings Charles. The tasks at hand are to discover when and under what specific circumstances the coins originated and how they came into the hands of the man who brought them to America.

Regardless of the controversial date of manufacture, it is generally agreed that St. Patrick coins first came to America through the agency of Mark Newby (or Newbie) late in 1681. Newby was born to Quaker parents in Earsdon, Northumberland, England. In 1662, at about twenty-four years of age, he moved to Dublin with his parents in order to escape religious persecution in their native England.3

Within a year, Mark Newby had married Elizabeth Bridge Wilbre, a widow of County Kilkenny. By 1672, she, her three children by her first marriage, and two by Newby, were all dead. Newby waited two years, and then married Hannah Holmes, who bore him four children. The new family settled first in Dublin, but then moved to nearby County Wicklow. Mark Newby was a tallow chandler by trade, and a broker of the waste and surplus fat produced by butchers for makers of soap, candles, and the like.4

On September 19, 1681, Mark, Hannah, and their children left County Wicklow for America’s West Jersey aboard a pink (a type of narrow-sterned sailing ship) called the Owners Adventure. With them were a number of Quaker Friends, including William Bates, Thomas Thackara, George Goldsmith, and Thomas Sharp. Newby and his companions arrived at the Capes of Delaware on November 18, 1681. They landed at Elsinburg and there waited out the winter. When the weather improved, they bought a boat and used it to search the Third Tenth (an area that had been reserved by West Jersey’s commissioners for proprietors coming from Ireland) for a favorable place to settle. They found and purchased a tract on Newton Creek, near what is now Camden, New Jersey. In time, the settlement grew to become the town of Newton as birds of Newby’s feather, small merchants, merchant craftsmen, and shopkeepers, flocked to the area.5

As an early arrival, land-holder, and associate of Anthony Sharp, Thomas Sharp’s powerful Quaker uncle from Dublin, Newby quickly became an influential citizen of West Jersey. Early in 1682, he was chosen to serve in the General Assembly. However, his roles as pioneer and civic leader are not nearly as interesting as the cargo that he carried on the Owners Adventure. A May 8, 1682, Act of the West Jersey General Assembly reveals the contents of Newby’s stash,

That Mark Newby’s halfpence, called Patrick’s halfpence, shall from and after the said eighteenth instant pass for halfpence current pay of this province, provided he the said Mark give sufficient security to the speaker of this house, for the use of the General Assembly, from time to time being that he the said Mark, his executors and administrators, shall and will change the said halfpence for pay equivalent upon demand and provided also that no person or persons be hereby obligated to take more than five shillings in one payment.6

The legislation established several firsts: It gave New Jersey its first coinage, gave America its first official copper coinage, and made Mark Newby one of the first bankers in the region.7 To ensure that he lived up to his end of the bargain, Newby was required to post three hundred acres of land as security.8

Newby was selected to serve another term on the General Assembly in May 1683. However, Thomas Thackara replaced him on September 8, 1683, apparently because Newby had died. An inventory of Newby’s estate is dated September 4, 1684. In all likelihood, a period of one year from the day of Newby death was allowed for redemption of the remaining coins from circulation.9 Among other articles, Newby estate contained a small iron furnace, some brass and pewter, a pair of scales with weights, three sieves, and some silver plate. These were all instruments that could have been part of a mint operation.10 The sheer numbers of farthing dies, however, point to a substantial enterprise. Newby small accumulation of hardware and supplies would have constituted only a small portion of the required equipment. Thus, it is unlikely that Newby was actually running a mint in West Jersey. Even so, he could have been associated in some way with a mint in Ireland. Indeed, such a direct association is one possible explanation for Newby acquisition of the coppers.

John Lorenzo has suggested that Anthony Sharp, the prominent Dublin wool merchant and Quaker, helped engineer the Owners Adventure journey and that Newby was only a pawn. He further argued that Sharp had access to important figures whom Newby would not have known and that these same men might have provided the opportunity to acquire the coppers.11 Sharp also made numerous attempts at programs to help Dublin’s poor.12 Could the coppers have been part of one of his plans? Sharp was a shareholder in the New Jersey colony, but never made the journey to the New World. Instead, he sent his nephew, Thomas Sharp, who came with Newby, to attend to his affairs. It also appears that Newby appointment to the General Assembly might have been as Anthony Sharp’s personal representative. Barring some new revelation, however, no real reason to doubt Newby having acted on his own is known. Perhaps some long forgotten family papers will someday be discovered and the puzzle of his involvement will be solved. Records of Quaker meetings held in Newby home or at those of his neighbors, might also hold clues.

St. Patrick halfpence are several times as scarce as the farthings. Accordingly, halfpence die varieties number about thirty, while farthing varieties exceed two-hundred and fifty, from more than four hundred dies.13 Oddly, many of these varieties are known by only one or two survivors. Why so many varieties exist and why many of them are so rare are unknown. Farthing mintages must have been much higher than those of the halfpence. Again, why? Were the halfpence part of a small, early production run made before their weights were reduced, when it became clear that profits were too low? If this were true, then both sizes of coins should be regarded as halfpence.14 Even the smaller St. Patrick coppers are at least ten times as heavy as the patent farthings of the 1613 to 1644 period and Sir Thomas Armstrong’s farthings of 1660 and 1661. At 80 to 112.8 grains, St. Patrick farthings are even heavier than regal farthings that debuted in 1672.15 Such heavy weight tends to suggest an official coinage rather than a token issue.

On the other hand, St. Patrick halfpence weights vary between 120 and 176½ grains.16 Most fall within the 130 to 140 grain range, which is not out of line with what one would expect from a later regal Irish halfpenny. These weight variances seem great for coins produced under any sort of royal auspices and might imply that a degree of experimentation took place. The variances might also indicate limited official sanction and, hence, no strenuously enforced weight standards. Given that the farthings are generally made on poorer quality planchets, two completely different copper sources might have been used.17 Sweden supplied much of the copper used in Europe during the latter part of the seventeenth century, while the English copper industry struggled. If Swedish copper was used for some of the St. Patrick coins, then the differences in size may be due to a change in the availability of planchets or raw copper. It might be that halfpence were made from Swedish or other high grade copper while farthings were from domestic sources of lesser quality.

End Notes

Edward Maris, A Historic Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey (Philadelphia, 1881), 3–4; Frank H. Stewart, Mark Newby: The First Banker in New Jersey and his Patrick Halfpence (Woodbury, NJ, 1947), 13–14; Walter Breen, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins (New York, 1988), 34.
For a dissenting view on Newby’s occupation, see Siboni and Yegparian below, chapter 6.
Stewart, Mark Newby, 14; Richard L. Greaves. Dublins Merchant-Quaker, Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends (Stanford, 1998), 97–98; John E. Pomphret, Colonial New Jersey (New York, 1973), 47.
Stewart, Mark Newby, 10.
Maris, Historic Sketch, 3–4.
Stewart, Mark Newby, 14. On the question of security for the coinage, see also Siboni and Yegparian below, chapter 6.
Stewart, Mark Newby, 16. For an alternate view on the redemption of the coinage, see also the paper by Siboni and Yegparian in the present volume.
Stewart, Mark Newby, 1.
From May 21 to October 7, 2005, on the electronic forum of colonial-coins, digests 2454, 2472, 2474–2475, 2485, 2487, and 2707.
Greaves, Dublin's Merchant-Quaker, passim.
Stanley Stephens, personal communications, April–November 2005.
Philip Mossman, Money of the American Colonies and Confederation (New York, 1993), 128 and above, chapter 1.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 34–36.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 34–36.
On the question of planchet metal, see Mossman above, chapter 1.

The Charles II Camp

Sylvester Crosby, Edward Maris and Aquilla Smith, the dean of nineteenth century Irish numismatists, all offered similar litanies of early sources that assign the St. Patrick coins to various periods. The earliest source of which any of them were aware was John Evelyn’s Numismata: A Discourse of Medals, Antient and Modern. Together with some Account of Heads and Effigies of Illustrious, and Famous Persons, in Sculps, and Taille-Douce, of Whom we have no Medals extant and Of the Use to be derived from them. To which is added A Digression concerning Physiognomy (London, 1697). In this work, Evelyn categorized the silver pieces as medals and associated them with the reign of Charles II (1660–1685).18 Another 1697 reference, of which Crosby, Maris, and Smith were probably unaware, comes from John Sharp, the Archbishop of York. Sharp described the St. Patrick coins as money rather than as medals, but expressed uncertainty as to the time of their issue.19 Ralph Thoresby, an antiquarian who inherited a substantial coin cabinet and then built it up even more, may have been the first writer to assume original circulation as halfpence and farthings when he described the St. Patrick coinage in 1715. Thoresby also concurred with the Charles II dating.20

Walter Harris, in his 1745 publication of James Ware’s works, assigned the St. Patrick coins to the Charles II period. He also may have been the first to call out the fact that the Arms of Dublin appears on the halfpence. He agrees with Evelyn that the silver pieces are medals, aided in his conviction by the observation that two silver examples he had seen, from the same dies as the copper pieces, were milled. Since copper coins were never milled, he concluded that all must represent medals.21

Other circumstances point to circulation in the 1670s and to a possible origin in the same period. Michael Dolley concluded that St. Patrick coppers were minted in Dublin as part of a movement away from underweight tokens and toward larger coins with metal content that approximated their respective face values in the late eighteenth century.22

St. Patrick coins circulated on the Isle of Man at least until 1679 when the Manx legislature demonetized them. Brian Danforth provided a possible explanation for Manx circulation by noting the connection between James Butler, Lord Ormond, who served as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and the Earls of Derby.23

Michael Hodder cited the arms of Dublin on halfpence reverses as an indication of co-existence with tokens issued around 1675. Moreover, at least one St. Patrick farthing was found in the wreck of the yacht Mary that sank in March 1675, confirming existence of the coppers by the mid–1670s.24 By then, early regal halfpence and farthings were circulating in England and could have provided a basic weight model for the St. Patrick coinage.

Aquilla Smith was also in the Charles II camp. He examined the relative weights of the copper specimens and noted that the weights specified by the Confederation for its copper coinage do not line up with those of the St. Patrick coppers. By Smith’s calculations, a Confederation halfpenny was to be minted at ninety grains, or sixty-four to the Troy pound (5,760 grains). It is worth noting that the specifications of the Confederation do not work within the 7,000 grain avoirdupois pound standard either. Based on this standard, a Confederation halfpenny would have to weigh 109.375 grains.

Ninety grains fits within the ninety to ninety-six grain range that Leake observed for St. Patrick halfpence, but is outside the 130 to 135 grain range that he cited for St. Patrick halfpence. Smith used these findings, the pronounced differences in style between the St. Patrick coppers and those known to have been made by the Confederation, and the apparent suspension of private tokens in Dublin between 1659 and 1663 as evidence to conclude that the St. Patrick coppers were produced as private tokens at some time between 1660 and 1680.25

As for the differences between Confederation issues and St. Patrick coins, the St. Patrick coins, with their brass splashers and edge markings, seem to have been made with the intent of vexing counterfeiters. No such features are found on specie of the Catholic Confederation. Why would the same authority go to the trouble of making a predominantly copper issue difficult to counterfeit and not do so for its specie?

The fact that St. Patrick farthings typically weigh about two-thirds as much as the halfpence led J. Earl Massey to call the halfpence three-farthings pieces and Sylvester Crosby to suggest a use other than as coinage.26 Philip Mossman noted that, since profit was an ever-present concern and heavier coins meant less profit, it is unlikely that deliberately overweight farthings were produced. It is quite possible, therefore, that a relationship other than halfpenny to farthing was intended.27 If the St. Patrick farthings are treated as halfpence, then their weights roughly align with the Confederation’s standards. In this case, Massey could be correct in calling the larger St. Patrick coins three-farthing pieces. However, the Confederation called only for halfpence and farthings. Thus, the direct production of St. Patrick coins by the Confederation seems unlikely.

It is worth noting that West Jersey’s act of authorization offers no clarification of this issue since it names the coins as halfpence, but fails to say which of the two sizes were to be used. Since any coins were welcome in America, the cask might have contained both sizes and any distinction between them might have been an accidental and irrelevant omission.28

Until December 2002, the foregoing described most of what was known about the St. Patrick coppers as artifacts of the Restoration. Then Brian Danforth introduced a significant body of new research that, while not universally accepted, dramatically challenged the numismatic world’s view of the St. Patrick coinage. Danforth’s theory is discussed below, in another context.

End Notes

Maris, Historic Sketch, 4; Sylvester S. Crosby, Early Coins of America and the Laws Governing their Issue (Boston, 1875), 136; Aquilla Smith, "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s," Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society 3.1 (1854): 18; Breen, Encyclopedia, 34–36.
John Sharp, Archbishop Sharpe's Observations on the Coinage of England: with his Letter to Mr. Thoresby, 1698–99 (London, 1785). Discovered by James LaSarre and posted to the Colonial Numismatics online discussion group by David Wnuck on March 28, 2006.
Smith, "St. Patrick’s," 67–68.
Walter Harris, ed. The Whole Works of Sir James Ware Concerning Ireland. Dublin, 1745.
Michael Dolley, "The Irish Coinage, 1534–1619," in A New History of Ireland, vol. 3, ed. T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and F. J. Byrne (Oxford, 1976), 417.
Brian J. Danforth, "The St. Patrick Coinage," The Colonial Newsletter 121 (2002): 2371–2402.
Mossman, Money, 125.
Smith, "St. Patrick," 68 and 72.
J. Earl Massey, Americas Money (New York, 1968), 48; Breen, Encyclopedia, 136.
Mossman, Money, 126–129). See also Mossman’s discussion in the present volume.

The Charles I Camp

Other early writers subscribed to the theory that the St. Patrick coins should be associated with the time of Charles I rather than ." He too recognized the coppers as halfpence and farthings.29

In 1726 Stephen Leake narrowed the period of issue down to around 1641 and argued that the coins were struck by, "Papists, when they rebelled in Ireland and massacred the Protestants, pretending to act under the King’s authority." Leake may have been the first to note the relative weights of the two sizes of coppers as well as the first to suggest that they were coins authorized by the Catholic Confederation.30 Other writers, such as Simon and Humphrey, joined Leake and Nicholson in asserting a date of 1641 or 1642 and an association with the Confederation.31

For his part, Simon refers to a contemporary plan, which the Earl of Castlehaven was asked to submit, for founding an order of knights to honor St. Patrick. Simon claims that the coins were made in conjunction with the founding of the order. He also takes the alternative view that the silver pieces were intended by the Kilkenny government to pass as shillings. Smith refuted Simon’s knighthood theory on the grounds that no evidence exists that an order was formed until later.32

In his 1881 work, A Historic Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey, Maris sided with the Charles I camp. Maris reports that he became convinced of this dating when he viewed uncirculated specimens whose kings, in his opinion, indisputably depicted Charles I. He further argued that, being unauthorized, the coins would have been slow to enter circulation and, consequently, large numbers of them could have survived for the four decades between the rebellion and Newby arrival in America.33 Always the diplomat, Sylvester Crosby chose to give his opinion indirectly, rather than to "decide where doctors disagree," by saying that the quantities that Newby had brought with him were sufficiently large to imply that St. Patrick coppers were minted not long before he brought them to America.34 Thus, Crosby used some of Maris’ evidence, but to support an opposing view.

Over a century later, Walter Breen followed Maris’ lead in associating the coins with Charles I, but added the nuance that the coins were made at the Tower Mint, at the hands of Nicholas Briot, an engraver most active in the 1640s. This attribution was based on stylistic similarities and punch links between the St. Patrick coppers and other Briot efforts. Breen associated the coins with the courting of Irish Confederation mercenaries from the Ulster Rebellion to fight against Cromwell and his Parliamentary allies. Charles needed a way to pay his hired troops. If this were the case, then possession of such coins would have been an act of treason during the Commonwealth period and they would almost certainly have disappeared from circulation, at least until 1660, when the monarchy was restored.

End Notes

Cf. Mossman on finds, chapter 1.
Smith, "St. Patrick’s," 68; Crosby, Early Coins, 136; Maris, Historic Sketch, 4.
Smith, "St. Patrick’s," 69.
Maris, Historic Sketch, 4, referring to James Simon, An Essay Towards an Historical Account of Irish Coins (Dublin, 1749).

The Other Camps

Crosby relates a theory of Robert Cane that offers an altogether different version of the origin of the St. Patrick coppers.35 This theory has received considerable attention in recent discussion groups and may prove to be the key to unraveling the mystery. Cane concluded that the St. Patrick coinage was minted on the continent of Europe and then shipped to Kilkenny for use by the Confederation. He proposed to call the coins "Rinuccini Confederate money," after Giovanni Battista Rinuccini, the former Archbishop of Fermo, who was sent as papal nuncio to Ireland in 1645. It is known that Rinuccini brought arms, ammunition, and money. Though the money needed most was specie, Cane believed that Rinuccini brought the St. Patrick coppers for use by the army of the Catholic Confederation.

A number of research avenues have opened based on the ideas that Cane espoused. Among these are the possibilities that the St. Patrick coins were minted at the Vatican or in a country sympathetic to the Catholic cause and the possibility that skilled coiners could have been brought to Kilkenny.36

The obverse legend FLOREAT: REX: ("May the King Prosper") is shared by both St. Patrick coin types and is also somewhat ambiguous as to its subject. If the coins were sent from the Vatican or made by the Irish Catholic Confederation, then the meanings of the devices and legend might be somewhat different from the obvious. That is, they could mean "May the king prosper [only if he submits to the authority of the church in Rome]." Some analogy to the St. Patrick coins may be seen in the seal of the Confederation, which includes depictions of a crown, a harp, and a dove. The seal’s dominant features, a cross and a flaming heart, however, never appear on known coins of the Irish Confederation.

If Swedish copper were indeed used to make the halfpence, then the existence of two sizes might also imply two entirely different production dates since Sweden’s dominance of the European copper industry came after 1670.

End Notes

Smith, "St. Patrick," 69 and 74, referring to Simon’s Essay.
Maris, Historic Sketch, 4, referring to Stephen Martin Leake, Nummi Britannici Historia (London, 1726).
Crosby, Early Coins, 136–137.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 33–37; Crosby, Early Coins, 136.

Contemporary and Historic Images

Recent work by Oliver Hoover has added significantly to the numismatic community’s understanding of the coins’ iconography. No attempt will be made here to interpret the meaning of the symbols on the St. Patrick coins.

However, in the hope that contemporary appearances of similar motifs may aid in dating the St. Patrick coins, some such examples are presented.

Smith and others alluded to a 1619 engraving by Leonard Gaultier (Fig. 3) with many symbols analogous to those on the St. Patrick farthings as a possible inspiration for the motif of the "farthing." Gaultier’s engraving appears in Thomas Messingham’s Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum (Paris, 1624). Both the engraving and the "farthings" feature St. Patrick in the foreground, driving out a small dragon and a host of "serpents." A church appears in the distance, behind St. Patrick and to his right. In the engraving, he is surrounded by a flock of praying followers. The eight to the saint’s right are men, while the five to his left are women. They appear not as peasants, but as well-dressed citizens. The robed and haloed saint raises his right hand in an expression of blessing. He wears a double-peaked bishop’s mitre and carries a staff that is topped with a double-beamed, metropolitan or Lorraine cross. An angel flies above, carrying a scroll bearing the Latin legend, Haec est vox Hibernigenarium ("Here [in St. Patrick] is the voice of the Irish"). Another scroll, above, reads, Veni adiuua nos ("Come [and] help us").

Although neither type used for the coppers is exactly like the engraving, only one other known, contemporary depiction of St. Patrick is as similar. That reference appeared on merchant tokens made for Richard Grenwood, of Dublin, around 1660. Such tokens were usually denominated as farthings and were in common use between 1653 and 1672. The devices on one side of Grenwood’s token depict the saint almost exactly as he appears on the St. Patrick farthings, raising the question of which came first. If Grenwood’s token imitated circulating St. Patrick coins in the manner that hard times and Civil War tokens imitated U.S. cents in the nineteenth century, then St. Patrick coppers must have existed prior to the Restoration. In the other scenario, Grenwood’s tokens were made first, then St. Patrick coppers were made after the Restoration. In either case, it is likely that the Gaultier engraving either was influential in the design of both St. Patrick coppers and Grenwood tokens, or that all three shared a common inspiration.

On the St. Patrick farthings, the church appears to the saint’s left and his right hand is extended outward, palm-up. The church is absent from the halfpence, having been replaced by a shield that bears the arms of Dublin. Behind the shield is a group of followers, again segregated by gender. More followers watch St. Patrick from his right side. Their numbers vary, with six to eight men and three or four women. The legend above St. Patrick and his followers reads ECCE GREX ("Behold the Flock"). The followers are missing from the farthings and the legend is changed to QVIESCAT PLEBS ("Let the People be at Peace") an appropriate mantra for the besieged Charles I, but one that could also refer to Restoration era attempts to pacify and rebuild Ireland.


Figure 3. Engraving of St. Patrick (1619) by Leonard Gaultier, taken from Thomas Messingham’s Florilegium Insulae Sanctorum (Paris, 1624).

On the farthings, the saint’s staff is topped by a double-beamed cross, as in the engraving. On the halfpence, however, the staff ends in a shepherd’s crook and the saint’s right hand holds a shamrock or trefoil such as that with which St. Patrick allegedly taught his followers about the Trinity. On rare farthing varieties, St. Patrick is depicted with a nimbus, or halo, as in the engraving.

The church depicted on the engraving and on the farthings may be the one that stood at Armagh and was built on or near the site of Patrick’s original church. St. Patrick is said to have been given the crozier of Christ and to have kept it in the church at Armagh. Even earlier, Armagh was an important regional capital of Celtic Ireland. The church in Gaultier’s engraving is surrounded by a wall and has a bell tower in front of it. Its surroundings are rural, the landscape rolling and wooded. Whether these features were literal or merely intended to convey pastoral calm is uncertain. Contemporary images of Irish churches might help to reveal the identity of the structure depicted by Gaultier. That halfpence refer to Dublin and farthings to a possible other location could support the theory of two distinct issues.

Even if the serpents, lizards, and dragons on the farthings can be explained away as beasts driven from Ireland, two creatures remain to vex our understanding. The first is a four-winged bird that flies ahead of the saint. Such a creature appears to have been rare or non-existent in Irish lore. However, the Book of Armagh, a very early illuminated version of the Gospels, depicts St. Mark as a four-winged eagle.

For centuries, Dublin was represented by three flaming watch towers that punctuated a city wall. The flames symbolized zeal for the defense of the city. In time, the three towers evolved into three full castles, with towers at each of their ends. These symbols appear in an oval shield on St. Patrick halfpence.

The king depicted as both coins’ central obverse device is by many accounts, the Biblical King David, kneeling while he plays an Irish harp and gazes up at a crown that floats in the heavens. On some halfpence varieties, the king kneels on a tiled or checkerboard floor. When this feature is represented on farthings, the coins’ reduced size causes the tiles’ shapes to be distended. Breen mistook these odd shapes for creatures, calling them "sea beasts."37 Tiled floors graced many royal, parliamentary, and lesser halls of the seventeenth century. Similar tiles also appear in a David-with-harp woodcut from the 1516 De Bibel Int Carte, commonly called the Antwerp Bible (Fig. 4).38 Alternatively, they might have been inspired by a 1641 Nuremburg portugaloser, a thaler-size silver coin whose depiction of David is almost identical to that on the St. Patrick halfpence.39 David appears with his harp, but without the tiled floor, on a Bern psalmenfennig of 1659 to 1680 and on a gold coin of Pope Clement X, issued by the Vatican during his papacy from 1670 to 1676.40


Figure 4. Woodcut of King David playing the harp from the Antwerp Bible.


Figure. 5. William Marshal, Eikon Basilike, 1649.


Figure 6. Titian, St. Catherine of Alexandria at Prayer, c. 1657.


Figure 7. King David playing the harp from George Withers, Book of Emblems, c. 1635.

A figure very like the obverse king appears in a booklet associated with Charles I. Eikon Basilike ("The Royal Image") is apparently a combination of Charles’s own attempts to justify his actions and efforts by others to pay him tribute. Its frontispiece depicts a kneeling king without a harp, gazing upward at a glowing heavenly crown. His earthly crown lays forsaken on the floor beside him (Fig. 5). The engraving was done by William Marshal, an artist at the court of Charles I, and is believed to have been inspired by Titian’s painting of St. Catherine in prayer before a crucified Christ (Fig. 6). Titian’s painting was part of Charles I’s personal collection. If Marshal’s engraving were the only image of a kneeling king from the period, one might conclude, as did Breen and others, that the St. Patrick coppers depict Charles I.41

However, the truth may be more complex. The floating heavenly crown in the Eikon Basilike frontispiece is an eastern, or Jerusalem crown that has a Star of David at each of its points. The cast-aside crown is that of an earthly king. On the St. Patrick coppers, however, the crown types are reversed. This led Oliver Hoover to propose that the St. Patrick coppers depict David and that their association with Charles I is at best unsupported and at worst simply a wrong conclusion.42

The Old Testament King David is depicted playing his harp on countless images that date back many centuries (e.g., in the ninth century Utrecht Psalter). In George Withers’s Collection of Emblems: Ancient and Modern (London, 1635) (Fig. 7), and elsewhere, David plays a harp and gazes at God’s glory from the same position as the king on the St. Patrick coins. The text below Withers’ emblem describes the Lord’s love of music and harmony.

Legend punctuation varies significantly on the farthings. In some cases, nothing or a simple colon follows REX. On other varieties, the end punctuation is a group of three periods arranged in a triangular pattern (∴) that is called "Masonic" by Breen.43 Other varieties have as their end punctuation a string of four stars (two large followed by two small) or three or more stars in order of descending size.

Nor is the obverse side without interesting symbols. On many farthing varieties, nothing appears below the king, but at least three have what looks like an "8" or a pair of annulets in that position. Others depict a small bird or martlet below the king. A rare variety even places a bird above the king. These mysterious symbols may be akin to mintmarks or differents used to identify multiple mints or die makers. The large number of farthing die varieties certainly supports this idea. Alternatively, the multitude of varieties may be the result of local mintages for use as communion tokens or parish membership "cards."

End Notes

For the moment, this author defers to John Lorenzo, John Lupia, Stanley Stephens, and others who are closer to this line of research.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 33–35.
Abraham J. Karp1, From the Ends of the Earth (Washington, 1991).
Oliver D. Hoover, "A Note on the Typology of the St. Patrick Coinage in its Restoration Context," American Journal of Numismatics 16–17 (2004–2005): 192. For further discussion, see also above, chapter 2.
Hoover, "Note,"192, and above, chapter 2.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 33–35.

Sir Edward Ford, Knight-Inventor

With so much uncertainty, any new piece of information, however unlikely it is to contain the absolute answers, is worthy of exploration. Such is the case with information surrounding the Englishman, Sir Edward Ford, whose attempts to gain the coining privilege present a curious set of circumstances. At the present time it is impossible to be certain that Ford’s petitions can be directly related to the St. Patrick coppers, but the possibility is introduced here in the hope of inspiring further research on his coining activities.

Although summarizing or paraphrasing Danforth’s very thorough and well-reasoned work cannot do justice to its details, the crux of it is that he believes the probable period of issue to have been from 1667 to 1669, when Ireland was being rebuilt after the ravages of the Commonwealth era and the violence that preceded it. He asserts that James Butler, Lord Ormond, as Lord-Lieutenant over the government in Dublin, sought to create a stable coinage for Ireland and was supported in this endeavor by Charles I, to whom Ormond had remained loyal. Danforth further asserts that, to accomplish this, Ormond turned to an innovative Royal Mint engineer, Peter (Pierre) Blondeau for help. Blondeau, a Frenchman, followed in the footsteps of his countryman, Eloye Mestrelle. (Mestrelle had tried unsuccessfully to convert the Royal Mint from hammering to milling in the 1560s.) Blondeau, who had worked with Nicholas Briot, came to England a century after Mestrelle with a new anti-counterfeiting technology of which only he had knowledge. Blondeau found that he could use an oversized screw press to impart reeding or other edge designs in one step, a dramatic improvement over methods that used a separate edging process.44

In England, the absence of small change necessitated the use of private merchant tokens, municipal tokens, counterfeits and cut pieces to fill the void. These surrogate coinages were lightweight and were typically devalued when it came time to redeem them. Many people, especially the poor, were badly shorted in these exchanges. Moreover, a token’s acceptance was limited to the specific area in which it was produced and was, therefore, a poor substitute for officially sanctioned coinage.

If the problem was serious in England, it was catastrophic in Ireland, where many of the tokens in circulation were English rejects. The proposed solution for Ireland was another round of patent farthings such as those introduced under James I and Charles I. The patent was given to Sir Thomas Armstrong in 1660. Ormond and others were very much opposed to this approach and ultimately succeeded in bringing about its demise. He knew that something better was needed to reduce Irish dependency on light weight tokens and English whims. Danforth asserts that Blondeau held the answer, partly because he was the only person who possessed the technology to economically coin counterfeit-resistant coppers, such as the St. Patrick coinage.45

Many of the details of this theory are convincing. However, in the natural course of critical review, others have begun to raise doubts about some of Danforth’s findings. In a search of further evidence that would either support or refute his theory, the present author discovered an often overlooked knight-engineer who, during the same rough time period, sought to create a counterfeit-resistant copper coinage for Ireland. The surviving information about the knight, Sir Edward Ford, that might potentially connect him to the St. Patrick coppers is far from conclusive. Nevertheless, his story deserves further research even if it ultimately fails to offer the "smoking gun" for the St. Patrick coppers.

Although many entries in the journals of Parliament refer to the affairs of the Royal Mint and Ireland, mentions of St. Patrick coins are conspicuously absent. Moreover, Samuel Pepys, a prominent civil servant under Charles II, was associated with Henry Slingsby, Pierre Blondeau and the machinations of the Royal Mint. Pepys kept a very detailed diary that dwells at length on money and mints. Yet, he too made no note of St. Patrick coinage. It is unlikely that an operation capable of producing large numbers of dies and coins, using a revolutionary new process, would have escaped Pepys’s curiosity and pen.

For this author, the new adventure began innocently with Thomas Coonan’s 1954 work, The Irish Catholic Confederacy and the Puritan Revolution. Coonan wrote that the Confederation government, to relieve the scarcity of coin and as a show of "concord between Charles I and the Irish people," established a mint for half-crowns and coppers, specifically the St. Patrick coppers.46

At first glance, Coonan appears to confirm the 1641 to 1642 mintage period and the Catholic Confederation as the origin for the St. Patrick coppers, though the subject does not seem to be mentioned elsewhere in his book. It might be easier to accept Coonan’s "obvious" conclusion were it not for the fact that coins known to have been made by the Kilkenny government are so different from the St. Patricks. Moreover, as noted by Smith, the weights of the St. Patrick coins do not match up with those authorized by the Kilkenny government.47 Could Coonan have seen references to the Catholic Confederation’s mint, examined examples of St. Patrick coppers and, possessing no other information, erroneously assumed that the two were the same?

As contemporary sources, Coonan quotes Thomas Carte and Richard Bellings. This author obtained an electronic copy of one Coonan source, Carte’s History of the Life of James, Duke of Ormonde; containing an account of the most remarkable affairs of his time, and particularly of Ireland under his government: With an appendix and a Collection of Letters, in which the St. Patrick coins receive no mention. The Carte papers, which Coonan also quotes, are accessible electronically, in calendar form, at the website for the Access to Archives (A2A) program and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts Department (Access to Archives). So far, no undeniable reference to the St. Patrick coppers has been found in the Carte papers. If Coonan’s conclusions about St. Patrick coins were actually based on early source material then that material must be contained in Bellings’ work, which is itself rare and has thus far eluded this author.

Perhaps another explanation for the St. Patrick coins exists. The Carte Papers contain a very interesting 1664 petition by Sir Edward Ford:

To the Kings most Excellent Majestie etc.[? text unclear]

The humble petition of Sir Edward Ford Shewith∴ 48


Figure 8. Sir Edward Ford’s coining petition (1642) in the Carte Papers.

That in the December 1660 your Majestie granted Sir Thomas Armstrong a pattent heere of 21 years for the sole making of Farthings in Ireland at the yearly rent of 16l:13s:4d

That his farthings being ordonary ones & easily counterfeited and nothing offered for the retaking them, hee could never doo any good in it, your Majesties rent lost and hee dead,

That your petitioner hath a new Invented way of making brass or copper Tokens of 1: 2: & 3: farthings which prevents counterfeits wherein my Lord Liutenat is satisfied and yet your petitioner with all will take order that his Agents who vent [? text unclear] his shall retake them,

Which will give your people there extraordinary content: very many of them not being able to live without them, and so necessitated to take unlycensed Tokens which every pety tradesman make & yet refuseth to retake, as he pleaseth, to the extream losse to all, the meaner Sort:


Your Majesties gracious letter for the passing to[? text unclear] your petitioner: a grant in Ireland for his new invented Tokens & though most chargaboll yet for the Same rent & Time Sir Thomas had for his comon farthings, with such clauses as have been formerly

And hee Shall [the] Ques[tion] pray [symbol, possibly a question mark] (Fig. 8).

Several aspects of Ford’s petition are worth noting:

  • His tokens are differentiated from Armstrong’s "comon" or "ordonary" farthings in three ways: 1) They are made through a newly invented process. Might the new process refer to the use of splashers or to the edge-reeding of base metal coinage? 2) The new method prevents counterfeiting. 3) The new proposal has a formal mechanism for redeeming the tokens, thereby making them superior both to Armstrong’s farthings and to "unlycensed" tradesmen tokens.
  • His tokens are to include both three- and two-farthing denominations. Given that the relative weights of the two sizes of St. Patrick copper coins hover around the ratio of 3:2, it is conceivable that they could represent the three- and two-farthing denominations that are mentioned in Ford’s proposal. Even if not, the proposal suggests that a three-farthing was being considered at the time.
  • His tokens are made of copper "or" brass. Unfortunately, the petition does not say "copper with a brass splasher." Nor does it say "copper and brass." Both metals were used to describe tokens and coinage of the period.
  • The "Lord Liutenat," presumably referring to Ormond, is satisfied with at least the anti-counterfeiting qualities of Ford’s proposal.
  • Ford asks for the same terms as were given to Sir Thomas Armstrong in 1660. Although Armstrong’s patent was supposed to have a term of twenty years, his farthings, which were similar in form to earlier Harrington, Lennox, Richmond, Maltravers and "rose" pieces, were apparently never minted in large quantities. Their light weights, alone, bred rejection and could have opened the door for a new, more substantial issue.
  • Ford’s proposal promises to give the Irish "extraordinary content." Could this be the peace alluded to by St. Patrick "farthings" with the motto QVIESCAT PLEBS?

End Notes

See Hoover above, chapter 2.
Breen, Encyclopedia, 35.
Danforth, "St. Patrick," 2371–2402.
Danforth, "St. Patrick," 2371–2383.
Thomas L. Coonan, The Irish Catholic Confederacy and the Puritan Revolution (Dublin, 1954), 146.
Smith, "St. Patrick’s," 69.
Note the use of punctuation, analogous to the so-called "Masonic" punctuation of the St. Patrick farthings.

Who was Sir Edward Ford?

Sir Edward Ford, the first son of Sir William and Anna Ford, was born around 1605 at Up Park, Harting Parish, West Sussex (Fig. 9). The Fords were an old Devonshire family that had grown prosperous in the wool trade and, by 1546, had begun building their estate at Up Park.49 For the next century and a half, they were involved in countless real estate transactions in and around Harting.

Sir William Ford was known as the "soape projector."50 That is, he promoted soap. Mark Newby, the tallow chandler who brought St. Patrick coins to America, was only about eight years old when Sir William died in 1646. Nevertheless, the tallow and soap trades might have afforded them shared acquaintances.

Sir Edward’s mother was the daughter of Sir Edward Caryll, of West Harting. The Carylls were an old Catholic family who retained their faith throughout the tumultuous Commonwealth period. Later, members of the Caryll family took the side of the Jacobites.51 No evidence confirming Sir Edward as a Catholic has been found. Nevertheless, both the Carylls and the Fords, including Sir Edward, were heavily involved in business of Harting’s once Catholic church, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Memorials and monuments to members of both families occupied various spots throughout the building. For example, a silver paten, given to the church in 1671 by Ford’s daughter, bears the family arms. Beside an old ruined chancel from the early seventeenth century sits a tomb house, reserved for Caryll family monuments.52 The church later became known as the Church of St. Mary’s and St. Gabriel’s and is now Anglican. It dates to the fourteenth century and, as do many churches from the period, resembles some of the ones depicted on St. Patrick farthings (Fig. 10). One piece of the church’s architecture that is of particular interest is a stone carving that depicts a saint, complete with mitre, nimbus, cross, crozier, and followers.


Figure 9. Up Park, which took on much of its current grandeur at the hands of Ford Grey, Earl of Tankerville and grandson of Sir Edward.

A search for Ford family symbols that might be connected to the St. Patrick coppers produced only disappointment. The Ford escutcheon is described as "azure three crowned lions or." Its three crowned golden lions on a blue background appear to have no parallel to the coppers. However, the Caryll escutcheon, described as "argent three bars and in chief three martlets sable" ("three silver/white bars topped by three black martlets,") does share its footless birds with some St. Patrick farthings. Probably by coincidence, the escutcheon of the Husses, another prominent Harting family bears ermine that, as depicted, closely resemble "creatures" observed on some St. Patrick farthings (Fig. 11).


Figure 10. The Church of St. Mary’s and St. Gabriel (St. Mary the Virgin) and the church depicted on the St. Patrick farthing.

After entering Oxford’s Trinity College in 1621 as a gentleman commoner, Edward Ford left without receiving a degree. Nevertheless, by 1629 he was named a virtuoso student in Oxford’s Inner Temple. Engineering appears to have been Ford’s first love. In 1641, at his own expense, he attempted to build a navigable canal to alleviate London’s water shortage.

When Civil War erupted, Ford remained fiercely loyal to Charles I. He was an officer in the king’s army from the beginning of the conflict and in 1642, Charles made him High Sheriff of Sussex. Ford was captured after the siege of Chichester and was sent to London, where his release probably was secured by his brother-in-law, Henry Ireton, a Cromwell stalwart and future Commissary-General of the New Model Army. By June 1643, Ford was threatening Southampton with an army of Royalists. On October 4, he was knighted at Oxford and two months later, he captured Arundel and its castle. He was made governor, but could not hold the town. The remainder of his military career saw him twice held hostage and imprisoned in the Tower of London, after which he retired to the Continent.53


Figure 11. The respective coats-of-arms of the Ford, Caryll, and Husse families of Harting Parish, West Sussex.

In 1647, the Queen solicited his aid in preparing the way for Lord Berkeley’s ill-fated negotiations with the army. For several years afterward, Ford was looked upon with great suspicion. In 1649, just after Charles I lost his head, Ford was listed by parliament as delinquent. In 1656, however, Oliver Cromwell spared Ford the indignity of the decimation tax that was levied against Royalists. Instead, he encouraged Ford to work on a successful project in which water from the Thames was raised ninety-three feet to London's highest streets. The same technology was used elsewhere in the country to drain mines and flooded lands.54

Though he never quite rose to the level of the Royal Society, Ford was a philosopher and economist. In 1666, he wrote the pamphlet, Experimental Proposals how the King may have Money to pay and maintain his Fleets, with Ease to the People; London may be rebuilt, and all Proprietors satisfied; Money may be lent at 61. per cent. On Pawns, and the fishing trade set up, and all without Straining or Thwarting any of our Laws and Customs. At the end of it, he penned Defence of Bill-credit.55

This pamphlet came just after London's great fire and offered a way to rebuild the city, while lowering taxes by providing an alternate source of government income. In it, Ford proposed paper money on the security of taxation and a place for "Banks of Loan upon Pawns, truly called Mounts of Piety." He also claimed to have invented a means of protecting "Bill-Money" from counterfeiting.56

End Notes

Margaret Meade-Featherstonhaugh and Oliver Warner, Uppark and Its People (London, 1964), 14.
Barbara Donagan, "Ford, Sir Edward (bap. 1605, d. 1670)," in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford, 2004), 9855.
L. F. Salzman, A History of the County of Sussex, vol. 4: The Rape of Chichester (London, 1935), 10–21.
Salzman, Sussex, 10–21.
Howard Erskine-Hill, "Caryll, John, Jacobite first Baron Caryll of Durford (bap. 1626, d. 1711)," in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford, 2004), 4847; Donagan, "Ford," 9855.
Erskine-Hill, "Caryll," 4847; Donagan, "Ford," 9855.
Anthony Wood and Philip Bliss, Athenae Oxoniensis (London, 1817), 906.

Pepys and Others on Ford

Ford’s exploits did not escape the pen of the legendary diarist, Samuel Pepys. Pepys was little more than a clerk with delusions of grandeur. Yet, he floated among the most influential denizens of Restoration England. Among the many famous diaries that survive from the period, his stands alone for its flighty, moody, self-aggrandizing style and the sheer breadth of its subjects. Pepys’ incessant toadying acquainted him with mints and minters, subjects about which he often wrote. Henry Slingsby, Master or Co-Master of the Mint from 1662 to 1680, for example, appears many times in Pepys’ diary. Pepys’ refers to Sir Edward Ford in an entry of September 13, 1664:

and after dinner to the Fishmongers hall, where we met the first time upon the Fishery committee—and many good things discoursed of concerning making of Farthings, which was proposed as a way of raising money for this business.57

Another, non-numismatic reference comes on September 22, 1663, in connection with an invention for curing smoky chimnies:

This day my wife showed me bills printed, wherein her father, with Sir John Collidon and Sir Edwd. Ford, hath got a patent for curing of smoking chimnys.58

The next reference by Pepys, recorded on November 6, 1663, alludes again to Ford’s desire to make farthings and have them used to help fund the Committee of the Fisheries:

And then, Sir G[eorge] Carteret being gone, I took my Lord [probably the Earl of Sandwich] aside, who doth give me the best advice he can; and telling me how there are some projectors, by name Sir Edwd Ford, who would have the making of Farthings, and out of that give so much to the King for the maintenance of the Fishery; but my Lord doth not like that, but would have it go as they offered the last year; and so upon my desire, he promises me when it is seasonable to bring me into the commission with others, if any of them take. And I perceive he and Mr. [William] Coventry are resolved to follow it hard.59

The footnote to Pepys’ diary entry states that Ford proposed to make his farthings from Swedish copper. The footnote goes on to say that the Fishery Company, Under James, Duke of York, and later King James II, supported the proposal, as did the Queen Mother. The footnote also says that the proposal was once more approved in a 1664 meeting [of the Fishery Company?].60 The present author is currently searching for documents that might support these details.

Ford’s proposal was ultimately rejected because of the protests of Prince Rupert, the well-liked cousin of Charles II who wanted his own coinage patent. Dispute also arose about payments to the king. Ford offered 6s 8d on the pound, a plan to which the officials of the mint were opposed. This plan was revived in 1667 and 1668, but the mint officials remained hostile. Instead, according to Pepys’ editors, Ford was allowed to make farthings for Ireland.61

On January 4, 1667, the following entry is recorded in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic for Charles II:

Order at a general meeting of the Fishing Company, approving the proposal of Sir Edw. Ford and the petition grounded thereon, and appointing a committee to present the same to the King, and to prepare arguments in its favour, and attend the Council to speak in its defence. Annexing,

I. Petition of the Governor and Company of the Royal Fishing to the King, for a grant of the sole power of coining and issuing farthings, not to be counterfeited, according to a proposition made by Sir Edw. Ford, he giving security to prevent the export of gold and silver, by importation of counterfeit farthings; to hinder prejudice to the people by taking back farthings at the same rate; to give 21s. worth of farthings for 20s. silver, and 5s. out of every 20s. to the fishing company.

II. Statement of the inconveniences and losses resulting from the issue of tradesmen’s tokens, especially in the late contagion and fire, and yet that the profits of them are such that they are made, in spite of an order to the contrary.62

The next reference to Ford came on December 3, 1664. Pepys displays a quaint bit of either genuine excitement or sarcastic displeasure at seeing the proposal again:

Up, and at the office all the morning, and at noon to Mr. Cutler’s, and there dined with Sir W Rider and him, and thence Sir W. Rider and I by coach to White-hall to a committee of the Fishery—there only to hear Sir Edward Ford’s proposal about Farthing’s [sic]; wherein, O God, to see almost every body interested for him, only my Lord Annesly, who is a grave, serious man. My Lord Barkely [Berkeley] was there, but is the most hot, fiery man in discourse, without any cause, that ever I saw, even to breach of civility to my Lord Anglesy, in his discourse opposing to my Lord’s. At last, though without much satisfaction to me, it was voted that it should be requested of the King, and that Sir Edw. Fords [sic] proposal is the best yet made. Thence by coach home.63

It is worth noting that both John Berkeley and George Carteret were present for different presentations of Ford’s proposal. Both men were key figures in the founding of New Jersey and Berkeley eventually replaced Ormond as Ireland’s Lord Lieutenant.

Of Sir Edward Ford, the Oxford alumni chronicler, Anthony Wood (1632–1695) wrote:

Some time after his majesty’s restoration he invented a new way of farthings, of which he made demonstration to the king and council so plainly, that they were satisfied that they could not possibly be counterfeited, and that one farthing could not be like another, but that they should differ in some little thing. And having then a design to get a patent for the making of them for England, was put aside by prince Rupert, and at length was content with one only for Ireland: To which place taking journey soon after, he died there before he could effect his design.64

Might the "little" differences between Ford’s farthings correspond to the many varieties of St. Patrick farthings?

Sir Edward Ford died in Ireland on September 3, 1670. His remains are interred in the family burial area at Harting’s principal church, the Church of St. Mary and St. Gabriel. Given that the Up Park estate sits atop a high hill, one can imagine that for his entire life at home, Ford had looked out at a view similar to that on the St. Patrick farthings. The burial took place on October 15, 1670. His wife had died earlier. Their only surviving daughter, Catherine, married Ralph Lord Grey of Warke. By his will, through Grey, Ford’s home, Up Park, became the property of the Earls of Tankerville until its sale in 1745.

Ford appears to have died before his plan could be carried out. However, Ford was in Ireland for some time before his death, preparing for the operation.65 Unfortunately, his will makes no mention of coinage or mint equipment.66 What, then, became of the work that he had done over the six years between his 1664 proposal and his death? Might the Irish have made use of it?

End Notes

Donagan, "Ford," 9855.
Robert Latham and William Matthews, eds., The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Berkeley, 1971), vol. 5, 269.
Latham and Matthews, Samuel Pepys , vol. 4, 315.
Latham and Matthews, Samuel Pepys, vol. 4, 365–366.
Latham and Matthews, Samuel Pepys, vol. 4, 365–366.
John Rawson Elder, The Royal Fishery Companies of the Seventeenth Century (Glasgow, 1911), 102 and 105; Latham and Matthews, Samuel Pepys, vol. 4, 365–366.
Mary Anne Everett, ed. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles II (London, 1860), 439.
Latham and Matthews, Samuel Pepys, vol. 5, 336.
Wood and Bliss, Athenae Oxoniensis, 906.
Meade-Featherstonhaugh and Warner, Uppark, 52.
Reading of Sir Edward Ford’s will by the Essex Record Office.


In recent years, research into the possibility of a continental connection by Brian Danforth, dramatically improved cataloging of varieties by Stanley Stephens and John Griffee, weight studies by Philip Mossman, iconographic studies by Oliver Hoover, and diligent research by others have done more to increase the chances of solving the St. Patrick mysteries than the work of the previous three centuries. The chances of success seem better than ever. Still, definitive answers remain to be found.

It cannot be said with certainty that Sir Edward Ford made or provided the means for making the St. Patrick coppers. Neither can it be said with certainty that he did not. Regardless, his activities are worthy of additional study.


Bell, Larry. "Newby family (long)." Message posted to Quaker-Roots-L electronic mailing list on January 26, 2000. Archived at http://archiver.–01/0948871486.
Bellings, Richard. History of the Irish Confederation and the War in Ireland. With Correspondence and Documents of the Confederation and of the Administrators of the English Government in Ireland. Contemporary Personal Statements, Memoirs, etc. 7 vols. Edited by Sir John T. Gilbert. Dublin: M. H. Gill, 1882–1891.
Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts. MS. Carte 60, fol(s). 89. November, 1664.
Breen, Walter. Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Carte, Thomas. History of the Life of James, Duke of Ormonde; containing an account of the most remarkable affairs of his time, and particularly of Ireland under his government: With an appendix and a Collection of Letters. 3 vols. London, 1735–1736.
Coonan, Thomas L. The Irish Catholic Confederacy and the Puritan Revolution. Dublin/ New York: Clonmore and Reynolds/ Columbia University Press, 1954.
Crosby, Sylvester S. Early Coins of America and the Laws Governing their Issue. Boston: Sylvester S. Crosby, 1875.
Danforth, Brian J. "The St. Patrick Coinage." The Colonial Newsletter 121 (2002): 2371–2402.
Dolley, Michael. The Irish coinage, 1534–1691. In A New History of Ireland, vol. 3, edited by T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and F. J. Byrne. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1976.
Donagan, Barbara, "Ford, Sir Edward (bap. 1605, d. 1670)." In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Elder, John Rawson. The Royal Fishery Companies of the Seventeenth Century. Glasgow: Aberdeen University Press, 1911.
Erskine-Hill, Howard. "Caryll, John, Jacobite first Baron Caryll of Durford (bap. 1626, d. 1711)." In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Everett, Mary Anne, ed. Calendar of state papers, Domestic series, of the reign of Charles II, Perserved in the state paper department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office. London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1860.
Ford, Sir Edward . Experimental Proposals how the King may have Money to Pay and Maintain his Fleets, With Ease to his People; London may be rebuilt, and all Proprietors; Money to be lent at Six per Cent. On Pawns; and the Fishing- Trade set up, which alone is able and sure to enrich us all. And all this without Altering, Straining, or Thwarting any of our Laws or Customs now in Use. London: William Godbid, 1666.
Greaves, Richard L. Dublin’s Merchant-Quaker, Anthony Sharp and the Community of Friends, 1643–1707. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
Harris, Walter, ed. The Whole Works of Sir James Ware Concerning Ireland. Dublin, 1745.
Hoover, Oliver D. "A Note on the Typology of the St. Patrick Coinage in its Restoration Context." The American Journal of Numismatics 16–17 (2004–2005): 185–204.
Jenkins, Rhys. "A Chapter in the History of the Water Supply of London: and Sir Edward Ford’s Patent from Cromwell." Transactions of the Newcomen Society 9 (1928–1929).
Karp, Abraham J. From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress. Washington: Library of Congress, 1991.
Latham, Robert and William Matthews, eds. The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 11 vols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971.
Leake, Stephen Martin. Nummi Britannici Historia: or an historic account of English money, from the Conquest to the uniting of the two Kingdoms by King James I and of Great-Britain to the present time. London: W. Meadows, 1726.
Leyburn, James G. The Scotch Irish: A Social History. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1962.
Maris,Edward. A Historic Sketch of the Coins of New Jersey. Philadelphia: William K. Bellows, 1881.
Massey, J. Earl. America’s Money, The Story of Our Coins and Currency. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968.
Meade-Fetherstonhaugh, Margaret and Oliver Warner. Uppark and Its People. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964.
Mossman, Philip. Money of the American Colonies and Confederation. New York: The American Numismatic Society, 1993.
Oldys, William and Thomas Park, eds. The Harleian Miscellany, A Collection of Scarce, Curious and Entertaining Pamphlets and Tracts, As Well in Manuscript as in Print. London: White and Company, 1809.
Pomfret, John E. Colonial New Jersey: A History of the American Colonies in Thirteen Volumes. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1973.
Salzman, L. F. A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4: The Rape of Chichester. London Victoria County History, 1935.
John Sharp. Archbishop Sharpe’s observations on the coinage of England: with his letter to Mr. Thoresby, 1698–99. London: J. Nichols, 1785.
Simon, James. An Essay Towards an Historic Account of Irish Coins, and of the Currency of Foreign Monies in Ireland With an Appendix: Containing Several Statutes, Proclamations, Patents, Acts of State, and Letters relating to the Same. Dublin: S. Powell, 1749.
Smith, Aquilla. "On the Copper Coin Commonly Called St. Patrick’s." Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society 3.1 (1854): 67— 76.
Stewart, Frank H. Mark Newby: The First Banker in New Jersey and His Patrick Halfpence. Woodbury, NJ: The Gloucester County Historical Society, 1947.
Withers, George. Collection of Emblems: Ancient and Modern. London: G. Withers, 1635.
Wood, Anthony and Philip Bliss. Athenae Oxoniensis. An Exact History of all the Writers and Bishops who have had their Education in the University of Oxford. To Which are Added the Fasti, or Annals of the Said University. A New Edition, with Additions, and a Continuation by Philip Bliss. London: F. C. and James Rivington, 1875.

Ormond and Blondeau: In Search of an Irish Coinage

Brian J. Danforth

Coinage of the Americas Conference at The American Numismatic Society, New York

November 11, 2006

© 2009 The American Numismatic Society

The St. Patrick series exhibits the best available technology for producing copper coins economically with a reeded edge in the mid-seventeenth century. Historical evidence, I will suggest, points to the involvement of Peter (Pierre) Blondeau, a French engineer associated with technological advances developed at the Louvre Medal Mint and the Paris Mint in the 1630s and 1640s. Having failed in his attempts to modernize the London Mint in the 1650s, Blondeau was invited to return to England, undertaking the production of milled money for Charles II. There are three hallmarks of Blondeau’s work: First, rounder coins with finely detailed impressions that were achieved through the use of a modified screw press. Second, a new method was employed to grain and inscribe the edges of coins, an important minting process that protected the integrity of money. Third, these tasks could be accomplished economically on thin planchets. By the mid–1600s, the destructive activities of clippers who filed and cut the edges of hammer-struck coins had significantly altered the weight of most circulating money in the British Isles. At the same time, hammer-struck coins were easily counterfeited. These problems led to the modernization of the London Mint in 1662 under the direction of Blondeau, who introduced new minting techniques.

The mid–1600s were also a critical period in Irish history, as the kingdom had been laid waste by Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War of the 1640s. James Butler, Earl of Ormond (Ormonde) who was later created Duke of Ormond, commanded the king’s Irish army during the conflict. After the defeat of the king’s forces, he joined the royal family in exile. Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, serving as the king’s chief representative in the kingdom between late 1661 and 1669. Assuming his position in Dublin, he faced almost insurmountable problems as Ireland lay in ruins. Saddled with an army consisting of many soldiers held over from Cromwell’s rule, its loyalty was questionable. The situation was made worse by insufficient funds to pay the soldiers, which threatened the country’s political stability. Out of the need to generate funds that were not forthcoming from London, it is here argued, Ormond authorized the production of the St. Patrick coinage.

In the past, numismatists speculatively proposed that the St. Patrick series was minted between either 1641–1642 or 1672–1678. The first date rested on a 1642 decree by the General Assembly of Kilkenny that authorized the coining of money along with the creation of "an institution and order of knighthood, concerning the honour of St. Patrick, and the glory of this kingdom."1 The latter date was subsequently modified by the discovery of the yacht Mary, which sank while crossing the Irish Sea in 1675. In the wreck’s debris, two St. Patrick coppers (farthings) were discovered, proving the series was minted prior to the late 1670s. The earliest contemporary mention of the series dates from John Evelyn’s Discourse of Medals, Ancient and Modern (1697), wherein a specimen was listed among Charles II silver medals. Two years later, numismatist Archbishop John Sharpe commented on the coppers as money minted in the 1660s. In a recent study on the typology of the St. Patrick series, the various depictions and messages conveyed on the coins support a similar time frame for the mintage. This is typified by the legends, FLOREAT REX and QVIESCAT PLEBS. Taken together, the phrase "If the King should prosper, the people will be at peace" denotes the peace longed for by the Irish after a destructive Civil War and the difficulties during the Commonwealth era. Current research by the present author narrows the date of the mintage to 1667–1669.2

Early attempts to date the series rested on each interpreter viewing similar historical events differently due to the lack of sufficient written records to resolve the matter conclusively. As an alternative, the current premise is based on an examination of the available technology needed to mint the St. Patrick series as presented herein. There is only one method that could technologically produce coppers with a reeded edge in an affordable manner, a technique invented by Blondeau. In ascertaining the mint date for the series, historical events converge into the period between 1667 and 1669, during the closing years of Ormond’s administration as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. It is within this time frame that Ormond authorized a new mintage as a means to pay the army during a fiscal crisis that gripped the kingdom and threatened its stability.


Figure 1. Maltravers Patent copper "rose" farthing under King Charles I, 1636–1644. ANS 1978.9.126.

State of the Nation’s Coinage

England had a longstanding problem with clippers and counterfeiters of its hammer-struck money who took advantage of its irregular shape and inconsistent weight. This was highlighted in a 1637 trial in which a defendant was accused of employing his servants "to cull and sort out...the heavies shillings and sixpences by the being usual to find fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen pounds, or more, heavy in one hundred pounds."3 These were melted and sold for profit. Ireland faced the additional problem of an unfavorable exchange rate that drained the kingdom of its silver and gold, creating a shortage in the supply of money. In response, Irish officials in 1635 requested permission to reestablish a mint in Dublin to produce coins "of the same standard of those of England, for weight and allay [alloy]...of an impression clearly distinguishable from the monies of England."4 During the next two years, additional requests were sent to London until the project was approved although it was never implemented. Subsequently, the king authorized Henry Howard, Lord Maltravers, to strike "rose" farthings for both England and Ireland (Fig. 1).

Except for the Aberystwyth Mint in Wales, the London Mint opposed the establishment of auxiliary mints. Unlike in Ireland, where only a limited quantity of silver was mined, the Welsh facility had access to a much greater silver supply from "those hopeful mountains, where doubtless a mass of treasure lies."5 In spite of this limitation, the Irish Parliament pressed for the reestablishment of the Dublin Mint. In 1641, Charles I consented, but the outbreak of the Civil War prevented any further consideration of the project. In 1648, the topic resurfaced and the king granted Edward Somerset, Earl of Glamorgan, the right to strike money for the kingdom. The grant was made in consideration of His Lordship’s father having advanced large sums to the king at the start of the Civil War and in light of the Earl’s service to his majesty as special envoy to Ireland to secure military assistance from the Catholic Confederates.6 Somerset, however, was banished the following year upon the establishment of the Commonwealth, leaving Ireland to discern the value of clipped and counterfeit coins along with the various pieces issued by either the king or Parliament along with their respective supporters during the Civil War. Of particular concern was the multiplicity of mints created by Charles I. As one contemporary noted:

The late King went squirting up and down with his mints at Bristol, Shrewsbury, York, Oxford, Carlisle, and many other places; and when these garrisons were surrendered, the irons were carelessly neglected, and came into the hands of knaves, who fell first to coining of a great quantity of money in Lancashire, and the materials they wrought on was the clipping of English silver.. .some of them were executed, but to this day the State does not know the hundredth man in that county that are clippers and counterfeiters, and the like is still done in London and elsewhere.7

In the 1650s, problems with clippers became acute after the London Mint set the price for its purchase of bullion below market rate. As a result, the heaviest coins in circulation were melted for profit. Thomas Violet, a goldsmith and frequent critic of the London Mint, wrote an exposé in 1651 subtitled, How the people of this Nation are, and have been abused by Light and Clipped English Monie, giving insight into the problem that threatened the nation’s supply of money:

there are many...Merchants, Gold-smiths, and others, that have transported Gold and Silver out of the Nation, that have sold Gold and Silver at above the price of the Mint, that have furnished much light Gold, English and Forrain [Foreign], and great quantities of Gold and Silver to Merchants, and others to transport, that have culled and melted down the weightiest currant [current] silver transport...That divers Gold-smiths of London, are becom Exchangers of Bullion of Gold and Silver, and buy it of Merchants and others, pretending to carrie it to the Mint, but indeed they are the greatest Instruments for transporting. doing the Common-wealth that damage.the Mint is alwaies [always] last served, as being the worst Chap-man, and giving least for it...It is to bee feared, that the industrie of many ages cannot replenish the Nation with so much Gold, as hath been transported out of it within these few years; for it is an infallible rule, that where Gold and Silver is over-valued, thither it be transported by Merchants and others.8

In an attempt to curtail the activities of clippers, England enacted a law in 1654 that declared their actions a treasonable offense. The proclamation outlined the various methods employed in lessening the bullion content of money:

if any person or persons shall Impair, Dimish [Diminish], Falsifie, Clip, Wash [a process of removing metal from the surface of a coin], Round, File, Scale or lighten for wicked...gains sake any the proper moneys of this Commonwealth...Then all and every the Offences abovementioned shall be and are hereby deemed, ordained and adjudged to bee high Treason...and adjudged to be Traytors against this Commonwealth, and shall suffer and have such pains of death, and incur such forfeitures, as in case of high Treason is used and ordained.9

For Ireland, concern with lightweight and counterfeit money was more severe as the kingdom became a dumping ground for England’s castoffs, a problem made worse by its unfavorable exchange rate and trade deficit. By the early 1650s, it was estimated that only 10 percent of all silver and gold coins in circulation were of good English money with the weight of the average piece reduced by 20 percent. As a result, officials in Dublin in 1652 renewed their call for a mint:

persons in London, sent over great quantities of counterfeit and clipped English money and base Peru-pieces [coins from Spanish colonial mints circulated widely in the British Isles], which by their agents they imposed on the merchants here: for which villainy some of the guilty were taken and executed...The most part of this counterfeit money, Dublin, Waterford, and other places of Ireland, were Half-crowns, which were so bad that the one half of them were not worth two pence in silver; and the Peru-pieces, which were then current here for four shillings and six pence, were not worth above two shillings and four pence...This occasioned several representative from the council here. To the Council of State, the committee of Irish-affairs...and to the lord protector [Cromwell], in England, to shew them the necessity of erecting a mint here, as the only expedient left to retrieve the affairs and the trade of Ireland.10

England’s failure to address the deteriorating state of money in the British Isles due to its poor financial condition after the Civil War led Violet to publish another memorial wherein he attacked the activities of persons who melted heavy coins for export: "if formerly they deserved to bee punished in the purs [purse]...they much more deserv to die for it now, for it is undermining of the whole State "11 In Ireland, the situation was dire as outlined in a report by Dublin officials to the Lord Protector:

By many former addresses unto your highness and councell we have made known the miserable condition this nation is in, through vast quantity of Peru and other base and counterfeit coyne, this poor nation hath of late bene [been] burthened [burdened] with. Indeed we are not able (soe fully as we would) to expresse our resentments of this growing evill, the generall discontent it beares upon most men’s hearts, nor the prejudice that is likely to arise, unless some speedy remedy bee applied, for like a gangren [gangrene] this adulterate coyne spreads farr and near. It banishes hence the currant coyne of Spaine, and eats up the good English money, which the merchants...make it a secret trade to export into England, or...into some forreigne partes, to any place where it yields most advantage, hereby the stock of this nation is detrimented.Trade hereby is exceedingly obstructed, plantation much discouraged, necessary provisions withheld, and monthly contributions (for the supply of your highness’s forces here) payd in such base coyne, as becomes a great loss to the receivers, and being refused in divers places...the publique affairs without speedy care (‘tis feared) will unavoidably fall into disorder...may in the end begett disturbance in the people...Nor know wee any other or better expedient for the cure hereof, or how to apply a suitable remedy, save by a mint.12

Compounding the problem was the London Mint’s reduced output of silver and gold coins. The average annual production in the mid–1630s had been about £198,000 in silver and £90,000 in gold coins, it dropped to £68,400 and £8,800, respectively during the Commonwealth era. This coincided with a drastic drop in production of silver halfpence along with a failure to issue any threepence or fourpence. This deficiency in the supply of money was severely felt in Ireland where its scarcity not only interfered with trade but also hindered the collection of taxes, thereby adding to the fiscal crisis confronting the kingdom.13

Part of the blame for the London Mint’s poor performance rested with its chief administrator, Aaron Guerdain, who was an inexperienced moneyer. In 1649, Guerdain was chosen over John Wollaston, a better candidate who was a knowledgeable mint melter. Guerdain was a long time supporter of the Parliamentary cause, while Wollaston was a convicted exporter of the nation’s bullion in the 1640s, an offense for which he received a pardon due to his position as a London Alderman. By 1651, realizing there was a problem at the mint, Commonwealth officials hired Violet to propose new regulations for the facility. In his report, Violet informed the Council of State that Guerdain and his assistants lacked the proper expertise to operate the facility. This resulted in the failure to secure an adequate supply of bullion which led to an insufficient supply of money. As a solution, Violet unsuccessfully offered himself for the position of chief administrator. As an inducement, he proposed to accept a reduced salary and promised to produce coins cheaply at a savings to the Commonwealth.14

While Violet was justified in attacking Guerdain, he failed to address the pressing problem caused by clippers and counterfeiters. The success of their endeavors stemmed from the method of producing hammer-struck money:

  • Ingots of silver and gold were cast in iron moulds of the thickness of a finger that measured 10 inches wide by 15 inches long;
  • The resulting bars were beaten into strips narrower and thicker than the future planchets;
  • The elongated strips were then cut in half and beaten further, approximating the thickness of coins;
  • The smaller strips were cut into rough squares, using large shears;
  • The squares were cut again, starting at each corner, into planchets, as workers weighed each piece and shaped it further to obtain the desired weight; and
  • Final trimming with shears and filing of rough edges was done to ready the planchets for striking.

This process produced coins with rough edges, making them susceptible to filing and clipping at a later time. As for weight, scales of the 1600s made accuracy difficult, a situation made worse by the need to shape each planchet as quickly as possible. This limited the number of times pieces were weighed and resulted in the production of coins of varying weights.15

Noticeable in the shortage of money that gripped England and Ireland was the deficiency in the supply of small change due to the failure to authorize coppers since the termination of Maltravers’ patent in 1644. Although sanctioned by the Crown, these farthings along with those authorized by James I were more like tokens than money of intrinsic value. As noted by one London moneyer: "The farthing token is of excessive lightness...and is of an ugly and deformed stamp, easily counterfeited. Suggests that the weight ought to be increased by two-thirds."16 After the

Civil War, it was obvious a copper coinage would be beneficial, as noted by one pamphleteer:

it is clear as the sun...the Poor’s misery, and the Commons discontent, are all foulded [folded] up in the non-allowance of State Farthings; the Poor crying out for mercy, the Commons for redress; and this insufuffable [insufferable] abuse cannot easily be corrected, until it shall pass an Order for the allowance of State Farthings.17

During the Commonwealth era, officials contemplated the production of farthings and numerous pattern pieces were prepared for consideration. While several private contenders vied for a potential contract, the government’s anti-monopolistic stance precluded their success. More promising was the possibility that the London Mint would strike official farthings. Toward this end, several moneyers prepared specimens with various religious or political legends such as, GOD DIRECT OVR CORSE or THVS VNITED INVINCIBLE. Some of these pattern pieces were made in sufficient quantity that they circulated as money. In spite of this activity, the public had to rely on numerous tokens uttered by tradesmen and towns that constituted small change. While most were circular in shape, some were cut into squares, diamonds, and hearts. They were made by local artisans or skilled moneyers in London who specialized in making tokens. Such pieces were deemed money of necessity, facilitating exchanges in local marketplaces. More than 12,000 different varieties were produced with England accounting for over 90 percent followed by Ireland for about 8 percent with the balance attributed to Scotland and Wales.18 At times cumbersome to use and of little intrinsic value, the typical English token had an inflated value ascribed by its maker as a halfpenny or penny while its Irish counterpart was usually deemed a penny. Comparatively few farthings were made, which would have been closer to what the metal content of many tokens were worth. Overall, tokens were problematic as noted by Ireland’s Lords Justices: "many of those that caused such tokens to be so stamped and issued, kept out of the way, and so avoided the accepting or exchanging of the tokens they had so issued, to the great loss and disappointment of many poor people."19


Figure 2. Armstrong Patent copper farthing under King Charles II, 1660–1661. Courtesy of Philip Mossman.

After the restoration of the monarchy, there was a renewed effort to issue official farthings. The production of halfpence was added to this standard request since the minting of silver halfpence ended during the Commonwealth era. Among the various petitioners were employees of the London Mint and Maltravers’ son who claimed entitlement because of the unfair termination of his father’s grant to make farthings.20 In a break with tradition, London officials gave serious consideration to striking regal coppers, which led to the preparation of several pattern pieces. While a decision to issue coppers for England was delayed until 1672, the Crown granted Sir Thomas Armstrong the right to make farthings for Ireland (Fig. 2), allowing him space at the London Mint for the project, which became known as the Irish Mint. Charles II deemed the new farthings a "benefit to our well as amongst tradesmen for exchange of moneys" and demonetized all outstanding Irish tokens.21 While Dublin officials accepted the king’s decree, they preferred the reestablishment of the Dublin Mint, which accentuated the general dissatisfaction with the patentee’s lightweight farthings. Armstrong’s tenure at the London Mint ended in 1662, coinciding with his death and the reallocation of his space to accomodate the new equipment used to produce the king’s milled money.22

Throughout this period, the underlying problem of English money was its outdated method of production. An early attempt to address this problem occurred during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558–1603) when Eloy Mestrell, a former employee at the Paris Mint established a small operation within the London Mint to produce milled coins. Unfortunately, he was unable to overcome opposition from English moneyers who felt threatened by the prospect of machines replacing manual labor. Later, he was hanged as a counterfeiter, which discredited his activities. Nicholas Briot (1579–1646), Engraver-General at the Paris Mint, came to England in 1625, proposing to modernize operations by pressing "money into a more perfect roundness, weight, figure, and impression, and with less charge, than by the ordinary way of hammering."23 As with Mestrell before him, Briot experienced opposition from English moneyers in spite of the improved appearance of his coins.24 A further hindrance to Briot’s prospects was his damaged reputation. In France, he had been accused of bribing the Cour des Monnaies (the moneyers at the Paris Mint) in an attempt to overcome opposition to the adoption of his mechanical methods for cutting and stamping planchets.25 Given his talents as an engraver, as well as his introduction to the king by Théodore de Mayerne, His Majesty’s personal physician, Briot had limited success in England. He was assigned to the Edinburgh Mint on two different occasions. First was in 1631 when he struck Scottish coppers with results so disappointing that the Master of the Edinburgh Mint considered his efforts a shameful failure.26 The second time, he made milled coins contrary to a request by Scottish officials that he not introduce any "novelties" to existing manual practices.27 At two different intervals in the 1630s, he successfully produced a limited quantity of English milled coins. In 1649, when Blondeau arrived in England, the engineer also received little enthusiasm from mint employees. It was not until the early 1660s when the integrity of English money had deteriorated to a critical point that Blondeau was asked to return to London and modernize the mint through the introduction of modified screw presses that inscribed and grained the edges on the nation’s money. As Charles II announced, the new process would curtail the activities of clippers and counterfeiters:

Having resolved to prevent clipping and counterfeiting money, by coining money for the future by mill and press, with letters and groinings [graining] about the edges...Warrants for a grant to Peter Blondeau, a Frenchman, inventor of mill money, of a pension of 100£. a year, as engineer of the Mint, to enable him better to carry on the new way of coining.28

Against this backdrop of difficulties associated with the quality and quantity of English and Irish money, there arose a particular need for small change in Ireland in the mid–1660s. In addressing the kingdom’s monetary failings, the abilities of several distinguished men united in creating the St. Patrick series. It is my contention that together, they made a new coinage with finely crafted features that stood out from a host of less than desirable pieces of metal that people out of necessity called money.

End Notes

Rogers Ruding, Annals of the Coinage of Great Britain and its Dependencies (London, 1840), vol. 1, 390.
Simon, Essay, 45.
Calendar of State Papers: Domestic Series (London, 1858), vol. 1637, 301.
Ruding, Annals, vol. I, 405.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651–1652, 262.
Thomas Violet, A Discoverie to the Commons of England, HOW THEY HAVE BEEN Cheated of almost all the Gold and Silver Coin of this Nation (London, 1651), 46–49. Violet had been fined £2,000 for culling and melting bullion coins, see Leonard S. Forrer, Biographical Dictionary of Medallists (London, 1904), vol. VI, 281.
Henry W. Henfrey, Numismata Cromwelliana: or, the Medallic History of Cromwell (London, 1877), 21.
Thomas Violet, A Most Exact Letter sent From a judicious Gentleman to his Friend in London (London, 1653), 45, 49; Simon, Essay, 49.
Thomas Violet, Mysteries and Secrets of Trade and Mint (London, 1653), 39.
Simon, Essay, 120.
C. E. Challis, A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge, 1992), 313; T. C. Barnard, Cromwellian Ireland: English Government and Reform in Ireland1649–1660 (London, 1975), 47–48; Coincraft’s 2000 Standard Catalogue of English and UK Coins 1066 to Date (London, 1999), 282, 286, 394.
Challis, A New History, 325–326; Violet, A Discoverie to the Commons of England, 46; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651, 232–233, 460–461.
John D. Brand, "Scissel and Swarf," in Metallurgy in Numismatics, vol. III, eds. M. M. Archibald and M. R. Cowell (London, 1993), 90–96. One of the advantages of the hammer-struck process was that it produced 50 percent less scissel.
Briot was the commentator, suggesting coins should be "wrought by mill and engines," a process that he advocated for all English money, see Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1629– 1631, 353–354.
Thomas Dunsterville, A Declaration Concerning State-Farthings (London, 1654), 4. Dunsterville was an unsuccessful petitioner to mint official private coppers.
George C. Williamson, ed., Trade Tokens: Issued in Seventeenth Century in England, Wales, and Ireland (London, 1889), vol. I, xxii-iii and vol. II, 1429; C. Wilson Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze Coins in the British Museum 1558–1958 (London, 1964), 99.
Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 90–101; Simon, Essay, 124.
Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 104.
Simon, Essay, 122.
Colm Gallagher, "The Irish Copper Coinage 1660–1700: Notes towards a History" Numismatic Society of Ireland Occasional Papers 26 (1983): 22. It was assumed that Armstrong’s position as Quartermaster General for the army in Ireland would facilitate the distribution of his farthings.
Ruding, Annals, vol. I, 385.
Briot learned engraving from his uncle who made coins for the Prince of Montbéliard. His father taught him to make dies and puncheons at the Charleville Mint. Prior to coming to Paris, he was the Engraver General at the Nancy Mint. See Mark Jones, A Catalogue of French Medals in the British Museum (London, 1988), 143, 167.
Jones, Catalogue of French Medals, 41.
John Craig, The Mint: A History of the London Mint from A.D. 287 to 1948 (Cambridge, 1953), 147–148.
Edward Burns, The Coinage of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1887), vol. III, 446. The exact method used by Briot to strike coins is unknown although it is believed he employed both screw and rocker presses, see Challis, A New History, 301.

Lord Ormond

His Lordship was the head of a distinguished Anglo-Irish family dating from the arrival in 1185 of Theobald Le Butler who accompanied Prince John (the future King John [1199–1216]) and his army across the Irish Sea to suppress rebellious feudal lords. In recognition of his service, Theobald was proclaimed Chief Butler and granted lands in Tipperary. His descendents increased their position in Ireland, which became formidable when James (c. 1307–1338), son of the Fifth Chief Butler, married Eleanor de Bohun, the grand-daughter of King Edward I (1272–1307). As a result of this marriage, King Edward III (1327–1377) created James Earl of Ormond in 1328 and granted him the regalities and liberties of a county palatine for Tipperary. This privilege gave him exceptional powers to exercise many royal rights, including the minting of money, while owing homage and fealty to the king. Although such rights were periodically granted to ecclesiastical jurisdictions, it was infrequently conferred on the nobility.

In England, the rights of county palatine status were basically restricted to the lands of those earls whose domains bordered Scotland or Wales in recognition of the important role they played in defending English territory. Among such grantees, the Earl of Northumberland was the only noble to establish an independent mint. This only took place during the chaotic civil war years that engulfed the reign of King Stephen in the twelfth century. Another, the Earl of Chester, collected a fee from the royal mint created in his jurisdiction. In Ireland, several members of the nobility had enjoyed palatine rights since the time of King Henry II (1154–1189) as part of establishing English rule, although only one, the Earl of Ulster, exercised the privilege to coin money at the end of the twelfth century.29

The conveyance of minting rights to the Ormonds occurred at a time when King Edward III was reorganizing England’s monetary affairs and augmenting the limited capacity of existing facilities to accommodate the nation’s expanding trade with Europe. While there had been nearly 70 mints in England under William I (1066–1087), operations by the early 1300s were restricted to London, Canterbury, and two ecclesiastical mints, Durham and Bury St. Edmunds, which were allowed to operate as part of their palatine privileges. In addition, there was a local mint at Berwick on Tweed that struck crude debased coins to meet the needs of the army stationed along the troubled Scottish border. This contraction resulted primarily from the desire of Henry III (1216–1272) to centralize minting under royal control. In an expansive manner, Edward III authorized two new ecclesiastical mints, Reading and York, along with a large royal facility at newly acquired Calais in France to assist cross-channel commerce. The king’s commitment to facilitating trade is underscored by the output of gold coins at Calais, totaling £27,968 during its first decade of operations, while output of the London Mint, which was the nation’s primary facility, was £17,498. For Ireland, in addition to granting palatine rights to Ormond, the king authorized the Irish Treasurer to issue silver farthings and halfpence in 1336 and two years later reestablished the Dublin Mint. Although the intent was to produce a large quantity of coins (24 pairs of dies were prepared at the London Mint and sent to Dublin to strike farthings, halfpence and pence), the facility operated for less then three years because of an insufficient supply of silver. Continuing his initiative to assist mercantile enterprises, Edward III issued England’s first successful series of gold coins: the noble valued at 80 pence (Fig. 3); the half-noble valued at three shillings and six pence; and the quarter-noble valued at a shilling and eight pence. He also minted the unsuccessful florin series of gold coins intended for international commerce. To facilitate domestic trade, the king increased the number of denominations, introducing the silver twopence and threepence along with a reconstituted groat or fourpence that answered objections raised to its initial issuance by Edward I. The mint at Durham was particularly active, reaching its highest output level in the mid–1300s. In spite of all the activity undertaken by Edward III, the newly created Earl of Ormond did not exercise his palatine coining rights. Perhaps the newness of his title or his youth and short life hindered his production of money. More probably, the shortage of locally mined silver was the major obstacle. This same problem sealed the fate of the short-lived Dublin Mint.30


Figure 3. English gold noble of King Edward III, 1346–1351. ANS 1967.182.40.

While mints operating under palatine rights added to the supply of small change, their overall contribution was limited and intermittent. Their output was restricted by a variety of factors, such as the shortage of silver or the limitations on the number of dies the London Mint sent them for striking coins. This last factor stemmed from the control that the London Mint exerted over monetary affairs. As a result, these lesser mints were at times barely active and periodically closed, which made their profitability questionable. The mint at Durham exemplifies this point when its annual output dropped to a mere £100 prior to its closure in 1394. Although reopened, annual output generally ranged between £100 and £500 for most of the 1400s because the mint was allowed to use only three sets of dies to strike coins. In the early 1500s, production slipped to less than £200 a year. Because of its low performance, the mint thereafter was rented to others to operate at a nominal fee. Under such circumstances, although the right to coin money was an important palatine privilege, it was not necessarily a worthwhile venture.31


Figure 4. James Butler, 12th Earl of Ormond.

With these events as background, James Butler (1610–1688), 12th Earl of Ormond, entered Irish affairs. He was raised in England and after the death of his father in 1619, he was made a ward of King James I and placed under the tutorship of the Archbishop of Canterbury, thereby distancing him from his Roman Catholic family. Like many of his ancestors, he undertook a military career. A staunch supporter of the Stuarts during the Civil War, he commanded the Irish forces in the king’s fight against the Parliamentary army. After Cromwell’s victory, he joined the future King Charles II in exile, residing in France during the early 1650s. In contrast to the chaotic monetary conditions gripping Ireland, which saw the kingdom awash with coins of questionable value, France had made vast improvements with its newly mechanized minting operations. Of special note are the activities of the Medal Mint that operated within the Louvre Palace, where Charles resided while in Paris. This facility was the center of French expertise in using screw presses to produce finely executed medals. Work there formed the basis for modernizing the Paris Mint and its provincial facilities in the 1640s.

Ormond returned to England upon the restoration of the monarchy and received the title of Duke from a grateful Charles II in 1661. In 1662, he arrived in Ireland as the newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant, the king’s chief representative in the kingdom. The problems he confronted were almost overwhelming. The nation’s economy lay in ruins; suffering was everywhere as over 600,000 had died in the war; persons who had benefited from Cromwell’s victory stood to loose lands they had been granted—a factor that involved an initial estimate of 1,800,000 acres, but which was subsequently raised to 5,473,000 acres as more claims were submitted to Dublin in the mid–660s;32 displaced Royalists on returning home wanted to assert their former property rights or receive just compensation; over half of the lands owned by Irish Catholics had been confiscated by Cromwell and many poor farmers had been forced to migrate to less desirable western lands; tensions between Catholics and Protestants were on the rise after a brief reprieve due to the Declaration of Breda (1660), wherein the king declared his personal desire for religious freedom; and the army that was responsible for maintaining the fragile peace was not dependable, since many had served on behalf of Parliament in its conflict with Charles I.33 Ormond’s greatest concern was a less than loyal army, especially one that was disaffected due to the scarcity of money that caused excessive arrears in pay. As a partial solution, he disbanded those soldiers deemed most disloyal to the king. This "new-modeling" or reforming of the troops was limited by his inability to pay arrears. With unpaid troops "notoriously known to be disaffected" Ormond advanced personal funds to meet the financial requirements of the military during the first part of his tenure in office and assessed the situation as desperate:

The fanatics in England had ever been adverse to the restoration of the royal family, and depending upon their interest in the soldiery which had been lately disbanded, and on the affections of great numbers that still continued in the army, meditated an insurrection. To know the whole strength of their party, they had sent persons into Ireland to sound the disposition of the forces there, and such encouraging accounts were brought back from thence, that they ragged [raged]...that they had eight thousand of the old soldiers in that kingdom ready to join in the design, which was to make away his majesty, and then to publish a manifesto, declaring the duke of York a papist [this religious issue led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the overthrow of James II and a renewed Civil War in Ireland], in order to set up a [Protestant] commonwealth.34

England also faced financial restraints stemming from the Civil War and was unable to offer much assistance to Ireland. A notable exception occurred in the aftermath of the 1663 insurrection that endangered Ormond’s life and London's control of Dublin Castle, the seat of English government in Ireland. To stabilize Ireland, Ormond requested £60,000 in English coin, which London was unable to supply. Given the seriousness of the situation, Charles II forwarded the necessary funds in French crowns taken from his personal stock of money at the London Tower.35 Realizing that Ireland needed to become more self-reliant, Ormond attempted to increase local revenues by focusing on farm production and commerce. This was imperative since part of the kingdom’s monetary problems stemmed from a trade deficit that drained the nation of its money. Unfortunately, London harmed Irish exports when it passed the 1667 Cattle Act that prohibited sending cattle to England. This not only lessened the Irish government’s ability to generate revenues to pay soldiers, but also increased sentiments for insurrection. As Ormond noted, such restrictive actions by England’s House of Commons were fraught with danger given the destabilizing events of the mid–1660s.36 Another development that drained funds from Ireland was the war with the Dutch and French in the mid–1660s. In spite of these obstacles, Ormond was able to reduce the annual deficit from £60,645 to £31,136 between 1662 and 1668, although the accumulated national debt totaled £175,902 by the latter date, a staggering amount considering the kingdom’s limited budget.37


Figure 5. Irish copper halfpenny of King Charles II (Armstrong/Legge Patent), 1682. ANS 1940.113.438.

Approaching Ireland’s monetary concerns more directly, Ormond was associated with several minting ventures. The first was Armstrong’s 1660 patent for farthings, which His Lordship initially favored as providing assistance to domestic trade. Thereafter, the historical record is contradictory regarding his position on the matter. Some report that Ormond continued to support the patent, which was certainly better than the attempt to revive Maltravers’ grant that produced farthings about half the weight of Armstrong’s. In 1680, Armstrong’s son, however, espoused a different opinion in justifying authorization for the Armstrong (Jr.)/Legge Patent (Fig. 5), stating his father’s project had failed because of opposition from officials at Dublin Castle. Although Ormond is inferred to have been the opposition, a more likely opponent was George Monck, absentee Lord-Lieutenant, who was seeking a royal license to make tradesmen tokens as an alternative to Armstrong’s farthings.38 The second venture that Ormond endorsed was the unsuccessful Viner Patent that proposed to establish a mint in Dublin to issue silver coins ranging from halfpence to fourpence. This project was initiated by the London financiers, Robert and Thomas Viner, in partnership with Daniel Bellingham, a Dublin goldsmith and Alderman. The Viners lent large sums to the king personally and to Ireland on His Majesty’s behalf. For example, in 1662 they advanced £30,000 to assist Ormond when he assumed the office of Lord-Lieutenant. This was a crucial loan as news from Ireland raised fears that there would be great difficulty with unpaid soldiers if money was not soon forthcoming from London. At the time, arrears totaled £125,689, a sum subsequently reduced as some soldiers accepted partial payment in order to meet their pressing personal obligations and some were purged from the army as a result of the 1663 insurrection.39 Ormond lent his support to the venture prior to his arrival in Dublin and continued to support it thereafter until the patent was surrendered. Another proposal that Ormond initially encouraged was Sir Edward Ford’s 1664 plan to mint farthings, halfpence and three-farthings. Ford’s timing was fortuitous, coming after the recent suppression of a conspiracy to inundate Ireland with counterfeit pieces-of-eight and base coins.40 An appealing aspect of Ford’s presentation was its use of privy marks and intricate designs as anti-counterfeiting devices.41 The project, however, was repeatedly deferred because of insufficient support from London in spite of its endorsement by the Governor and Company of the Royal Fishing, who were to share in any profits generated by the venture. The plan resurfaced in 1667 only to be delayed further without any noted support from Ormond. When the proposal was again discussed at a meeting of the Royal Fishing in 1668, the hopelessness of the situation was noted: "The King has often declared against private persons having liberty to coin, and if any should obtain it, the great labours of the company would be frustrated."42 Also in 1664, Ormond considered a little-known plan by Athenry Parliamentarian, Henry Whalley, to strike pence modeled after Scottish money.43 These failed attempts were followed by the St. Patrick series, which satisfied two of Ormond’s main objectives. Primary was the necessity to pay soldiers at a time of crisis when troops were needed to quell mounting unrest in the countryside as well as to protect the kingdom from a potential invasion by England’sEuropean enemies. Of secondary importance was Ormond’s desire to reestablish the Dublin Mint (historically, mints had operated in several cities such as Drogheda, Kilkenny, and Trim) in order to give the kingdom better control of its finances. The convergence of these two objectives on Ormond’s agenda between 1667 and 1669 fostered the creation of a semi-official coinage that later contributed to New Jersey’s supply of small change.44

There were several precedents for Ormond’s undertaking the production of money of necessity. During the chaotic Wars of the Roses that marred the reign of King Edward IV (1461–1483) a nationalistic Irish Parliament issued money. Included in this series were copper farthings and half farthings (Fig. 6) that depicted and/or named St. Patrick in the legend. In 1536, King Henry VIII (1509–1547) issued a series of halfgroats and groats known as "coins of the harp" (Fig. 7). These were minted in London and shipped to Ireland to finance the king’s suppression of the growing independence of the Earl of Kildare. The coins depicted a crowned shield on the obverse and a crowned harp on the reverse. While the harp had been an Irish heraldic symbol since the 1300s, this was the first time it appeared as a quasi-national symbol on Irish money. Between 1601 and 1602, Queen Elizabeth I minted a series of copper and billon pieces to support the suppression of rebels against the Plantation System, which gave Irish land to English immigrants (Fig. 8). In 1643, as the Civil War raged, the king ordered the people to bring their plate to officials who were to strike a series of coins that became known as Ormonde Money with various denominations up to five shillings (Fig. 9). The intent was to provide relief for "our good subjects there are reduced to that extreme penurie" for want of money. Obviously, this new supply of money was meant to assist the king in meeting his military obligations that were hindered by insufficient funds. At the time, there was also a desire to reestablish the Dublin Mint but "the quantity of plate or bullion there so to be melted down, and coined, is of so small and inconsiderable value, that it is not worth the charges of erecting a mint."45 During the Civil War, Ormond as Lord-Lieutenant exercised the right to mint money on two occasions. Between 1642 and 1646, out of necessity to pay the army, he along with the Lords Justices authorized a new coinage —commonly called Inchiquin Money— mentioned in Ormond’s warrant as "pledges" that ranged in value from threepence to double pistoles (Fig. 10). Later, in 1649, Ormond ordered the minting of halfcrowns and crowns to proclaim Charles II as king.46


Figure 6. Irish copper half farthing "Patrick"under King Edward IV, c. 1461— 1462. Spink 42, March 6, 1985, lot 216.


Figure 7. Irish silver groat of King Henry VIII, 1536–1537. Classical Numismatic Group 60, May 22, 2002, lot 2442.


Figure 8. Irish copper halfpenny of Queen Elizabeth I, 1601.Department of Special Collections of the University Libraries of Notre Dame.


Figure 9. Irish Royalist silver "Ormonde Money" half crown, 1643. ANS 1925.43.2.


Figure 10. Irish Royalist gold "Inchiquin Money" pistole, 1642–1646. ANS 1960.6.65.

Adding to Ireland’s monetary problems were numerous lightweight tradesmen tokens that appeared in the 1650s due to the shortage of small change. While comparable pieces were uttered in England as farthings and halfpence, Irish tokens were much overvalued and primarily vented as pence. A similar problem pertained to town tokens. Unlike in England, where various towns authorized tokens that had some semblance of intrinsic value, Irish town tokens were generally lightweight. Bandon’s and Kinsale’s coppers weighed 30 and 35 grains respectively while Cork’s weighed as little as 14 grains.47 In contrast to the finely executed tokens of Bristol, many Irish pieces were ill-struck while some of Cork’s were over-struck on outdated Louis XIII double tournois and Kerry’s on square flans.48 The adverse effect of Irish tokens was outlined at a meeting of Dublin’s Council in 1661:

Whereas among many other grievances under which his majesties subjects in this kingdom have laboured for several years past...that several persons, in all the cities corporate and market-towns throughout this kingdom, took a liberty, without any restraint to make a kind of brass or copper tokens, with such stamps as they pleased, in very great proportions, and vented them to the people for a penny each the great loss and disappointment of many poor people, and they or others having, by exchange of those tokens, possessed themselves of considerable sums of pure silver, have (as is supposed) exported the same out of the kingdom.49

To address these problems, Ormond lobbied for the reestablishment of the Dublin Mint. The goal was to lessen the kingdom’s monetary dependence on London, which was unable to offer any significant financial assistance in the 1660s. The reopening of the Dublin Mint had been contemplated in the mid–1650s by Commonwealth officials. In spite of subsidizing Blondeau’s extended stay in Dublin, adequate funds were never provided to ensure the venture’s success. The Irish Privy Council revived the proposal for a mint in 1661, which gained momentum with the passage of the Viner Patent in 1662. Unfortunately, the patentees were soon forced to surrender their grant after objections were raised to their plan to lower the silver content of their money to reflect the exchange rate between England and Ireland. These failed initiatives were missed opportunities to establish an Irish coinage and strengthen Ireland financially, thereby restoring its national identity and removing the stigma of the 1637 Proclamation that ordered the "name of Irish money or abolished, and that all Accounts. made in English money."50 Still without a new coinage or a mint, the Irish House of Commons in 1666 established a committee to investigate the means of obtaining a coinage. The adjournment of the Irish Parliament shortly thereafter prevented any further action on the matter as its members did not reconvene until after Ormond left office.51

The scarcity of small change also affected the general populace, making it difficult for landlords to pay farm laborers their meager wages and for the laborers to pay their modest rents. The situation was so serious that at times these payments had to be made with money substitutes.52 This problem was exacerbated by a drought and compounded by the reappearance of the plague in 1666, which further reduced the flow of money into Dublin’s coffers. In assessing the kingdom’s fiscal health, Ormond stated that poverty had increased to a level higher than that which had existed during the Civil War.53 His Lordship’s concern with this deplorable state mounted as signs appeared that some were ready to rebel against officials at Dublin Castle. The threat of rebellion was twofold. The lack of funds to pay the troops made their loyalty doubtful and raised fears that they might mutiny or support invading French forces. Likewise, tension was created by former soldiers who had fought for the Parliamentary cause in the 1640s and had been paid with confiscated lands. As Dublin mounted a campaign to disallow titles to farms taken by force, threats were uttered "by persons who had served in the Army of the late Usurper [Cromwell], and to whom lands in Ireland had been given as a reward for their service to defend those possessions by insurrection if needful, rather than yield them to other claimants."54

The potential disloyalty of the army was a grave concern that became intolerable in late 1666 when Ormond was forced to quarter soldiers in private homes due to lack of money. This policy was so controversial that His Lordship was threatened with impeachment by his opponents. In public, Ormond defended his actions as an "ancient practice" and necessary for the safety of the kingdom, consulting with lawyers who justified his stance. However, he privately considered it unlawful.55 From Ormond’s perspective, this decision was necessary because he lacked the means to do otherwise as noted in a letter to his son in 1667: "either the king must by raising the pay of the soldiers to enable them to pay for lodgeings; or they must haue [house] them free; or there must be noe army."56 Obviously, the army could not be disbanded "as the tymes weare, and still are, most dangerous"57 and a "hot alarm" had been raised that France, with the support of Holland, was amassing a force at Brest to invade Ireland.58 Lacking an immediate alternative, Ormond installed spies among the troops in an attempt to avert rebellion:

to gain an honest sergeant or corporal in every company [especially those stationed in Cork and Limerick where the threat was thought most serious] that were deemed more to serve as a spy over the rest, in order to get notice and to seize such persons as should come to corrupt the soldiers; promising in those cases a considerable reward.59

Adding to these problems were mounting disturbances in the countryside as rioters burnt houses and carried out other destructive acts in response to disputes over land titles. In matters such as this, officials normally depended on the military, but the soldiers had not been paid in many months. Furthermore, the local militia was weakened by the refusal of Catholics, who dominated the rural communities, to take the Oath of Supremacy. Ormond was well acquainted with what happens when soldiers were not paid. In 1666, he had to put down a mutiny in northern Ireland, where dissatisfied and unpaid troops called on others to revolt. He also experienced similar problems during the Civil War when Royalist troops became unreliable again due to insufficient funds. Aware of the dire consequences generated by financial constraints, he wanted to ensure the army was paid. He was especially concerned about troops who were holdovers from the days of Cromwell for they were deemed to be dangerous:

All precautions were no more than necessary at this time when the soldiers of the army, being of the old republican leaven, were ready to join in any seditious design or attempt to disturb and subvert the government.60

The problems Ormond faced were not easy to solve since the London Mint in 1667 was just starting to recover from the damaging effects of the plague and a citywide fire that had all but brought a stop to production at the facility. Given the shortage of money in England, it would be years before Ireland would see a meaningful inflow of regal money. As to the desire to reopen the Dublin Mint, that feat was virtually unachievable.

In the meantime, the lack of payments to the army had to be addressed as arrears amounted to slightly over £80,000, equivalent to the pay and support of the troops for a year.61 In correspondence with London officials, Ormond considered it imperative to pay at least six months of the back pay in order to avert trouble. In addressing this problem, the St. Patrick series would play an important role in computing the estimated £40,000 was required to satisfy the army.62

Officials on both sides of the Irish Sea acknowledged the mounting problem, declaring: "We are so poor here [Ireland] that I do not think we can advert difficulty and dangers for long."63 A report to London authorities assessing the allegiance of the troops recounted the answer given by a soldier when asked which side he would fight for should a rebellion erupt. His response was telling: "that which pays the best."64 The situation was deteriorating as the lack of pay turned soldiers into criminals, who stole from citizens in nearby communities. In order to meet their personal obligations, some officers took money that was intended for their subordinates. A few soldiers even became false coiners.65 By 1667, illegal activity was spreading because

there is money due to them...and violently armed men break into the cottages of poor people and other inhabitants of the said city [Dublin] and suburbs, and there spoil their goods and terrify the said inhabitants, and many times take and carry away plate and other valuable goods of great value without warrant or order.66

These events led to an alternate solution to Ireland’s shortage of money. In 1667, when Ormond received support in the form of a "King’s letter" from Charles II, granting him sole authority to suppress all tokens in Ireland that did not have his approval. Unlike in England, where the use of tokens generally went unmolested, Ormond took the unusual step of repressing base money, as he reported to England’s Secretary of State for Ireland. Such action normally preceded the authorization of a new coinage. A contemporary letter interpreted the Lord-Lieutenant’s warrant from the king as a receipt of permission to issue official tokens and small change.67

Ormond’s receipt of his royal authority is significant since it constituted the same permission that Armstrong had initially received for minting his farthings. In Armstrong’s case, however, he could not proceed until he had obtained consent from Lord Robartes, Ireland’s newly appointed Deputy Lord-Lieutenant. Since His Lordship had not yet assumed his post in Dublin, Robartes refused to endorse the project until his arrival in Ireland, which would not occur for several months. Frustrated by the delay, Armstrong successfully circumvented this obstacle by requesting a royal patent, which he received. This was a strong precedent for Ormond. Having secured the "King’s letter," he had in effect obtained approval to issue money. This interpretation is confirmed by later correspondence with his son, Lord Ossory.68

Ormond’s receipt of the "King’s letter" coincided with his request in July of 1667 that London provide £40,000 to pay soldiers during the depth of the fiscal crisis. This amount was reduced several weeks later to £30,000 as peace in Europe appeared to be at hand and part of the army could be disbanded.69 It was during this period that Ormond proposed to mint farthings in Dublin:

The Council have been working diligently here for a week at the revenue. The result is that though we find that the King is in greater debt to the army than he can soon pay...I am to propose [Ormond later specified that he would submit his proposal directly to the king.70] that we have £30,000 in mild [milled] and brass or copper farthings sent us, or the metal sent and workmen tools to coin them here, then to be made current by proclamation at such proportion in the pound as shall be held fit. This will make a gain to the King of all except the cost of coinage and great convenience...But if it meet with no rub on that side [i.e., from London officials], on notice I shall have it more particularly proposed and reduced to method and practice.71

From Ormond’s perspective, the shortage of money in Ireland was so problematic that "we must take what we can get rather that hazard the suffering of the Regiment to be longer without money."72 As noted in his reduced request for £30,000, His Lordship was prepared to mint coins as part of his vice-regal prerogative.73 As a contemporary political observer pointed out, "small money is a private one, which the Lord-Lieutenant might order by his instructions."74 Ormond’s decision to undertake a mintage became a necessity when London informed Dublin officials that it would no longer subsidize Ireland’s government. Calling for fiscal retrenchment, England now expected Dublin to generate surplus revenues to help reduce the burdensome national debt caused by the recent war.75 This excluded any possibility of receiving funds from England to buy equipment and other materials needed to build a mint in Dublin.

Ormond was not the only person to sense the desperate state of Irish monetary affairs and to consider minting money as its solution. Richard Stephens proposed an expansive plan to produce £300,000 in tin pence, which later would be devalued to halfpence. This coinage was promoted as a means to settle the arrears owed to the army and to pay the national debt with the balance applied to buying supplies for the navy.76 This proposal was never given serious consideration for several reasons. One factor was undoubtedly the petitioner’s former service as a colonel in Cromwell’s army, which would not have inspired the favor of royal officials in London and Dublin. Another key obstacle was the proposed use of tin, a metal the London Mint deemed unsuitable for small change since it could be easily mixed with lead to make counterfeit coins. Fitting into this time frame was Ford’s proposal to mint farthings, halfpence, and three-farthings.77

Ormond’s hereditary palatine rights as granted by King Edward III undoubtedly influenced his exploration of means to obtain money. This ancient right was important to the family, as evidenced by the desire to have it reaffirmed in 1625, after a dispute between Ormond’s grandfather and King James I; and again, after the restoration of the monarchy, to rectify punitive confiscations undertaken by Cromwell. In the 1662 letter of reaffirmation, Charles II returned to Ormond his ancient paternal property and the "royalties, franchises, liberties, powers and jurisdictions...within the co. [county] Palatine."78 By this act, Ormond became the last of the great Irish earls to enjoy palatine privileges.79

Up to this point, there is no record of the Ormonds issuing coins under their palatine rights. In fact, the only Irish earl to exercise this privilege was John de Courci (at times spelled Courcy), Earl of Ulster, who minted a series of silver farthings and halfpence in the late twelfth century that often displayed PATRIC or PATRICIVS as a legend. In England, several ecclesiastical mints in counties palatine minted coins. The Bishops of Durham issued silver halfpence and pence and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York struck pence and a limited number of twopence and groats. This activity came to an end when King Henry VIII revoked their privileges during his dispute with Rome. Among the English lay nobility who enjoyed palatine rights, only brief endeavors were undertaken, such as those of the Earl of Northumberland and the Earl of Chester. While the output of palatine mints was limited, they made a significant contribution to the supply of small change since moneyers at the London Mint and other royal facilities focused on producing coins of greater value due to incentives in their indentures that based compensation on value rather than quantity produced.80

Another event that may have affected Ormond’s decision to strike coins was the action taken by Cecil Calvert, Second Lord Baltimore (1605— 1675), who held title in the Irish peerage. Calvert assumed the right of coinage based on Maryland’s charter that gave him all the privileges of any Bishop of Durham within the Bishopric or County Palatine of Durham. Calvert had dies made in London, and specimens produced in 1659 that were most likely made under contract with workers at the London Mint. Calvert’s intent was to issue money as a means to further the development of Maryland. The obverse legend on the coins illustrates his palatine rights by identifying the issuing authority as CAECILIVS D(omi)N(u)S TERRAE MARIAE, or "Cecil, Lord of Mary’s Land." This theme is carried onto the reverse where above the shield that represents the Barony of Baltimore is a coronet with an orb and cross that closely resembles the coronet of a European count palatine. Calvert shipped £2,500 to Maryland in groats, sixpences, and shillings. Although Calvert’s coining activities raised concerns in England because officials wished to retain bullion for domestic use as the nation approached insolvency, the proprietor’s coins circulated freely during the remainder of the century.81


Figure 11. Maryland silver shilling of Lord Baltimore, 1658–1659. ANS 1950.185.1.

Unspoken in this controversy is the design of Maryland’s coins wherein Calvert placed his bust on the obverse. This was contrary to tradition among issuers of palatine coins. Except for the Civil War years during the reign of King Stephen (1135–1154), when coins at times depicted political or religious leaders, coins struck at ecclesiastical mints prominently displayed the bust of the reigning monarch. The similarity between regal coins and those issued under palatine privileges stemmed from the control exerted by the London Mint that prepared dies for auxiliary mints. The display of a non-regal bust, therefore, was a noticeable break with an ancient tradition.82

Ormond was aware of events in Maryland since, as a courtier in the 1660s, he had participated in numerous meetings with the king and his advisors. In regard to Maryland, he is noted in American colonial records for his involvement in two significant events. One pertained to Virginia’s attempt to control the price of tobacco, which was the mainstay of Maryland’s economy. In 1664, royal advisors discussed a petition sent to Charles II to restrict the planting of tobacco in Virginia and Maryland. It was decided not to impose any limitations so as not to adversely affect custom revenues. This was a key decision as the price of tobacco declined during the seventeenth century because of excessive production. While Virginia sought to stabilize prices by controlling cultivation, Maryland adopted a policy of encouraging production as a means to overcome declining income. Virginians considered Maryland’s actions counterproductive and, in frustration, commented: "Marylanders though earnestly solicited to lessen the quantity of tobacco have never offered the least proposall of the consideration of their soe certaine a gain by the advancement of a price."83 Four years later, Ormond participated in another royally convened conference to delineate Maryland’s boundaries with Virginia.84

There was also the matter of coins authorized by Massachusetts, starting in 1652 and continuing until 1682. The Boston Mint was established during an expansionist period for the Bay Colony as it annexed towns in Maine and New Hampshire, abrogating any rights original grantees may have had to these regions. By striking coins, Massachusetts offered another example of an assumption of the right to issue money at a time of fiscal need. In fact, the legends on the coins naming the issuing authority as MASATHVSETS IN NEW England gave the impression of an act of sovereignty. This interpretation was presented to the English Council of Foreign Plantations against Massachusetts’ officials by the former Governor of Maine—an obviously biased witness—and others who questioned the colony’s loyalty to the monarchy. Bay Colony officials defended themselves by arguing that their actions were based on the need to address the activities of counterfeiters as well as create money for economic development. While the initial output was limited, as production continued, the quantity of coins mounted and became sizeable by the 1660s. With denominations ranging from twopences to shillings, the coins made a valuable contribution during a period when money was scarce in the American colonies. Like Calvert’s pieces, Massachusetts’ silver did not replicate official money, but used three different obverse designs: NE for New England; a willow tree; and an oak tree (Fig. 12). During the Commonwealth era, the coins generated no controversy. After the restoration of the monarchy and the reestablishment of a regal coinage, the Bay Colony’s minting activities could have proven problematic. In 1662, however, when the matter was brought to the king’s attention, he did not take colonial officials to task. It was not until the 1670s that the Crown adopted an adverse stance toward the Boston Mint. While Ormond’s reaction to Massachusetts money is unknown, he was certainly aware of it due to his appointment in 1661 to a royal committee charged with "framing letters, proclamations, or orders [pertaining to the American colonies] for the king’s signature."85 Enhancing his awareness, Ormond was appointed in 1662 to the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England. This institution, which received an annual subsidy of £1,000 from the king, was charged with "educating, clothing, and civilizing the poor natives and supporting the ministers [and], schoolmasters" in the region. This engendered involvement in New England’s religious affairs, which were at the center of its political life since the region’s government functioned as a Puritan theocracy.86


Figure 12. AR Massachusetts oak tree shilling, 1652 (1660–1667). ANS 1932.999.299.

Ireland, as much a dependency of England as the colonies, had to find a means in the mid–1600s to address its short supply of small change. In assessing the matter, a 1652 petition to London authorities gives insight into contemporary thinking when it stated the shortage at £20,000 in coppers. Ormond’s request for £30,000 in farthings could have been filled by Blondeau’s five screw presses, which combined were able to produce £250 in coppers per week. Since Ormond would have desired receipt of the new money as quickly as possible, it is likely that Blondeau employed additional equipment to increase production in the opening months of operations. Between 1667 when Ormond received his "King’s letter" and the closing year of his administration as Lord-Lieutenant in 1669, there was sufficient time for His Lordship to have produced the St. Patrick series with the aid of Blondeau’s inventiveness.87

Ormond’s solution carried the stipulation that the coins should be milled. Although there is no record outlining a relationship between Ormond and Blondeau, if the project were to succeed, Ormond had to turn to London to secure a skilled engineer to produce his desired milled coins. Fortunately, Ormond was acquainted with Henry Henry Slingsby who had assumed full responsibility for operations at the London Mint in late 1666 after the death of Ralph Freeman.88 Ormond’s connection to Henry Slingsby Is highlighted on two different occasions. The first was in 1662, when Henry Slingsby worked in tandem with Ormond in an attempt to justify lowering the silver content of the money to be issued under the Viner Patent. The second occurred in 1666, when Ormond was informed of Slingsby’s interest in Fr. Peter Walsh’s Remonstrance that provided justification for Catholics to support a Protestant king. Ormond saw the Remonstrance as a means to lessen tensions between Catholics and Protestants under the restored monarchy.89

Through such connections, if he were not otherwise aware, Ormond knew the important steps taken to modernize the London Mint and the key role Blondeau played in that development. Further, the Frenchman’s anti-counterfeiting methods would have appealed to anyone who wanted to avoid the abuses that had accompanied the farthings of James I and Charles I. With respect to these, the Irish had complained that there "was scarce any man, but was a loser by those farthings."90 More significantly, Ormond would have had to involve Blondeau in order to produce coins with a reeded edge—a process protected by a royal patent. Fortunately, Blondeau was known to Irish officials. Earlier, he had been retained by Cromwell’s government to explore the feasibility of reestablishing the Dublin Mint in the mid–1650s. To this end Blondeau had lived in Ireland for almost two years and was well acquainted with the condition of the kingdom’s circulating money. As detailed in a report to the English Committee for Irish Affairs:

the pressing necessities of a mint to be appointed in this country, by reason of the great want of the small English money; for finding it adviseable, as the only means appearing to us, to prevent the abuse of English coyne... proving bad and clipped, small payments could not easily be made either to souldiers [soldiers], or unto others, where by much distraction was occasioned.91

Between 1667 and 1669, the convergence of events created an optimal time for minting the St. Patrick series. Ormond’s desire to create a coinage for Ireland as a component of his drive to place Ireland on a firmer financial footing coupled with the necessity to provide funds to the army forced him to turn to professional moneyers in London to produce his milled coins. The first stage at this juncture would have been to make petitioning tokens. Such pieces were commonly issued under the endorsement of influential sponsors and were at times produced in sufficient quantity to circulate widely with the expectation that they would be sanctioned eventually by a royal patent. Since Ormond already had the "King’s letter" of endorsement, it is reasonable to assume that Ormond authorized the St. Patrick series as petitioning tokens while he awaited final approval to establish a Dublin Mint. In the meantime, the fiscal crisis he faced with the army could be averted. Another fortuitous event in 1667 was the adjournment of the Irish Parliament, which had become particularly contentious in the aftermath of the Act of Settlement that restored some semblance of power to Catholic members. This gave Ormond greater latitude in addressing the monetary crisis he faced.92

Confirming interaction between Ormond and Blondeau, which correlates to the conception date of the St. Patrick series is His Lordship’s receipt of several letters from London in 1667. The first letter stated that there existed a proposal to address the scarcity of money for Ireland. This undoubtedly was good news in light of London's limited funds.93 Subsequently, all hope of English assistance was lost when Lord Clarendon, Chancellor of England, informed Ormond that not only was foreign money unavailable in any useful quantity but also that English silver and gold coins would not be sent to Ireland.94 Intimating that an alternative solution had been found, a third letter mentioned the enclosure of trial-pieces for a new Irish coinage. This correspondence is significant in light of a fourth letter that proposed minting between £10,000 and £12,000 in milled coins with lettered or grained edges, which implied the use of Blondeau’s technology for England’s regal coins.95

While £10,000 or £12,000 was less than Ormond’s requested £30,000 to pay the army, the difference had been reduced by London's belated agreement to one of His Lordship’s demands. In September of 1667, after months of fruitless negotiation, an allocation of £20,000 was finally granted for the benefit of the army out of the prize money expected from the sale of goods seized from Dutch ships during the preceding months of conflict between England and Holland.96 Shortly thereafter, Ormond received a letter regarding a new Irish coinage. Lord Arlington, a personal friend and England’s Secretary of State, informed him of London's concern with the pending private minting of coppers for Ireland. Notable is the opinion expressed by the Commissioners of the Treasury that the new coins should be of intrinsic value in order to deter counterfeiters.97

Among these letters crossing the Irish Sea was one that Ormond forwarded to Lord Anglesey in London on November 20, 1667. Therein, Ormond spoke of the pending passage of a patent and expressed his wish that he could have bought-out the interest of those involved for the benefit of the king. It had been Ormond’s desire that the king would benefit from the issuance of a new Irish coinage as indicated in his initial request for £30,000 in farthings. Unfortunately, there is no record of Ormond receiving a patent to mint the St. Patrick series. Ormond’s failure to pursue a patent resulted from the controversy that engulfed him over the quartering of soldiers in private homes during the winter months. This action was considered an illegal act by some in England's House of Commons, and they called for the Lord-Lieutenant’s impeachment, which was opposed by Charles II. By this time, Ormond had undoubtedly followed the advice given by the Commissioners of the Treasury since the weight and size of St. Patrick coppers greatly exceeds that of tokens issued by merchants, town officials, and more importantly those minted by Armstrong under his royally sanctioned patent.98

The premise that Ormond authorized the St. Patrick series is illustrated by the differences between these coins and typical tradesmen tokens of the era, which normally carried a merchant’s name as a pledge for redemption and a legend written in English. In instances where petitioning tokens used English, their legends often referred to the king, such as one contender’s obverse that proclaimed THE KINGS GRACE, which is comparable to the St. Patrick legend of FLOREAT REX. Such a regal reference would have been pretentious for tradesmen tokens. A common practice among petitioning tokens was to give their legends in Latin as does the St. Patrick series. This form was generally reserved for officially sanctioned money and gave a clear indication that a coinage enjoyed significant approval. Another noticeable feature of the St. Patrick coppers is their size, which greatly exceeded that of common tokens of the period. Farthings authorized by James I and Charles I were exceedingly small while Armstrong’s were not much bigger. Petitioning tokens (farthings) of the 1660s were larger, having a standard size of about 24 mm. This is consistent with the smaller St. Patrick coppers. Just as noticeable is the weight of St. Patrick coppers. The smaller pieces weigh about 90 grains (numismatists note common weights between 77 and 113 grains) while Maltravers’ farthings weigh a mere 13 to 15 grains and Armstrong’s were authorized at 20 grains. There is also the matter of anti-counterfeiting features, which is significant since it was unreasonable in the 1660s to entertain seriously any coinage proposal that did not have a feature to hinder false coiners. Whereas common tokens of the era did not have any means to protect their integrity, petitioning tokens generally included a plug insert or had their edges reeded (often crudely). Regal money as produced by Blondeau exhibited either a reeded or an inscribed edge as the best means available to protect money. The St. Patrick series with its reeded edge had all the hallmarks of a coinage intended to garner official support and meet with acceptance by an Irish populace.99 This is precisely what Ormond required when he requested £30,000 in milled farthings.

Further evidence for associating the coinage with Ormond is the display of St. Patrick as a central device on the coins. In contrast to the oppression the Irish endured during the Civil War and the repressive years under Cromwell, the 1660s represented a difficult but comparatively peaceful decade for Catholics. The basis for this relative security was the adoption of a more conciliatory approach toward Irish Catholics by Charles II. This policy was endorsed by officials in Dublin as a means to gain support for the restored monarchy although the Protestant dominated Irish House of Commons was less conciliatory. In furthering this sentiment, Ormond became involved in Catholic politics, supporting the Irish Remonstrance of Fr. Walsh and Catholic loyalty to the Crown. The display of St. Patrick in episcopal attire on the coins is consistent with Ormond’s policy of permitting Irish Catholics to retain their faith if they were loyal to the Protestant king.100

Another prominent symbol on the St. Patrick coins is the crown on the obverse. This is not an ordinary crown. It is stylistically similar to the royal or imperial crown that appeared on regal money. The main feature of the double-arched royal crown is the orb and cross at its top with fleurs-de-lis below and small pellets along the outer rim. This composition is called a "jeweled" crown by C. Wilson Peck.101 It was approved by Ormond for a series of halfcrowns and crowns, known as Dublin Money, minted in 1649 to proclaim Charles II as king. It also appeared atop the Irish harp on farthings produced under the king’s 1660 grant to Armstrong. The Viner Patent also called for the royal crown to be placed as a central device on the halfpence and atop a harp on the twopence, threepence and fourpence. This was the royal crown that appeared on the regal money of Charles II. It adorned the king on the obverse and appeared in a smaller format atop the shields of England, Ireland, Scotland and France on the reverse.102

The display of the royal crown on St. Patrick coins held great significance as the anti-token provision in the Armstrong Patent posed a hindrance to anyone who made coppers for Ireland without official endorsement. In particular, the patent forbade "all other persons whatsoever to make... any other pieces of copper, upon pain of forfeiture of. ..engines used in making thereof." This anti-token sentiment was reinforced in 1661 by a proclamation of Ireland’s Lords Justices "forbidding any make, or cause to be made, any brass or copper money or tokens, without special licence from his majesty." Although Armstrong had died by 1662 along with any chance of success for his patent, the clause against token makers and the proclamation of the Lords Justices were used by officials in an attempt to stem the abuses associated with tradesmen and town tokens. It is unlikely, therefore, that Blondeau would have risked forfeiting his screw presses without some assurance that Ormond had permission to issue semi-official money. The placement of the royal crown on St. Patrick coins, enhanced by a brass splasher, is a clear indication of Ormond’s authority.103

The semi-official nature of the St. Patrick coins stands in sharp contrast to all other tokens produced in Ireland in the seventeenth century. The display of regal emblems on a coin could only occur with official approval, and this was what Ormond had in the form of his position as the king’s representative in Ireland and his receipt of a "King’s letter" in regard to money. Ormond’s plans for a mint in Dublin had to be deferred. In the interim, Ormond brought about a coinage that evoked its semi-official status through the quality of its craftsmanship, its legends, the display of the royal crown, and its distinctive anti-counterfeiting reeded edge. By this means, he was able to address the financial needs of the army at a critical time in Irish history.

End Notes

Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1661–1662, 375.
Martin Allen, The Durham Mint (London, 2003), 3; Peter Seaby and P Frank Purvey, Coins of England and the United Kingdom, (London, 1978), 75; Challis, A New History, 57, 132, 138. The Ormonds expanded their domain into other regions with the notable acquisition of lands in Kilkenny in the late 1300s, which became their primary residence.
D. W. Dykes, "The Anglo-Irish Coinage of Edward III" British Numismatic Journal (1976): 44–45, 48–50; Michael Dolley, Medieval Anglo-Irish Coins (London, 1972), 29; Seaby and Purvey, Coins of England, 68, 75, 77, 80–81, 91, 98, 115–124; Challis, A New History, 87, 228–232, 700; Allen, Durham, 7–8; Coincrafts 2000, 101, 135, 153, 173, 185, 215, 223, 260, 289, 340–43, 357; Simon, Essay, 17.
Challis, A New History, 84, 224; Allen, Durham, 6–13, 66.
University of Oxford: Bodleian Library, Carte Calendar, vol. XXXX, June 15, 1664 and vol. XXXXI, May 19, 1665.
Edward Colgan, For Want of Good Money: The Story of Ireland’s Coinage (Wicklow, 2003), 123.
Toby Barnard and Jane Fenlon, eds., The Dukes of Ormonde, 1610–1745 (Woodbridge, 2000), 117; Thomas Carte, The Life of James Duke of Ormond... With an Appendix and a Collection of his Letters (Oxford, 1851), vol. IV, 141,142, 248–256; Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXV, February 9, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXVI, July 18, 1663.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXIII, June 30, 1666.
William Petty, The Political Anatomy of Ireland (London, 1691), 70–72; Carte, The Life of James, vol. IV, 100, 342 and vol. V, 67–68, 73; Simon, Essay, 124.
Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 22; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1660–1661, 387. Monck’s partner in this proposal was James Powell.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXIX, May, 1664 and May 15, 1663.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXX, October 8–16, 1666.
Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 24.
Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 24–25; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1666–1667, 439 and vol. 1668–1669, 137. Ford’s proposal gained renewed interest in 1670 when he partnered with Lord Inchiquin, a prominent Irish statesman, who submitted the plan to the Irish Privy Council. Ford died later that year and London deferred any further consideration of an Irish coinage as it turned its attention to considerations of issuing regal coppers. On Ford, see Nipper above, chapter 5.
Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 23, 37. Three years later, Whalley wrote an influential pamphlet attacking the use of pence tokens in Ireland, see Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXII, December 24–26, 1661 and vol. XXXIII, March 1, 1662; Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 23; Barnard and Fenlon, The Dukes of Ormond, 118; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1660–1661, 386; Ruding, Annals, vol. II, 2. Two other proposals seem not to have received Ormond’s attention: a proposition to establish a bank funded at £60,000 and a proposal by John Fenwick to create a mint in Dublin, see Carte Calendar, vol. XXXII, June—December, 1661. There were also two undated proposals offered as a means to stimulate the Irish economy—one called for £50,000 in farthings and £100,000 in pence below fourpence; a second for farthings, halfpence and pence, see Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 36.
Patrick Finn, Irish Coin Values: A Concise Priced Catalogue (London, 1979), 11, 35; Simon, Essay, 46, 116–117.
Finn, Irish Coin Values, 14; Simon, Essay, 33; Colgan, For Want of Good Money, 80, 119–21.
Philip Nelson, The Coinage of Ireland in Copper, Tin, and Pewter, 1460–1826 (London, 1905), 14–15.
Nelson, The Coinage of Ireland, 14–15.
Simon, Essay, 124.
Simon, Essay, 46.
Lord Mountmorres, The History of the Principle Transactions of the Irish Parliament from the year 1634 to 1666 (London, 1792), vol. I, 339; Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 22–25; Carte Calendar, vol. XXXIV, December 8, 1662; Finn, Irish Coin Values, 11–16. It is questionable how helpful the Irish Parliament would have been in creating a coinage since its members were so difficult to deal with that the king granted Ormond the power to dissolve Parliament rather than adjourn it.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXIV, October 1, 1666. This is inferred from Ormond’s correspondence regarding relief aid to London after the Great Fire.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXIV, October 30, 1666.
Carte, The Life of James, vol. IV, 240–241.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, November 22, 1667. Although protests came from many sectors of Ireland, but a protest by the Lord Mayor and citizens of Dublin led to impeachment hearings in the House of Commons, see Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, October 5, 1667.
Carte, The Life of James, vol. V, 54.
Carte, The Life of James, vol. V, 78.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1666–1667, 436.
Carte, The Life of James, vol. IV, 249.
Carte, The Life of James, vol. IV, 141–142; Barnard and Fenlon, The Dukes of Ormond, 118–119; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1666–1667, 91.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVI, July 2, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVI, July 6, 1667.
Robert P. Mahaffy, Calendar of the State Papers relating to Ireland (London, 1908), vol. 1666–1669, 120.
Carte, The Life of James, vol. IV, 141–142; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1663–1664, 251.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXI, April 5, 1665.
Mahaffy, Calendar of State Papers Ireland, vol. 1666–1669, 464–465.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, September 18, 1667; Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 22— 23.
Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 22; Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXIX, August 14, 1668.
Mahaffy, Calendar of State Papers Ireland, vol. 1666–1669, 402, 451, 465.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, September 13, 1667.
Mahaffy, Calendar of State Papers Ireland, vol. 1666–1669, 451–452; Simon, Essay, 51; Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1672, 497.
Mahaffy, Calendar of State Papers Ireland, vol. 1666–1669, 104–105.
For the right of an Irish Lord-Lieutenant to strike small change, see Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 24.
Mahaffy, Calendar of State Papers Ireland, vol. 1666–1669, 657.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, December 17, 1667 and vol. XXXXVIII, January 18, 1668.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXV, January–April, 1667.
Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 24, 37 n. 21.
Mahaffy, Calendar of State Papers Ireland, vol. 1666–1669, 713.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXI, June, 1665.
Mark Noble, Two Dissertations, upon the Mint and Coins, of the Episcopal-Palatine of Durham (London, 1780), 12, 77–78; W. A. Seaby, "A St. Patrick Halfpenny of John de Courci" British Numismatic Journal (1958–1959): 87–89; Robert Sharman, "St. Patrick for Ireland Token" Irish Numismatics (1980): 109; Allen, Durham, 3–11; Seaby and Purvey, Coins of England, 131–132, 134, 138–39; Challis, A New History, 57, 227; Finn, Irish Coin Values, 9. The last of the ecclesiastical mints, Durham had the longest tenure, dating from the eleventh century.
Sylvester S. Crosby, The Early Coins of America (New York: reprint, 1983), 123–132; Philip L. Mossman, Money of the American Colonies and Confederation (New York, 1993), 90–92; Louis E. Jordan, "Lord Baltimore Coinage and Daily Exchange in Early Maryland," The Colonial Newsletter (August–December, 2004): 2656, 2671–2672, 2681, 2684; Michael Hodder, "Cecil Calvert’s Coinage for Maryland: A Study in History and Law" The Colonial Newsletter (February, 1993): 1360–1362. For an illustration of Calvert’s crown, see Walter Breen, Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins (New York, 1988), 19. Lord Baltimore’s rights are stated in the colony’s 1632 charter: "Priviledges, Prerogatives, Royalties, Liberties, Immunities, Royall rights...same as amply as any Bishop of Durham, within the Bishoprick, or County Palatine of Durham." See Archives of Maryland Online, Charters, 65.
Mossman, Money, 91; Seaby and Purvey, Coins of England, 72–73, 90, 97, 107; Coincraft 2000, 343–348.
William W Hening, ed., Statutes at Large; being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia (New York, 1823), vol. II, 221.
Archives of Maryland, Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 16361667, vol. III, 506–512 and vol. V, 45.
W. Noel Samsbury, ed., Calendar of State Papers: Colonial Series America and West Indies (London, 1880), 30.
Samsbury, Calendar of State Papers: Colonial Series, 71–72. For detailed discussion of the Boston Mint, see Louis Jordan, John Hull, the Mint and the Economics of Massachusetts Coinage (Hanover, 2002), 31–43, 228.
Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 605.
C. E. Challis, "The Career of Henry Slingsby" British Numismatic Journal (1991): 176— 177. Freeman and Henry Slingsby were joint-administrators from 1662 to 1666.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXIII, November 30, 1666.
Dunsterville, Declaration, 10; Henfrey, Numismata Cromwelliana, 82–86; Gallagher, "Irish Copper," 23.
Simon, Essay, 122.
R. H. Thompson, "Central or Local Production of Seventeenth-Century Tokens," British Numismatic Journal (1989): 206–210; Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 123, 127–128.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVI, July 27, 1667 and vol. XXXXVII, September–December, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXV, April 20, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXV, February 12, 1667 and vol. XXXXVII, September— December, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVI, August 6, 1667 and vol. XXXXVII, September 30, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, October, 5, 1667.
Carte Calendar, vol. XXXXVII, November 26, 1667.
Michael Mitchiner and Anne Skinner, "English Tokens, c.1425 to 1672" British Numismatic Journal (1984): 134–141; Simon, Essay, 122; Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 92, 109, 123–124, 605. Breen and Nelson provide the listed weight limits.
Hoover, "Note," 157–175.
Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 49.
Finn, Irish Coin Values, 19; Simon, Essay, 51, 125. For illustrations of the crown on Irish coins, see Finn, Irish Coin Values, 37–38. For examples on regal coins, see Seaby and Purvey, Coins of England, nos. 2660, 2679, 2719, 2776, 3191, 3302, 3308, 3350.

Monsieur Blondeau

Peter Blondeau (d. 1672) was an engineer involved in minting coins and medals using the improved technology of the mid–1600s. He had a distinguished career in Italy where his skills came to the attention of Cardinal Richelieu (Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke Richelieu [1585–1642]), supporter of the arts and chief minister to King Louis XIII. Blondeau arrived in Paris at a time when innovative approaches were underway to find an alternative to the manual process of producing money because French coins were heavily clipped and counterfeited. An early attempt to address this problem was advocated by Briot. In his 1617 demonstration before other moneyers, he promoted the advantages of mechanizing the process of making planchets and striking coins using a modified rocker-press. Unfortunately, this process was unable to produce coins as quickly as by hammer, and it had the noticeable disadvantage of tending to flatten the ends of planchets. In spite of these drawbacks, Briot promoted his rocker-press primarily as a means to differentiate himself from medalists who at times used screw presses. While Briot was inventive, he was most well-known for his artistry, enjoying the title of Engraver-General at the Paris Mint until his forced departure for England in 1625. Opposed by moneyers at the London Mint, Briot struggled to gain acceptance for a more modern method to strike English money. In addition to preparing medals, he was eventually authorized to produce a limited quantity of English milled coins during two periods, 1631–1632 and 1638–1639. He also worked briefly at the Scottish Mint on two different occasions in the 1630s. Abandoning his focus on the rocker-press, Briot used screw presses to affect fine designs on his coins. In addition to these mechanical methods, Briot employed a two-step process for edge marking through the use of parallel bars and was acquainted with the virole brisée technique. Although he was associated with the London Mint during the Civil War, he assisted the king in establishing an alternative mint at York. He died in London in 1646 and in the following year his wife sold his equipment to the government.104

Briot’s career between 1642 and his death is clouded by the chaos of the Civil War years. His whereabouts during this period is important as some writers assert that Briot had a direct impact on Blondeau’s methodology. They claim that the engraver returned to France in 1642 after assisting Charles I at York. This assertion is countered by his receipt of a mint salary through December 25, 1645. There is a record of Briot briefly visiting Paris in 1644 where his brother, Isaac, was employed as an engraver at the Paris Mint. This may account for some of the confusion. Although Briot was briefly in Paris when Blondeau’s techniques were evolving, there is no record of the former renewing his employment at the Paris Mint after his departure for England in 1625. At most, Blondeau was aware of Briot’s innovations, but the more direct influences on his evolving techniques lay elsewhere.105

At the time of Blondeau’s arrival in Paris, it is important to note the division of functions within the French minting system. In the early 1600s, preparation of medals took place at the Louvre in a comparatively modern facility that at times used screw presses. Coins were made at the Paris Mint on the Quai de Conti, employing the traditional manual process. After Briot’s departure for England, his former protégé, Jean Warin (1604–1672), slowly emerged as an innovative engraver. Warin’s experiments with medal making won favor with Richelieu. In an expression of his appreciation, Warin made several flattering medals of the Cardinal, including one casting him as the genius who directs the revolution of the planets. In 1639, due to the activities of clippers and counterfeiters, the decision was made to modernize operations at the Paris Mint. New equipment was imported from Germany and Warin’s designs for a new coinage won the approval of Louis XIII. The following year, the medalist was assigned to oversee the production of France’s new milled money.106

In 1640, when France began to strike its coins mechanically, the task was given to the Medal Mint at the Louvre, where Blondeau was employed as an engineer. The initial focus was on producing milled gold coins followed by the production of silver money in 1641. Slowly, all 22 provincial mints were modernized with the cessation of the hammer-struck process at the Bayonne Mint in 1649. The Paris Mint was fully modernized by 1645, whereupon operations at the Louvre returned to its traditional focus on medals. Throughout the 1640s, however, the division between the Paris Mint and the Louvre’s Medal Mint was blurred under Warin who was administrator at both facilities. It was during this creative period ushered in by Warin in the 1630s and 1640s that Blondeau arrived in France under the patronage of Richelieu, who was also Warin’s patron. The exact date of Blondeau’s arrival in Paris is currently unknown although it was prior to the death of Richelieu in 1642. Blondeau was housed at the Medal Mint and undoubtedly used Warin’s new methods of striking medals, which involved a screw press adapted to raise a planchet’s rim as an alternative to pearled borders. Warin’s medals were considered exceptionally well struck with high relief, an appearance achieved through the use of more powerful screw presses. He also employed the virole brisée technique for graining or lettering edges. Warin practiced this one-stroke method rather than casting his medals as was generally done by his predecessors. Blondeau was also involved in the use of these various technologies, becoming a noted minting engineer by the mid–1640s.107

In 1649, due to the establishment of the Commonwealth, England undertook a mintage in the name of the new government. At the same time, the nation faced mounting problems from coins that had been clipped, filed, and otherwise defaced to reduce their weight and create a profit for those who chose to violate English law. Worse, hammer-struck coins were easily counterfeited, threatening the integrity of the nation’s money in the same manner as had occurred in France a decade earlier. Sensing an opportunity to participate in the need to protect English coins, Blondeau submitted a proposal to England's Council of State, offering to undertake the minting of the Commonwealth’s money using a new technology he had invented. In a letter, sent to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Blondeau was described as an honest and inventive man.108 In a more expansive recommendation, his abilities were outlined as follows:

respecting some models for coins of a curious and new form, the invention of Peter Blondeau, a Frenchman, who presented himself to me, and offered his service to the commonwealth. I had formerly heard a fair report of his ability...and was well assured, by several men well experienced in the [Paris] Mint, that he is one of the ablest of his age in the art, and the only man that can do it, whereof he has made several proofs, both in gold, silver, and copper, with as much diligence and facility as is done by the ordinary mill...Cardinal Richelieu...who drew him from Italy, and gave him his dwelling here in the gallery of the Louvre, where his family yet remain, and where none but men of extraordinary art and skill are lodged,—he had certainly had the direction of all the coining of France. As for his life and carriage, he is a very honest and ingenious man, to whom all trust can be given in anything he undertakes...I can see no cause why any difficulty should be made in using him...nor can there happen to the State but a great and glorious advantage by his propositions.109

The hallmark of Blondeau’s inventiveness was his acclaimed ability to economically stamp, inscribe, and edge coins in a one-stroke process even on thin planchets. At the time, there were two basic techniques for inscribing or graining the edges on coins. The most common was the two-step method of running planchets between two parallel bars, a more costly process than leaving a plain edge on a coin. The other was the older virole brisée, or segmented collar, method. Here, the inscribed or grained design was placed on the inner wall of a collar that surrounded the planchet (in an eighteenth-century illustration, this collar appears to be thick and is placed inside a larger collar). At the time of striking, the force of the screw press expanded the blank, which was inscribed or grained along the inside of the inner collar. Since this technology was applicable only for thick planchets and had a tendency to destroy dies rapidly, it suited the limited production of medals rather than large mintages of coins.110

Dissatisfied with the manual process at the London Mint, officials invited Blondeau to England in 1649 in anticipation that the "famous artist" would be able to make coins "rounder & neater...after a new invention of his."111 Blondeau proclaimed his new technology as follows:

a new Invention, not yet practiced in any State of the World; the which will prevent counterfeiting, casting, washing and clipping...and will cost no more than the ordinarie unequal Coyn, which is used...As to the way of remedying those the way propounded by the said Blondeau, by marking the coyn, not only on both the flat sides, but also Upon the thickness of the edges...that it cannot bee so counterfeited. Whereupon...they could never finde out the said new Invention for Coyning.112

The foundation of Blondeau’s invention was an enlargement of Warin’s screw presses to create coins with a pleasing appearance that some described as having a polished surface. His technology also produced the anticounterfeiting reeded or inscribed edge that false coiners were basically unable to duplicate because they commonly made their pieces using molds. To deter such activity, Blondeau claimed:

The ordinaire coyn marked onely on both the flat sides (can be) moulded, as the experience do shew by the great quantites of false coyn moulded, which is current now but when it is marked on the thickness or edges, the marks across the said edges can no way be moulded...where it hath been cast, to take away the superflous metal; which filing cannot be done without spoiling and taking away the said markes about the edges; and consequently make easily known not to be current.113

While his detractors claimed his methods entailed the use of older techniques, Blondeau asserted he had created a new methodology: a one-stroke instead of a two-step process for marking coins that could be employed on thick as well as thin planchets and accomplish the task economically. His technology was undoubtedly a by-product of his experience in making medals at the Louvre along with his work as an engineer at the Paris Mint. In order not to divulge fully his technique, he outlined his invention in the following vague terms:

the Engines wherewith the brims are marked, may be kept secret among few men, who shall be sworn to keep it, and not to reveal it to anie [any]...the Engines that are used therein are so big and heavie, being between 1 and 2000 l. weight...they were put to mark all the pieces at one stroke, as in the said Blondeau’s is impossible to doe it without strong and heavie Engines...The monie coined merely at the Mill can bee made with very small Engines, but that which is proposed by the said Blondeau, cannot bee coined without a great many big and heavie Engines.114

Blondeau made a clear distinction between his invention and techniques employed by others to mark coin edges. In discussing the differences between the various methods, the inventor proclaimed:

I could two several ways make the new extraordinary coin, marked with letters [as well as graining] at the circumference, upon the thickness of the brim; the first way is ancient, and may be known to several, but it is long in doing, and can not be used upon the ordinary coin that is thin. I can do it in another manner, which is my particular invention, and no man but I can do it...I hear that some would persuade you that they can do it as well...but their pieces are made by the first way. They cannot [economically] coin your money that way, though you give them 10s. [shillings] for each pound of silver [the standard rate at the London Mint was a shilling per pound of silver]. I offer myself to be committed to prison for two months, and if within that time you can find any man that knows my invention, not only in England, but all the world over, and that might coin that way I have propounded...and as cheap as I offer, I am content to lose my life, and shall acknowledge myself guilty of informing falsely...the Parliament and the Council of State.115

Blondeau’s arrival in England was not welcomed by officials at the London Mint or its employees. Their opposition stemmed primarily from fear that jobs would be lost. This was an old concern dating back to the time when Briot arrived with his labor-saving innovations. There was also resentment that the proposal to modernize the mint was offered by a Frenchman rather than by an English moneyer. Blondeau attempted to alleviate fears, stating:

I intend not to remove any workmen if possible, as, for a full Mint [production at the time was at a low ebb and the Mint Committee stated that there were "hardly 30" masters currently employed and others, when there was additional work, were hired by the day and paid between 12 and 18 pence for their labor while the moneyers claimed that 200 families were maintained by the mint—an obvious exaggeration], I should need 200 or 300, and had rather employ those already there than new men, and I am willing to teach them my way...but I beg leave to turn out such as are lazy or stubborn.116

Although instructed to assist the Frenchman, the mint’s technologically inexperienced chief administrator, Guerdain, wanted Blondeau merely to show the moneyers his new techniques and thereafter return to Paris. Blondeau’s assessment of their interaction was expressed in his letter to Parliament in 1650:

having applied myself several times unto the said Doctor, he told me plainly, that if I was to come to be an officer of the mint, they were already too many, and that the workmen were more than they had need for the coyning of their moneys, which they would do so well...The said Doctor hath told me himself in plain tearms, that he would doe his utmost to hinder my proposition.117

While unstated, there undoubtedly was resentment among moneyers regarding Blondeau’s salary request. For the most part, salaries at the facility were outdated with many left unchanged since the end of the Elizabethan era. Aside from Guerdain, whose annual compensation was set at £400, the next highest paid official and second in charge, the mint warden, received only £100, while the mint’s comptroller and assay masters received slightly more than £66. The mint’s noted engraver, Thomas Simon (1618–1665), was paid a mere £30 although he received additional compensation for engraving medals and seals. This was in contrast to Blondeau, who received £100 plus additional fees for the use of his technology when he was finally assigned to striking Commonwealth coins. It is possible, given the lack of pay Blondeau received during his initial stay in London, that he was a man of some private means, especially considering he paid for the preparation of his own specimens during his trial with David Ramage who spent over £107 of the mint’s money to produce a limited edition of coins. Another indication of Blondeau’s financial wellbeing was the honorary title of "Gentleman" used by Cromwell in authorizing the inventor’s £100 stipend in 1656.118

Attempting to discredit Blondeau, English moneyers argued that the Frenchman’s invention was not new, insisting that it was a mere modification of existing technology. To prove their point, employees requested a trial between them and Blondeau. The contestants were instructed to mark the edges of their specimens with various terms such as TRUTH AND PEACE on the halfcrown, to which Blondeau added PETRVS BLONDAEVS INVENTOR FECIT. With the equipment available at the mint, which is believed to have included Briot’s machinery, Ramage, a former assistant to Briot and now Mint Provost, acted on behalf of the moneyers and submitted a dozen pieces while Blondeau prepared 300 specimens to promote his new innovation. The Mint Committee, on examining the coins, declared: "the coin offered by the a better fashion of money than the present fashion of money of England, and is for the honour and advantage of the Commonwealth" and worthy of further consideration.119

Unknown to Ramage was the assistance that Thomas Simon had given to Blondeau. Simon, as chief engraver at the London Mint, was instructed to supply Ramage with "Puncheons of the State’s Arms, and tools" to enable the moneyer to make his specimens. Apparently, Simon delayed in complying with this request, forcing mint officials to appoint Violet to secure the equipment, if Simon continued his obstruction. Meanwhile, Simon secretly engraved Blondeau’s dies, which greatly aided Blondeau in producing his finely executed specimens. While Ramage accused Blondeau of receiving unauthorized assistance during their trial, Simon’s involvement remained a secret.120

As an inducement to gain acceptance of his technology, Blondeau argued that it would generate a profit for the Commonwealth, an attractive offer given the government’s limited resources:

profits of the State will be 7s. [shillings] per lb. on gold and 5Ud. [pence] on silver; so that if 30,000£. sterling, that is 10,000 lbs. troy, be coined weekly, as formerly [mint production at the time was substantially below this amount], the profit will be 12,000£. yearly, and 91,000£. yearly if 5,000 lbs. of gold be coined weekly...The instruments will cost 1,000£. and the buildings 400£. I employ no men but those approved by the Mint Committee. I will use the new way, known only to myself, of marking the coins on the edge, the old way spoiling many stamps and engines, and being impracticable on thin money. The cost hitherto of coining by the hammer has been greater than that now propounded.121

Exerting their influence, the mint employees requested additional time to prove their ability to match Blondeau’s workmanship—a request that was granted although it produced no better results. The main obstacle facing Ramage was his limited skills at edge making and his reliance on outdated methods, including the use of the virole brisée technique. In an attempt to achieve acceptable results, Ramage increased the thickness of some of his planchets beyond normal specifications. In spite of such efforts, the edges of his specimens were described as being crudely constructed.122 In frustration, the moneyers threatened Blondeau, calling him a counterfeiter for replicating official money, and stated, "what became of the Coyner [Mestrell, who was hanged] that made mill-monie in Queen Elizabeth’s time" would be his fate.123 Blondeau also indulged in threatening tones when he accused Ramage of being "a man ill-affected to the present Government" and accused his detractors of culling the heavier coins made at the facility for personal gain.124 In defense of their actions, the moneyers proclaimed:

we are an antient [ancient] Corporation and Company, setted by charter for many hundred yeares, and in all ages faithfully discharged our trust, and never any blot lay upon us...We do humbly hope to have so much Justice that wee shall still bee imployed in the service of the State, in regard it is the livelihood and subsistence of above two hundred Families, when the Mint is full of work, and in regard wee undertake to do it as exactly as any French-man in the world...and you may be assured that we shall discharge all and any trust that shall be put into our hands, by the just dealing you have in all ages received from us...& therefore humbly hope our fidelitie and sufficiencie to doe what we undertake, shall not be put into the scale with a French-man.125

Ironically, Violet, an outspoken critic of the mint and of Guerdain’s inexperience as a moneyer, used the arrival of Blondeau as another reason to attack officials. From his misguided perspective, Violet claimed Guerdain turned to Blondeau to solve production problems, stating: "moneyers of the Mint, finding a Frenchmen coming to work by a new way, seeing the Mint daily decay...arising for want of skilful officers."126 Of course, Violet had his own reasons for opposing Blondeau, including his desire to replace Guerdain as chief administrator.

Unfortunately for the Frenchman, the Council of State continued to allow the nation’s money to be hammer-struck. In an attempt to gain a contract to produce England's money, Blondeau proposed to "coin money marked on both sides and the edge at...extremely low terms" with the additional proviso that his brother, a fellow worker at the Paris Mint, be allowed to join him. He also requested an "Act of naturalization" and "a grant of coin to myself and children...[and]...I will teach any man selected my secret, till my children can manage it."127 Still, the Council of State continued to delay its approval since the expense of modernizing the mint, which was estimated by Blondeau at £1,400, was deemed too costly by the cash strapped government. The lack of funds was especially felt at the mint, which had historically operated at a profit. Between 1649 and 1654, however, the facility generated an overall loss that would have hindered Guerdain’s support for any modernization effort even if he had approved of it. In 1654, a frustrated Blondeau requested that he either be made an employee of the London Mint or be allowed to return to Paris with indemnification for his efforts as promised in his earlier agreement with the Council of State. Fortunately, the Frenchman’s talents had attracted the attention of Cromwell, who instructed the Council of State to address Blondeau’s concerns "speedily," whereupon the engineer was offered an opportunity to establish a mint in Dublin to address Ireland’s inadequate supply of money. Since the kingdom was being inundated with large quantities of counterfeit money, the establishment of a mint was deemed by Dublin officials as "the only expedient left to retrieve the affairs and the trade of Ireland."128

Sent to Dublin in 1654 with the meager sum of £50 to cover expenses, Blondeau explored the feasibility of establishing a mint. Although this initial amount was later supplemented, he was never given sufficient funds to accomplish the task. In spite of this obstacle, he undertook the assignment because he was promised "if he punctually performs his agreement, he might then be admitted to the charge [employment] of the Mint in England,"129 which was his prerequisite for remaining in England.

One of the key obstacles Blondeau faced in Ireland was posed by the arrival in 1655 of Henry Cromwell (1628–1674), the Lord Protector’s son. Appointed Acting Commander of the Commonwealth’s Irish forces, the young and inexperienced officer actually governed the kingdom, although the titular head of government was Charles Fleetwood, who had returned to England. The main fiscal problem Henry faced was Ireland’s inability to raise sufficient revenues to cover its expenses. This necessitated a subsidy from England, creating a debt of £1,566,848 by 1656. England, having its own financial troubles, resented sending scarce funds across the Irish Sea, and in 1655, the monthly subsidy was reduced from £24,000 to £17,000. By 1657, it was reduced further to £8,000 per month. As a result, the kingdom was unable to pay the expenses of government and its debt mounted. England was less than sympathetic to Ireland’s financial condition and reacted with hostility to requests for additional funds, going so far as to threaten to imprison Irish representatives to the English House of Commons, if they persisted with their demands for more money. Supporting England's policy of retrenchment, Henry called on Irish officials to reduce expenses. During this period, Henry developed a close relationship with the mathematician Robert Wood, who arrived in Ireland in 1656. Wood proposed a scheme for a decimal coinage entitled "Ten to One" that probably became an additional obstacle to Blondeau’s efforts. Taking a post in Henry’s household, Wood’s interest in the nation’s monetary affairs elevated him to the important position of Receiver-General of Revenues for Ireland in 1658. Into this austere fiscal environment, Blondeau arrived with the mission to establish a mint that would require the expenditure of funds not readily available.130


Figure 13. Protectorate gold broad of Oliver Cromwell, 1656. ANS 1906.115.8.

While Blondeau spent almost two years in Ireland, the limited financial support he received prevented him from accomplishing his task. In spite of the project’s merit, England in the 1650s was unable to commit the needed funds for the same reason it was unable to finance the modernization of the London Mint. Again frustrated, Blondeau left Dublin. Not wishing to see their talented engineer return to France, Blondeau was granted a yearly pension of £100 plus an additional fee to strike £2,000 in silver coins "after his new invention."131 This was a limited project compared to the £100,000 production undertaken by the mint employees. Initially, Blondeau’s operations were to be carried out at the London Mint. Ill feelings between him and the moneyers ran so high, however, that the Lieutenant of the Tower had to be called to protect the engineer and his assistants. Fearing for his safety, officials granted Blondeau the use of Worcester House, which was shortly thereafter exchanged for Drury House, a government workplace beyond the walls of the London Tower. Unfortunately, production was hindered because some of the rooms at the new site were being pulled down and his request for £1,440 for equipment was only partially satisfied, adding further to his general frustration with the mint.132


Figure 14. Commonwealth silver shilling, 1651. ANS 1954.203.351.

Overcoming obstructions, Blondeau was able to please Commonwealth officials with his work, leading to authorization to increase his role in producing the nation’s money. The assigned task was the creation of a new Commonwealth series that depicted the bust of Cromwell on the obverse, replacing the shield as a symbol of official money (Figs. 13–14). The intent was to generate a weekly output of £10,000 in milled coins. In December of 1657, Blondeau was granted £1,000 to begin retooling the London Mint. Limited production was achieved in the following spring. Simon, who had worked with Blondeau on previous occasions, was selected as the engraver for the project. The new coinage was to have inscribed or grained edges, employing the engineer’s technology. The Latin edge inscription warned, "Let no one remove these [letters] from me under penalty of death." Unfortunately, production was cut short due to Cromwell’s death on September 3, 1658, which led to Blondeau’s departure for France in late 1658 or early 1659.133

Contributing to Blondeau’s decision to return to France was the volatile political environment in England. Although succeeded by his son, Richard Cromwell (1628–1712), there was a mounting call for the restoration of the monarchy. The resulting chaos created an uncertain future for the Frenchman who had served the interests of the Commonwealth. In addition, the production of silver and gold coins, which constituted a significant portion of his income, had all but ceased. Most disheartening was the Commonwealth’s failure to reimburse properly its Chief Engraver, Simon, which foretold Blondeau’s fate. The extent of Simon’s difficulties in receiving payment is outlined in the engraver’s letter to the Council of State:

A year ago, I presented you [Council of State] my account for coins, public seals for England, Scotland, and Ireland, divers medals and chains of gold, silver and gilt boxes and presses for the seals which I have made for the present Government... I beg you to consider that I and my servants have wrought 5 years without recompense, and that the interest I have to pay for gold and silver eats up my profits. I beg payment of 1,028£. 15s. 8d. due...that I may pay my creditors [six months later, Simon was paid only for the medals, receiving £171 17s].134

In 1660, the monarchy was restored in England. Charles III inaugurated a new mintage to replace the despised Commonwealth coins as well as to promote his reign. In the rush to make as many coins as possible, the outdated hammer-struck method was initially retained. In assessing the appearance of the new money, Samuel Pepys, noted diarist of the 1660s, stated, "how good they are in the stamp and bad in the money, for lack of skill to make them."135 Soon, it became evident that clippers and counterfeiters had resumed their prior activity of threatening the integrity of the nation’s money. In response, Slingsby, who befriended Blondeau in the 1650s and was now Deputy Master-Worker at the London Mint, secured permission for Blondeau’s return to England, noting the engineer’s ability to make vast improvements in striking the new money. While Henry Slingsby desired Blondeau’s speedy return, the Frenchman was in Warsaw in the service of King John II Casimir. Noting that his tenure in Poland would be brief, Blondeau designated Charles Ranvile as his representative to negotiate terms for his return to England. By late 1661, Blondeau was in Paris and Simon, who had prepared the Frenchman’s dies in the 1650s, went to France in November of 1661 to persuade a reluctant Blondeau to come to England. The task took two months to accomplish with Blondeau arriving in London in early 1662.136

Not wishing to see a repeat of the difficulties he endured during the prior decade, Blondeau set as a precondition for undertaking the modernization of the London Mint his receipt of a patent to protect his techniques and a guaranteed income. In 1662, the Crown awarded him an exclusive patent for 21 years, protecting his technology to inscribe and grain the edges of the nation’s silver and gold coins valued at sixpence or more. Shortly thereafter, he was given a patent for a term of 14 years, which pertained to the minting of coppers. Further, he was authorized to modernize the London Mint, a project he undertook with Henry Slingsby who was promoted to Joint Master-Worker in 1662. The cost of placing the mint on a modern footing exceeded his earlier estimate from the 1650s, almost doubling to £2,709. As for compensation, Blondeau’s patent provided him with certain fees:

allowance for 21 years of 3d. on every lb. of silver, and 1s. on every lb. of gold, to be coined according to his new invention...with order to all the Mint officers concerned to swear to keep the invention secret, unless it fail; and with prohibition to any others to use the same tools for 14 years. If moneys are made by press and mill, without marking the edges, he is only to have 2d. in the lb. on silver, and 8d. on gold; and if [with] hammer, 1d. for silver, and 4d. for gold. He is also to have the use of certain buildings in the Tower, the title of Engineer to the Mint, the privileges of Mint officers, and an annuity of 100£. a year for 21 years.137

It was during the period between 1662 and 1664 that Blondeau focused on producing the regal shillings, halfcrowns, crowns, guineas and two guineas that Charles II wanted as a replacement for Commonwealth money. This was an impressive start for a newly installed operation. In 1663, a warrant was issued for minting silver pence to ease the shortage of small change. Their production began between 1664 and 1665.138 Later, Blondeau produced the five guinea in 1668 and the half guinea in 1669, thereby completing the regal series of silver and gold coins of the 1660s. Although never placed into production, Blondeau prepared various pattern specimens during the decade in anticipation of the Crown undertaking a mintage of copper farthings and halfpence. While other contenders presented specimens with plain edges that offered no protection against counterfeiters who had busily replicated farthings authorized by James I and Charles I, Blondeau submitted the first known English copper with an inscribed edge. On one of his 1662 pattern farthings, he inscribed MONETAE • INSTAVRATOR •' 1662 • X • and on another ISTA • FAMA • PER • AETHERA • VOLAT • ' ' • X •, which translate as, "the initiator of the coinage" and "its fame flies through the air," respectively.139 In addition, Blondeau prepared specimens with grained and plain edges. In 1665, he produced more pattern farthings with the elaborate edges mentioned above, as well as with grained and plain edges. Intended as presentation pieces, specimens were also struck in silver and gold.140 In the year that he received the patent to protect his invention, Blondeau obtained a "warrant appointing him a free denizen, in order to enable him better to govern his workmen" along with permission "to exercise any trade within the kingdom," which gave him license to undertake private ventures.141 This enabled Blondeau to participate in the common practice among mint employees of striking tokens for various tradesmen and towns in the British Isles and laid the groundwork for the St. Patrick series.

Token making reappeared on a large scale in 1648 due to a deficiency in the supply of small change that people used to transact daily business. Although many tokens were minted locally, some merchants and many town officials turned to professional moneyers in London for the production of their pieces. Ramage of the Blondeau trials of the 1650s was a prolific producer of tokens. Blondeau’s involvement in this enterprise can be seen from the inventory of his estate at the time of his death in 1672. His ownership of five screw presses that he had imported from Poland suggests that Blondeau played a significant role in token production. Since Blondeau probably acquired one or more of these presses as early as 1664, when he was granted a "Pass" to visit Poland, it can be assumed that he was in the token manufacturing business by the time Ormond was looking for an engineer to manufacture money for Ireland.142

The hardships of the mid–1660s contrasted with the prosperity Blondeau achieved after returning to England. The plague reappeared in 1665, which at its height killed 10,000 persons weekly, forcing people to flee the city. This disaster was followed the next year by the Great London Fire that raged for a week, destroying large sections of the capital. These two catastrophes forced the London Mint to reduce its output, while people hoarded money as was common in troubled times. Exasperated by the difficulty of obtaining bullion, the king levied an import tax on wines, vinegar, cider, and beer and assumed the cost of mintage, announcing that, "all persons who shall bring bullion, etc. to the mint...should have the same there assayed, melted down, and coined...without any charge.and should receive in return an equal weight of the current coins of the kingdom."143 These events led to a decline in Blondeau’s income since payments to him were based on coin production at the rate of three pence per pound for silver and 12 pence per pound for gold coins. In such times, his possession of five screw presses served as an alternative means to earn money and made him available for Ormond’s coining venture.144

A return to better times started in 1667. In that year, Blondeau’s endeavors to modernize the London Mint were fully realized when staff positions were reorganized. Blondeau’s friend, Slingsby, was appointed Master-Worker or chief administrator; and the Frenchman gained new status upon assignment to the department of the Master-Worker. In addition, several positions that reflected the time when coins were hammer-struck were either eliminated or destined to be phased out upon termination of existing contracts. Finally, many employees received pay increases in recognition of the new skills required to operate a modern facility. With this restructuring of operations, a century-old conflict that dated to the time Mestrell first introduced the screw press for coining under Elizabeth came to an end.145

Until his death in 1672, Blondeau produced an array of coins that reflected his technology. On visiting the London Mint in 1663, the diarist Pepys marveled at the new technological advances and anti-counterfeiting methods in use and was informed that the Frenchman diligently protected his methodology as a secret.146 It was not until 1679 that Blondeau’s methods were discovered by outsiders, as revealed in correspondence between the French Minister of Finance and France’s Ambassador in London. Shortly thereafter, the Paris Mint was in possession of his secret, which was improved upon by Jean Castaing.147

End Notes

Simon, Essay, 51, 122.
Challis, A New History, 300–302; David Sellwood, "The Trial of Nicholas Briot," British Numismatic Journal (1986): 109, 113; Edward Besly, "Rotary Coining in England," in Metallurgy in Numismatics, eds., Archibald and Cowell, vol. III, 118–123; Jones, Catalogue of French Medals, 143, 167.
Helen Farquhar, "Nicholas Briot and the Civil War," Numismatic Chronicle (1914), 24–26, 48, 66; Forrer, Biographical Dictionary, vol. I, 285.
F. Mazerolle, Jean Varin: Conducteur de la Monnaie du Moulin (Paris, 1932), 6; Jones, Catalogue of French Medals, 177–180, 192. Warin’s father worked as an engraver at the Bishop of Liège’s mint at Bouillon. Warin started his career at a mint operated by the Count of Rochefort, which closed in 1626. Through family connections, he came to Paris, working for Pierre Regnier, who was Engraver-General. Thereafter, he rose to prominence as a medal maker in the 1630s.
George Sobin, The Silver Crowns of France 16411973 (Teaneck, NJ, 1974), 9–18; W. J. Hocking, "Simon’s Dies in the Royal Mint Museum, with some Notes on the Early History of Coinage by Machine" Numismatic Chronicle (1909): 31–32; Mazerolle, Jean Varin, 88; B. Collin, "Architecture and Production in the French Mints during the 17th and 18th Centuries" in Archibald and Cowell, eds., Metallurgy in Numismatics, vol. III, 154–155.
Alan J. Nathanson, Thomas Simon: His Life and Work 16181665 (London, 1975), 15.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1650, 504.
George Vertue, Medals, Coins, Great-Seals, Impressions, From the Elaborate Works of Thomas Simon (London, 1753), 18–24; Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 15–16; H. W. A. Linecar, British Coin Designs & Designers (London, 1977), 67.
Thomas Snelling, Miscellaneous Views of the Coins Struck by English Princes in France... Struck abroad in Imitation of English (London, 1769), 49.
Peter Blondeau, A Most Humble Memorandum (London, 1652).
W. R. Hamilton, "Blondeau’s Proposal for Reforming the Coinage of England," Numismatic Chronicle 1 (1838–1839): 174.
Peter Blondeau, The humble Representation of Peter Blondeau as a Warning, Touching several disorders happening by Monie ill-favoredly Coined (London, 1651); Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 15–16; Vertue, Medals, Coins, Great-Seals, 19.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1650, 14.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651–1652, 154.
Hamilton, "Blondeau’s Proposal," 167–171.
Henfrey, Numismata Cromwelliana, 34, 61, 69–71, 90; Challis, A New History, 351–353. Some numismatic references give Ramage’s expenses as £87 while an itemized account lists the cost at £107:4s, which includes the value of bullion, see Vertue, Medals, Coins, Great-Seals, 22.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651, 175.
Vertue, Medals, Coins, Great-Seals, 19, 21; Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 18. Beginning in 1635, Simon was apprenticed for 7 years to Edward Greene, engraver at the London Mint. After Greene died, Simon was appointed joint chief engraver with Edward Wade in 1645. After Wade died, Simon became chief engraver in 1649. See Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 11–14.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651, 174–175; Craig, The Mint, 152.
Vertue, Medals, Coins, Great-Seals, 18–24; Hocking, "Simon’s Dies," 33, 36; Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 17.
Hocking, "Simon’s Dies," 24–25.
Farquhar, "Nicholas Briot," 19.
Thomas Violet, The Answer of the Corporation of Moniers (London, 1653), 23; Henfrey, Numismata Cromwelliana, 70; R. H. Thompson, "Mechanization at the 17th Century London Mint: The Testimony of Tokens," in Archibald and Cowell, eds., Metallurgy in Numismatics, vol. III, 143–147; Snelling, Miscellaneous Views, 51; Vertue, Medals, Coins, Great-Seals, 18–24; Hocking, "Simon’s Dies," 33, 36. After the trial, Ramage did not grain the edges of his coins except for his 1661 silver pieces, which are noted for their poorly constructed grained edges, see Challis, A New History, 127–128.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651, 232–233.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1651–1652, 154.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1654, 131; Challis, A New History, 319, 328, 330, 332; Simon, Essay, 49.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1656–1657, 49.
Barnard, Cromwellian Ireland, 20–21, 223–224.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1654, 451, vol. 1655, 215, vol. 1656–1657, 78, 134, and vol. 1657–1658, 37, 169.
Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 26.
Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 27, 30; Seaby and Purvey, Coins of England, 192–193; Coincraft 2000, 477, 499, 525, 541. The Latin inscription reads: HAS NISI PERITVRVS MIHI ADIMAT NEMO with translation provided by Linecar, see Linecar, British Coin Designs, 55.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1658–1659, 105–106, 265.
Marvin Lessen, "Notes on Simon’s Pattern (Petition) Crown of Charles II," British Numismatic Journal (2005): 95.
Lessen, "Notes," 95; Challis, A New History, 341; Nathanson, Thomas Simon, 34–35; Carte Calendar, vol. XXXI, December 22, 1661. Since the English calendar year ended in March, there is some confusion regarding when Blondeau exactly returned to London. Challis gives 1661 while Nathanson specifies January 1662, which at the time would have fAllen in the year 1661.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1662, 522; Challis, A New History, 341.
Challis, A New History, 745; Coincraft 2000, 553, 561, 571, 579.
Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 112. The translations are offered by Peck.
Peck, English Copper, Tin and Bronze, 112–115.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1662, 493, 496.
Calendar of State Papers, vol. 1663–1664, 574; Challis, A New History, 343. Blondeau had a "Pass to embark...for Poland," where he obtained screw presses.
Ruding, Annals, vol. II, 12–13.
Challis, A New History, 340; Philip Frances, ed., John Evelyn’s Diary (London, 1963), 146, 153; Albert Feavearyear, The Pound Sterling: A History of English Money (Oxford, 1963), 123.
Challis, A New History, 351.

Origins of the St. Patrick Coinage

The St. Patrick series is comprised of four types: small and large coppers (Figs. 15–16), silver pieces, and a gold specimen. To assist the reader in differentiating between the coppers, I use the common numismatic designation of farthings for the small and halfpence for the large coin. While there is no known historical document that establishes this distinction at the time of issue, this assigned value was given in 1699 by the numismatist John Sharpe in his Archbishop Sharpe’s observations on the coinage of England and was restated in 1749 by James Simon, Ireland’s first numismatist, in Simon’s Essay on Irish Coins and Currency of Foreign Monies in Ireland. This designation is current today although the weight discrepancy between the two types of coppers raises consideration that this assignment of values should not be taken as definitive. Philip L. Mossman drew attention to this topic in Money of the American Colonies and Confederation. Updating his premise, Mossman presented additional evidence that both the small and large coppers may have been intended as halfpence with the replacement of the large by the small coin to ensure profitability.148


Figure 15. Small copper St. Patrick ("farthing"). Courtesy of Stack’s Rare Coins.


Figure 16. Large copper St. Patrick ("halfpenny"). Courtesy of Neil Rothschild.


Figure 17. Cork copper penny token, 1659. P. Seaby, Coins and Tokens of Ireland (London, 1970), 114.

An alternative interpretation was offered by John Lindsay, who stated that the coppers were "considered by the Dean of St. Patrick, and other distinguished Numismatists, as pennies and halfpence, and I am inclined to agree."149 This is in keeping with the type of tradesmen and town tokens circulating in Ireland in the mid–1600s. At the time, the prevalence of Irish tokens in descending order were pence followed by halfpence and then farthings with the last constituting an insignificant number. As noted in George C. Williamson’s Trade Tokens: Issued in Seventeenth Century in England, Wales, and Ireland, of the 160 Irish tokens dated prior to 1670 and stamped with an identifying denomination, 153 were pence, five were halfpence, and two were farthings.150 Cork uttered a typical town token with an obverse naming the corporation, A CORK PENNY 1659, and the reverse legend, THE ARMS OF CORK (Fig. 17). A common design for tradesmen tokens included the merchant’s name on the obverse and place of utterance on the reverse. Lending further support to Lindsay’s premise is the light weight of common Irish tokens in comparison to the heavier St. Patrick coppers. Finally, there is the 1670 reference to Irish tokens by the newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant, who sought permission to suppress their use as money. In his correspondence with London, he called for an end to "making and passing of all sorts of brass pence and halfpence" without any mention of farthings.151


Figure 18. Counterstamped copper halfpenny token of Andrew Robeson, c. 1653–1659. P. Seaby, Coins and Tokens of Ireland (London, 1970), 133.

As often happened with tokens, as they fell into disfavor, their value declined. This correlates with Swift’s comment in his Drapier Letters that St. Patrick coppers now pass as farthings and halfpence, indicating that they had previously been worth more. In some instances, to denote their lessened value, Irish tokens were counterstamped, as when HAPNEY was struck over 1D on Marcus Archer’s penny token and when V D was struck over HIS 1D on Andrew Robeson’s token (Fig. 18). One token, uttered in Clonakilty had farthing stamped over PENNY to indicate its greatly reduced value. Another practice was to devalue tokens officially. In 1672, Kilkenny announced that the penny pieces it authorized during the mayoralty of Thomas Adams were to pass thereafter as farthings. The refusal of merchants to redeem their tokens also negatively affected their value. In one such instance, Kilkenny threatened to officially devalue John Beavor’s pence unless he gave assurance for their future redemption.152

In Ormond’s time, two of the more productive counties uttering tokens were Kilkenny, where Ormond maintained his primary residence, and Tipperary, which had been held by the family as a county palatine since the fourteenth century. The Corporation of Kilkenny uttered halfpence and pence in the late 1650s with one marked, FOR THE POORE, while Thomas Davis uttered a penny referring to the Excise Office. Most common were various merchant tokens uttered as pence in the 1650s and 1660s. Richard Inwood depicted a windmill that stood for the inn he operated; the goldsmith William Keovgh displayed a mermaid; Edward Sewall, a tallow chandler, illustrated a candle-maker; and many others engraved their family’s arms on their tokens. Tipperary uttered numerous merchant tokens. Among these, Edmond Kearney made four varieties of pence plus one type of halfpence while Robert Hutchinson made two unspecified denominations of different sizes. Notable in this assortment of tokens is that of Kearney, featuring the Kearney Crux on the reverse. This symbolically represented St. Patrick’s crozier, a relic held by the family until it was donated to the Archbishop of Cashill in the 1800s. Another illustrated the county’s cathedral. Of the 779 Irish tokens identified by Williamson, 163 were associated with Dublin, 77 with Antrim in northern Ireland, 65 with Cork, 50 with Galway, 38 with Tipperary, and 27 with Kilkenny. Some counties uttered very few tokens. For example, only eight were vented in Wicklow, five in Clare, three in Longford, one in Leitrim, and none in Mayo.153

Coppers had been a fixture in English and Irish monetary affairs since the Elizabethan era. The queen’s halfpence and pence minted between 1601 and 1602 to finance the suppression of the O’Neill Rebellion were deemed pledge pieces and were considered not much better than tokens. Under James i and Charles I, farthings were authorized under various private patents, producing controversial pieces due to their light weight. The continuing rise in the price of silver led to a sharp decline in the minting of halfpence during the reign of Charles I and an end to their issuance in the 1650s. The demise of silver farthings had occurred a century earlier. This gave rise to the potential use of an alternative metal to make small change. The Commonwealth explored the possibility of minting copper farthings. Pattern pieces were prepared, but the venture did not proceed beyond this initial stage. A major obstacle was the limited supply of domestic copper, since England's mining industry had collapsed during the Civil War. Violet, an old foe of Blondeau’s, proposed making farthings with copper imported from Sweden. The importation of foreign metal, however, was contrary to the economic principles of mercantilism, which gave rise to the idea of using locally mined tin in 1661. Although an abundant domestic metal, the use of tin was opposed by the London Mint, since it could be easily mixed with lead by counterfeiters. Officials deemed "copper is the fittest metal."154 As an alternative to copper from Sweden, a former adversary whose coffers officials were not pleased to enrich, an experiment was conducted to import it from Japan. The Comptroller of the Mint gave an "Account of the said copper, that it is equal to the best Swedish copper in fineness and is pliant and easy to work."155 In the end, the London Mint decided on copper, but only pattern farthings and halfpence were made. Their detail, especially those with a reeded edge, reflect the quality of craftsmanship that could be achieved with Blondeau’s new technology. The decision to produce English regal coppers, however, was delayed until 1672. Until this date, the London Mint focused on making bullion coins rather than retooling its operations to accommodate the production of farthings and halfpence.156


Figure 19. Silver St. Patrick ("shilling?"). Courtesy of Neil Rothschild.

The silver St. Patrick pieces with their varying weights have generated a debate among numismatists concerning their use as a circulating medium of exchange (Fig. 19). The historical record of the period clearly shows that Ireland was saddled with an array of heavily worn English bullion coins that were clipped, outdated, counterfeited, and otherwise lacked full value. This was a great concern to Irish officials and merchants. This deplorable situation was made worse by an array of Irish silver coins of questionable value produced during the Civil War. As a potential solution to this state of affairs, Commonwealth officials sent Blondeau to Dublin in the mid–1650s to explore the feasibility of reestablishing the mint. Confirming Ireland’s desire for silver coins was a proposal submitted to officials circa 1660, requesting permission to mint £100,000 in various denominations up to threepence.157 Later, when the London Mint began its production of new English bullion coins, it was well known that production would not be sufficient to satisfy England's monetary needs let alone Ireland’s. This problem gave rise to the contemplation of a separate Irish silver mintage by the English treasury in 1668.158 The production of bullion coins for circulation would have been in keeping with Ormond’s mission to create a new supply of money.159

Numismatists generally refer to the silver pieces as shillings, a denomination ascribed to them by James Simon, who stated that the coins were intended "to pass for shillings" although other writers of the early 1700s described them as medals.160 Part of the dispute surrounding them is the lack of any mark to denote their denomination although Charles II shillings, halfcrowns, and crowns of the 1660s also lacked an indication of value. The size of a coin along with its metal content was deemed sufficient to indicate its denomination: the English shilling had a diameter varying between 25 mm and 26 mm while the St. Patrick silver pieces have approximately the same diameter, varying between 24 mm and 25 mm; the halfcrown measured between 33 mm and 34 mm and the crown between 38 mm and 40 mm. It was not until 1668 that silver pence started to be stamped with an indication of value.161

The existence of a gold coin within the St. Patrick series has generated questions regarding its significance. As with silver coins of the 1660s, the specimen lacks any indication of value. Given the general consensus among numismatists that only one genuine specimen exists, any assumption regarding its contribution to the series must be guarded.

Absent any documentary evidence to the contrary, the existence of finely designed silver and gold coins in the St. Patrick series is indicative of their execution by London's professional moneyers. As Peck stated, nonregal coins executed in bullion constitutes almost conclusive evidence of involvement by London Mint workers, which adds support to the argument for Blondeau’s involvement.162 Furthermore, the existence of bullion coins is an indication of Ormond’s intent to create a proper coinage for Ireland as well as to introduce money whose design would hinder counterfeiters.

The production of the St. Patrick series is unique in Irish numismatics. In discerning its origins, numismatists have limited records available, which are often contradictory. In discussing the series, therefore, a different approach has been adopted herein that bases its mintage on the technology available to make coppers in the seventeenth century. From this vantage point, there are three specific hallmarks that distinguish the coins from all other English and Irish coppers made prior to 1675: first, the edge is vertically reeded by means of a mechanical process; second, the technique was applied to thin planchets; and third, the method was able to produce coins at an affordable cost.

Prior to Blondeau, there were two methods of placing a reeded edge on a coin. The older virole brisée or segmented collar method was not applicable to thin coins and had a tendency to destroy dies prematurely, which confined its use primarily to medals. In minting coins, the use of parallel bars was a common method in the 1600s although it was more suitable for thick planchets and was not feasible economically for low valued coppers. In contrast to these methods, the one-stroke process invented by Blondeau worked economically on thin planchets. Evidence that a separate edging machine was not the primary method employed in manufacturing the St. Patrick series was presented by the coins. Planchets that pass through two grooved parallel bars for graining generally reveal the common side effect of an overlap or double graining at two opposite points on the coin, a feature that results from slippage as the planchet is processed. This feature is noticeable on bullion coins produced at the London Mint during the period when the two-step edging process was employed.163 There are some St. Patrick farthings that also exhibit this feature. In addition, there are a limited number of farthings with a circumferential line that at times oscillates across the vertical graining. This feature also appeared on some of the first shillings produced by Blondeau for Charles II in 1663, and is often described as a center line, a marking of unknown meaning. It can be reasonably stated that in the production rush Blondeau encountered on becoming Ormond’s minter in 1667, he used various equipment at hand to produce as many coins as quickly as possible in order to satisfy the army. This was similar to the pressure he encountered in minting regal money in 1662 and 1663, when Charles II wanted to replace Cromwell’s "usurper’s coin" as quickly as possible. During this first stage in the production of Charles II’s milled money, equipment other than Blondeau’s was employed in a limited capacity to increase output at the London Mint. This decision was further necessitated by the king’s proclamation that no Commonwealth money would be accepted in payment to the Crown after May 1, 1662. By 1663, £495,653— two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s coins—had been removed from circulation. To satisfy both the king’s desire to issue his own money as well as to have an adequate supply to replace Cromwell’s money, Blondeau had to accelerate production. He accomplished this task between 1662 and 1663 by minting £801,756 in silver and £32,417 in gold coins. Such a high mintage would not be matched until the Great Recoinage at the end of the century when five auxiliary mints were used to assist the London Mint in the effort to upgrade the nation’s money. Once production reduced in intensity in 1664, the center line and overlap in graining disappeared on regal coins, which led to current speculation that St. Patrick farthings with such markings are among the first coppers Blondeau made for Ormond.164

The process of producing the St. Patrick series with its reeded edge was achieved by using heavier than normal screw presses to force metal to the perimeter of a planchet, where it was contained by a collar. Along the inner wall of the collar, a thin grooved metal strip was inserted. As metal flowed to the planchet’s perimeter, the insert under pressure created the grained edge. This process was highlighted in Blondeau’s Last Will & Testament wherein he stipulated that a sequence of beneficiaries had to pay the cost of engraving the rings for edge-marking.165 However, coppers exist within the series that have a plain edge. Taking into account Blondeau’s technology, plain edged coins probably resulted from a failure to place the grooved metal insert along the inner wall of the collar. Such coins are, in my opinion, minting errors since their production varied from normal practices. Coins that exhibit signs of preparation in a two-step process through the use of grooved parallel bars also represent a procedural process that differs from Blondeau’s common practice. But these coins are varieties within the series rather than errors, since they were deliberately manufactured as a means to accelerate production.

In a mintage as large as the St. Patrick series, it is not surprising that Blondeau experienced some difficulties using the extra heavy engines or screw presses that were one of the hallmarks of his new technology. One notable problem stemmed from die misalignment. Likewise, dies were destroyed faster than normal due to excess pressure. At times, this led to the breakage of the collar and an outflow of metal. This problem is consistent with the inordinate number of die varieties associated with the farthings in the series.166

Although Blondeau had the necessary technology to manufacture the St. Patrick series, he was not able to undertake the venture alone. An outline of the key persons involved is gleaned from his Last Will & Testament of 1672 wherein he specified the following bequests: Slingsby, Isaac de Caux, and John Colborne were to share the income from the production of coins at the London Mint using his technology in accordance with the terms of his patent; Slingby’s share was dependent on paying the cost of engraving the rings for edge-marking; and these beneficiaries jointly were to compensate Peter La Castill £20 per year for his contribution to the edging process. Later, Colborne bequeathed one-half of his interest to his brother Robert and the other half to Henry Slingsby with the stipulation that if Henry Slingsby failed to perform his obligation—Slingsby’s availability was in question due to his appointment as Secretary of the Council of Trade—then his brother and Peter Johnson were to receive said share. Finally, Blondeau bequeathed his five screw presses to Slingsby. Although making private tokens had all but ceased after 1672, the patent generated a sizable income and the screw presses had an estimated value of £300.167

It is important to note that these men were all associated with the London Mint. According to its roster of employees, De Caux and Colborne were engineers, La Castill was one of Blondeau’s workers within the mint establishment, and Henry Slingsby was the facility’s chief administrator. In addition to his position at the mint, Henry Slingsby also enjoyed the patronage of influential officials, such as Lord Ashley, Chancellor of the Exchequer, which enhanced the success of any coining venture he undertook. This mix of professionals associated with manufacturing money is precisely what was required to make coins for Ireland. Slingsby, as chief administrator of the London Mint and the chief advocate of its right to produce all money, had the power to curtail any private coinage. If the project were to succeed, his participation was necessary. De Caux’s and Colborne’s skills as engineers for coin manufacturing were valuable in overseeing daily operations. La Castill obviously contributed, as noted in Blondeau’s bequest. The reference to Johnson is important as Blondeau relied on his newly created hardened dies to withstand the pressure of the heavy screw presses that he used.168

The public acknowledgement of those who were associated with minting the St. Patrick series may appear in one notable contemporary document. In 1670, Ireland’s newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant, Lord Berkeley, desired to suppress the use of tokens as money. At the time, England was contemplating the issuance of regal farthings and halfpence. As part of a warning to defer any action until a final decision had been reached on the minting regal coppers, his secretary was told that, "Mr. Slingsby’s patent, if he have one, may not include Ireland for small money."169 It is not surprising that among the participants in producing Ormond’s coins, Henry Slingsby rather than Blondeau should be mentioned. As the chief administrator of the London Mint, he was the most prominent partner involved in producing the St. Patrick series. Further, it was well known that he had expressed a strong interest in any proposal to mint small change for the kingdom and contemplated undertaking such a venture personally. Finally, it was Slingsby, rather than Blondeau, who was personally known to Ormond. Under these circumstances, Slingsby’s involvement in minting the St. Patrick series would have been significant.170

In examining the time frame for minting the St. Patrick series, it is improbable that the coins could have been produced earlier than the 1660s. Irish coinage of the Civil War years is generally described by numismatists as having "a battered and poorly struck appearance,"171 which stands in sharp contrast to the finely executed St. Patrick pieces. For the most part, the coins of this era were made of silver with a limited production using gold. As for farthings and halfpence, there are two instances when coppers were issued. Between 1642 and 1643, the Confederated Catholics produced a limited mintage known as Kilkenny Money consisting of hammer-struck pieces that were crudely made with a crown and two scepters on the obverse and a crowned harp on the reverse, bearing no resemblance to the St. Patrick series. The other mintage was siege money struck between 1645 and 1647 in support of the Parliamentary cause in the Munster towns of Cork and Youghall (coins issued by Bandon and Kinsale, once considered part of this series, are now deemed to date to the 1650s). These hammer-struck coppers on irregularly shaped or square planchets with simplistic designs lack the quality of production associated with the St. Patrick series. Taking a different approach, it has been asserted that the St. Patrick series was produced at the London Mint between 1641 and 1642 as a coinage to finance the king’s army fighting in Ireland to suppress the Ulster Rebellion.172 However, the king already had at his disposal Maltravers’ farthings with their well-known regal obverse and Irish harp reverse. Likewise, by granting patents to various minters of farthings during his reign, the king had agreed to prohibit anyone else from striking coppers.173 Equally significant is the role of money as propaganda in the 1640s. Royalists deemed it important to promote the king in a clear manner on the money that they sanctioned. The silver coins struck at auxiliary royal mints such as those in Oxford, Bristol, and Exeter prominently displayed images of Charles I. Such depictions along with legends that proclaimed the king’s justice were seen as a means to reinforce the Royalist cause. Under these circumstances, it would have been counterproductive to retool auxiliary royal mints—which operated only briefly due to the successes of Cromwell’s advancing army—to strike coppers that were only linked to the king on an interpretive level.174

With Blondeau’s method identified as the technological basis for the St. Patrick series, these reeded-edged coins could not have been struck economically prior to the 1650s. Even then, there was a technological stumbling block that would have hindered a large mintage. During the decade, Blondeau relied on Thomas Simon for his dies, which were acceptable given Blondeau’s limited assignment to produce Commonwealth money. During the early 1660s, when Blondeau’s heavy screw presses undertook the production of Charles II’s milled money, it was discovered that such dies could not withstand the extra pressure exerted by the presses. With Johnson’s perfection of hardened dies in the early 1660s, Blondeau was able to undertake the extensive mintage authorized by Charles II. Another significant obstacle in the 1650s was posed by Blondeau’s opponents at the London Mint who constantly harassed the engineer in this period. In particular, he would have been opposed by influential moneyers who were also prolific token makers, such as David Ramage and Thomas Rawlins. The latter is noted for producing corporation coins for Oxford. Ramage in particular coveted his role as a token maker, trying in 1661 to control token manufacture through an unsuccessful bid to outlaw all coppers not made by him. For Blondeau to have undertaken an unauthorized mintage in the 1650s would have confirmed the charge of counterfeiting leveled against him during the trials with Ramage. Most damaging in such an accusation would have been the regal legends on the St. Patrick coins, which would have been viewed as an act of treason during the Commonwealth era. Finally, in order for his undertaking to succeed, Blondeau needed a sponsor, which he surely lacked in Henry Cromwell, but later would have found in Ormond. Part of such a sponsorship probably would have involved advancing some funds for the venture. Prior to 1667, Ormond was unable to offer any assistance as his personal finances were in disarray. He was so short of money in 1665 that he defaulted on a loan. To avoid forfeiture of part of his estate, he asked his creditor, Bellingham of the Viner Patent venture, to accept interest payments until His Lordship received money owed him under the Act of Settlement. Two years later, the king authorized Ormond to receive £50,000 from the Commissioners of Settlement as compensation for some of the lands he lost during the Commonwealth era. Ormond paid £25,000 to satisfy his creditors. For the first time since returning to Ireland, Ormond had surplus funds. These events, as well as the crisis of the unpaid army make the later 1660s the optimal time for the production of the St. Patrick series.175

Other dating evidence pointing to the later 1660s is the production curve for Irish tokens between 1660 and 1674. Local production basically ceased when Armstrong received his grant. The patent contained a strong anti-token provision that was reinforced in 1661 when the Lords Justices prohibited making tokens without a license. Unlike in England, where manufacturers of tokens were tolerated due to the shortage of small change, the 1661 proclamation called for the "pain of such penalties and punishments, as by laws of this kingdom could be justly inflicted."176 As it became obvious that the Armstrong Patent would not succeed, Kinsale reissued its town token farthings in 1661. This was followed in 1662 by the passage of the Viner Patent whereby Ormond was instructed to suppress unauthorized small money. After the recall of the Viner Patent, token production resumed in earnest in 1663. London's contemplation of striking regal coppers in 1665 caused a sharp decline in the utterance of tokens that year. London's failure to pursue the project, compounded by the negative impact that the plague and the Great London Fire had on output at the London Mint, caused an acceleration of Irish token production. This peaked in 1667–1668, at the height of Ormond’s fiscal crisis with the army. Thereafter, the number of tokens uttered declined noticeably, reflecting the appearance of a new supply of money: the St. Patrick coins. Since this infusion of money was modest—Ormond’s correspondence indicates a mintage between £10,000 and £12,000—it was not able to satisfy completely the need for small change and the manufacturing of tokens continued into the 1670s.177

The most significant factor that dates the conception of the St. Patrick series to 1667 is the crisis Ormond faced with an unpaid army where arrears amounted up to a year for many troops. In considering a copper mintage, Ormond’s goal was to satisfy six months of back pay as a means to quell discontent among the troops. By the fall of 1668, His Lordship had met this key objective. As noted in a report by Ireland’s Treasurer, not only had six months in arrears been satisfied, but some soldiers had received additional funds.178 By this arrangement, the crisis with the army had passed with the St. Patrick mintage constituting part of the solution to maintain a loyal army during a difficult period of crisis in Ireland. This was also a transitional period for Ormond. In 1668, he left Ireland at the king’s request in order to become a more effective royal advisor. At this time Charles II faced several problems with his ministers and with the House of Commons. Ormond placed the Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, his son, Lord Ossory, in charge of a caretaker government and set aside any hope for a Dublin Mint.

The period from 1669 onward is also important for its noted decline in the production of non-regal coppers. Lord Robartes, who replaced Ormond as Lord-Lieutenant, took a somewhat disinterested approach to Irish affairs, remaining in England for part of his tenure in office. Fortunately, as the London Mint recovered from the damaging effects of the plague and the Great London Fire, it increased the availability of money. At the same time, England started to review the possibility of minting regal coppers, which would have had a negative effect on the production of the St. Patrick series. As noted in a report to the king, the contemplated regal coins would have an intrinsic value unlike circulating tokens since the king’s intent was "so there might be good money current amongst the poorest of Our Subjects."179 In 1673, the newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant, Lord Essex, proclaimed that henceforth it would be illegal "to make or stamp, or cause to be made or stamped, any brass or copper, or other tokens whatsoever."180 By that year, the mint’s production of regal farthings and halfpence exceeded £60,000. This lessened the viability of making St. Patrick coins, especially in light of the king’s prior proclamation that outlawed all future production of tokens.181 The next year, Essex used various means to increase the supply of new regal coppers in Ireland in order to address the kingdom’s shortage of small change.182

Overall, the St. Patrick series sharply contrasts with other tokens of the era, which often lacked the craftsmanship that resulted from Blondeau’s production methods. Although town or corporation tokens were often made at a higher standard that was achieved by hiring London die makers to produce more professional looking money, none can compare with the St. Patrick series, which was produced using Blondeau’s technology under the hands of experts in the business of manufacturing money.183

End Notes

The Diary of