The Irish Coinage of Edward I, 1276 to 1302
© 2004 - Copyright
Introduction to The Irish Coinage of Edward I, 1276 to 1302
Edward I resumed striking coins like those of Henry III in Dublin in 1276. However the issue was short lived and a major recoinage was started in 1280. The first coinage of Edward I is represented by only about half a dozen surviving coins.
In an issue of 1280 and in five further issues up to 1302 Edward I produced a high quality coinage for Ireland, struck at the English standard, of silver pennies, halfpennies and farthings. As with John's regal issue (~1205) and Henry III's coinage (1251-1254) the pennies were destined to be exported from Ireland in large quantities with a predictable effect on the Irish economy.
Pennies of Edward I of Ireland are relatively common coins. Of the three mints in operation ; Dublin, Waterford and Cork, only Cork coins are rare. Two of the six issues are rare.
The estimate for the total production of coins in Ireland during this reign is about £50,000 (ref). Being derived from surviving records and comparison of specimens quantities with those of English provincial mints. This represents a coinage of about 12,000,000 pennies (only a very small proportion being struck into halfpennies and farthings).
When Edward came to the
English throne in 1272, the long cross coinage of his
father, Henry III, had been in production in England
since 1247. The long cross coinage had only been issued
in Ireland between 1251 nd 1254. In England Edward
continued to issue long cross coins in his father's name
but with differences in style. In 1276 he appointed
Richard Olaf as Mintmaster in Dublin and authorised
another Irish issue. This issue, like the contemporary
English one, was in Henry's name and used the long cross
style. The obverse design was similar to the earlier
Irish issue with the king's head in a triangle (a
practice started in the reign of John). The key
differences in style between this and the earlier coinage
is that the treatment of the king's hair and beard is
more realistic and the cinquefoil to the right has a well
defined centre pellet. Some coins use a Lombardic 'U' as
in hENRICUS and DIUE rather than a Roman 'V' but not all
exhibit this characteristic. As the earlier Henry III
issue exclusively used a 'V' the coins with a 'U' are
more obviously part of the 1276 issue whereas the coins
with a 'V' require additional examination to ensure the
attribution. The coin illustrated above has all the
characteristics including the definitive 'U'.
In 1279 Edward reformed the coinages in both Ireland and England and introduced a new 'cross and pellets' coinage. This coinage was initially struck to a much higher quality than the previous long cross coinage. A very important change in the production of the 'cross and pellets' coinage is that the moneyers name no longer appears on the coins. This is because the control of the mints was much closer than previously.
This coinage saw the introduction of a three denomination system of penny, halfpenny and farthing in Ireland. (In England a groat (four pence) was also produced but was not successful and the denomination was not subsequently introduced in England until 1351 under Edward III). The halfpenny and farthing had been used in Ireland in the final regal issue of John, but their use in England was a relative novelty, there having been only very small and occasional quantities of halfpennies produced during the reign of Henry III an earlier).
A full weight penny of this reign should weigh about 20 grains and is of sterling fineness. The halfpenny weighs half that at 10 grains and is also sterling fineness. The farthing, in a concession to its small size, is slightly debased and weighs correspondingly more at about 6-6½ grains.
This coinage also sees the introduction of more explicit privy, mint or issue marks in the design of the coins. These marks were used in the control and identification of the output of the mint and fortunately they can also be used today to distinguish between the issues. The division of the major coinages into issues combined with the examination of hoard evidence to assist in sequencing the issues and the surviving mint records allows a very precise date or date range to be assigned to the coins of this type.
The division of the pennies into six issues by the use of the privy marks is relatively straight forward, but the halfpennies and farthings are much more problematic. The two main problems being that the small coins left less room for the marks so in some cases there are none and the apparent unfortunate coincidence of pennies of the last three issues sharing a mark with the halfpennies of the first three. This means that the allocation of these smaller coins to issues is often a matter or stylistic differences rather than explicit marks.
There are three distinct issues within this recoinage (1280-1283) and two mints, Dublin and Waterford, were in operation, and three further issues later in the reign (1294-1302) with a third mint, Cork, also in operation.
The total output of these first three Irish issues of Edward probably amounted to about £40,000. The total output of the final three issues probably amounted to about £10,000. The vast bulk of coins produced were pennies. Many of these coins were subsequently exported to England and Europe where they were readily accepted as they were of sterling standard and well made.
The mint in Dublin didn't get into production until 1280 and for the first year or so its production was limited.
The new coin design followed the English standard from the previous year with the cross and pellets reverse design. The obverse design retained the triangle surrounding the portrait rather than the circle used in England. The triangle is inverted so on both sides these coins are quite distinct from earlier Irish pennies of Edward or Henry III.
The first issue is distinguished by a trefoil of pellets below the truncation of the bust (one pellet often being hidden in the drapery) and no symbols before the E of EDW. This first issue was short lived. probably lasting only a few months.
The second issue of the great recoinage was a much more substantial issue than the first. The demarcation between the issues appears to have been some change in control at the mint (ref) and the opening of a second mint a Waterford. The coins produced in both Dublin and Waterford share the same common characteristics of a trefoil of pellets below the bust (again one pellet is often hidden in the drapery), a pellet before the E of EDW and in the case of Dublin coins a Roman 'N' on the reverse. Coins of this second issue are among the most common hammered Irish coins available today.
The Third and final issue of this part of Edward's reign took place in 1283. This issue was probably a direct continuation of the second issue, but the mint choose to mark the coins to distinguish them from the earlier ones. The distinguishing features are again a trefoil of pellets below the bust (often with one hidden in drapery as above), a small cross '+' before EDW on the obverse or a Lombardic 'n' in the reverse legend.
The mint at Waterford did not produce coins of this type.
Many of these coins were also clearly made from a combination of second issue and third issue dies so a coin is considered to a be a third issue coin is it has either a third issue reverse or obverse. It is considered likely that the mint introduced the distinguishing marks on each side to enable an existing workable second issue die to be used in combination with a new third issue die to make use of an overproduction of earlier dies. This gives rise to three possible combinations, the one with the second issue obverse (i.e. a pellet before EDW) and the third issue reverse (a Lombardic 'n') being more common that the other two (i.e.. those with a + before EDW and either reverse)
There is a variety of
this coin which has not been remarked on in any catalog
or publication to date which has a colon (:) before
CIVITAS on the reverse with a Lombardic 'n' in the legend.
Two specimens have appeared in sale catalogs in recent
years (but unremarked and at a regular second! issue
price) and a third is in the collection of the
Bibliotheque National in Paris.
The silver available in Ireland appears to have been mostly used up in Edward's great recoinage of 1280 so by 1283 there was little available silver for striking new coins so the activities of the mints ceased. Ireland was a net exporter of low technology goods (wood, skins etc.,) and was therefore was a net importer of silver coin. In an Dublin run economy this available silver would have been retained to support the emerging local economy and to pay for the import of technology which was improving in England and Europe. As it was Edward's London based economy deprived Ireland of this opportunity by exporting the silver through his coin issues. In more direct terms; the silver was exported by means of rents and duties payable to the crown and individual feudal lords based in England, and it was the availability of a local 'sterling' based coinage that enabled these monies to be paid in coin rather than in goods, which would have by its nature led to a greater retention of the value in Ireland for local improvement. If the Irish coinage of the period had not been so readily and directly acceptable in England and Europe then it is likely that a variable exchange rate would have operated which would have had the effect of balancing the needs of the local economy against the English needs of the crown and overseas title holders. Without the operation of a local 'sterling' standard mint the coinage in circulation in Ireland would have been of sufficiently lower quality to prevent its direct export and foreign acceptability. This point is made no more clearly than by its being the case for the 150 year period after Edward's coinages.
About ten years after the closure of the mints in 1283 there was again sufficient circulating silver in Ireland to justify reopening then.
The fourth issue of Edward I in Ireland saw the reopening of the mints in Dublin and Waterford. - The coins produced are all rare so the issue cannot have been a large one. The key characteristic of this issue is a rose on the breast of the king (in place of the trefoil in the earlier issues). The coins are well made and of good weight. Some of the Waterford coins exhibit a local style of the bust which is characterised by a crown rather resembling a moose's antlers.
The fifth issue, like the fourth issue, was a small one the key reason for distinguishing it is that the mint in Cork opened. This is the only issue produced in Cork but specimens survive from Dublin and Waterford as well, albeit rare. The distinguishing feature is the inclusion of a pellet in all three angles of the obverse triangle. The Cork coins are scarce. It is possible that the dies of this issue were produced in Dublin for the Cork issue and that either a small sample run was produced before they were dispatched to Cork, or more likely that the dies were surplus after the local silver in Cork had been minted and they were returned to Dublin and Waterford where the obverses were used until worn. The existence of halfpennies from Cork supports their production during this issue, though they do not have the characteristic pellets in angles. The Dublin halfpence with the obverse bust similar to the Cork pieces probably also date from this issue and may be the only Dublin halfpence of this issue.
Following the short lived fourth and fifth issues it is possible that all the mints closed again in 1295. Some time later, probably before 1300, the mint in Dublin reopened and produced a much more substantial issue of coins - probably as much as 10,000 pounds worth of pennies - with a much smaller quantity of halfpennies and farthings.
The sixth issue coins exhibit a variety of distinguishing features which suggest that it may have been subdivided into several issues, but the supporting hoard evidence and documentation does not enable the distinction to be easily made at present so the varieties of this issue listed in the catalog may in the future be recognised as issues in their own right. As well as the distinct varieties there are a number of mules. The characteristics of the varieties exist on both sides of the coins which suggest at least two issues with a process of surplus dies being used up as in the second and third issue mules. The size of the lettering on either size appears to be the distinguishing feature if there are actually two separate issues.
The pennies of this final phase all have a single pellet below the king's bust but not in the other angles of the triangle. The coins are generally not as well made as the earlier coins and many exhibit characteristics of lower quality silver being used and of poorer quality control in the smelting process. While these coins are not scarce it is relatively more difficult to find well struck, full and high grade pieces than for the earlier issues.
After about 1302 the
Irish mints appear to have closed and remained so until
1339. Ireland had been so effectively drained of silver
during the thirteenth century by John, Henry III and
Edward I that the local economy lacked the means to
support growth and even possibly support sustained
production. The English kings had effectively 'killed the
goose that laid the golden egg' and suppressed the Irish
economy at the beginning of the first major technological
revolution and the beginning of the renaissance to such
an extent that Ireland did not take part in these events
as it might otherwise have. This activity probably had
beneficial effects from the point of view of preventing
Ireland being difficult to control during the subsequent