Irish Coinage


James I

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James I (1603 to 1607)

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First Issue 1603-1604
Second Issue 1604-1607

© 2010 - Copyright
_ Stafford-Langan
Version 1.17a
23 June, 2010


Introduction to The Irish coinage of James I

When James I came to the throne of England he restored the coinage of Ireland to a better standard with two issues, the first in 1603/04 and the second in 1604/07. These coinages consisted of shillings and sixpences.

After 1607 the Irish economy was again dependent on coinage of a purely English type circulating along with miscellaneous coinages from elsewhere in Europe. Most of these coins were circulating at somewhat below their issue weight and would not have been acceptable to re-export which had the benefit of ensuring their retention in Ireland.

In 1613 James licensed Lord Harrington to produce a quantity of tinned copper farthings for use in England. These coins have a prominent Harp on the reverse and are often called Irish coins. In fact they were the only English coins which were not authorised for circulation in Ireland between 1613 and 1622 when they were finally authorised for use in Ireland as well.

In 1616 the license to produce these farthings was granted to Lord Lennox and their issue continued to the end of James' reign in 1625.

First Issue 1603-1604


Sixpence of James I (mm bell)

James' first issue of coins for Ireland comprised shillings and sixpences struck in good silver but at three quarters of the weight of the then current English coins. The coins carry James' early title as 'King of England Scotland France and Ireland'

The coins are dated by use of an annual mintmark placed at the beginning of the legend. The mintmarks for the first issue are :

Bell - 1603-1604
Martlet (a small bird) 1604.

There are two bust types used on the shilling they are most easily distinguished by the shape of the King's beard which is square cut on the first bust and pointed on the second bust.

The sixpence of this issue has only one bust type which is similar to the first bust on the shilling.

Second Issue 1604-1607


James I - Shilling - Type II - 3rd Bust

James' second Irish issue is distinguished by the change in the obverse legend. These carry the title 'James King of Great Britain, France and Ireland' - the effective change being that England and Scotland are no longer represented separately but are named as 'Great Britain'. The act of union formally uniting the two kingdoms didn't occur until a century later in 1707.

The reverse legend on the shilling also changed to HENRICVS ROSAS REGNA IACOBVS which is James using his link through his Mother, Mary Queen of Scots, to Henry VIII to reinforce his claim to the Irish throne.

The shilling again has two bust varieties, named the third and fourth to avoid confusion with the earlier two. These two busts are most easily distinguished by the decorated shoulder on the third bust compared with the plain shoulder (but with a neck ruff) of the fourth bust.

The sixpence continues the use of a single bust across both issues.

The mintmarks on the coin continue the earlier sequence. the martlet (small bird) was in use for both the first and second issues.

1604-5 Martlet (small bird)
1605-6 Rose
1606-7 Escallop (shell)