In 1928 the newly independent Irish
Free State issued a magnificent set of 8 Irish coins from the farthing (a
quarter of a penny) up to the half crown (two shillings and sixpence) as
Ireland’s new currency. Each coin had a different bird, fish or animal on the
reverse, and all had a common obverse with the Irish harp and date. They
circulated in Ireland (and Northern Ireland) alongside the equivalent English
The shilling, florins (two shillings)
and half-crown coins were minted in 75% pure silver. However, in 1943 during
the Second World War the price of silver rose so much, that the coins were
worth more for their silver content, than their face value. Accordingly, it was
decided to return all the florins and half crowns minted in 1943 (there were no
shillings) to the Royal Mint in London to be melted down. That was the end of
the story – until 1968 when a 1943 Irish half crown was discovered in
circulation. This was a coin that should not have existed – so the hunt was on!
Eventually an estimated 500 were discovered before all the half crowns were
withdrawn from circulation at the end of 1969.
It is thought that one £100 mint bag
of 800 1943 half crowns (or two bags at most) had not been sent back and was released
into circulation by the Central Bank in the early 1950s.
Check out Lot 500 at O’Reilly’s next
monthly auction on Wednesday March 25th. One of these elusive 1943
Irish half crowns is on offer with a modest guide price of €150 – €250.