Irish halfpenny of the St. Patrick type

This find was unearthed by Colin Pearson. It wouldn’t win a prize in a beauty contest but what it lacks in glamour is more than made up for in its scarcity and interest.

Coin’s find measures 28mm in diameter and is an example of an Irish halfpenny of the St. Patrick type. Others may have been found but this is the first one reported to me by a detectorist.

Much of the detail doesn’t show up but I will describe the coin as if it does. On the obverse King David is depicted playing a harp; above is a crown and the legend usually reads FLOREAT REX , which translates as ‘May the king prosper’. On the reverse the standing figure of St. Patrick, with the accoutrements of a bishop, preaches to a group of people. To the right of St. Patrick is a shield bearing the arms of Dublin and the legend reads ECCE GREX, which translates as ‘Behold the flock’.

Halfpennies and farthings of the St. Patrick type were struck in the 1670s. In 1681 Mark Newby arrived in the New Jersey Province of North America. Newby brought with him a quantity of St. Patrick halfpennies and in May of 1682 they were authorised to pass as legal tender. They were the earliest copper coins authorised to circulate in New Jersey. Because of their connection with North America they are of interest today to collectors in the USA.

St. Patrick type coins also circulated in the Isle of Man. The fact that Colin found a specimen in England suggests that at least a few also circulated here. In its present condition it would not be worth much in cash terms but it is certainly a very interesting and unusual detecting find.

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