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PCGS Set Registry: Irish Gunmoney

By Sanjay Gandhi - April 5, 2023

PCGS MS63 1690 May ½ Crown Irish Gunmoney. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

When Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96 on September 8, 2022, she had served as Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch for a little over 70 years. There have been 62 monarchs over a period of 1,200 years in England’s history and the inaugural coronation ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey in 1066. William The Conqueror was the first monarch to be crowned, and the formalities remain almost unchanged to this day. Fast forward 619 years, when James II was crowned in Westminster Abbey on April 23, 1685. A practicing Catholic, he and his faith were on a collision course with the English Parliament.

His daughter Mary Tudor, a Protestant, was next in line for the throne, and therefore James II was at least tolerated by the English. However, when James II had a newborn son, who was Catholic, the successor to the throne changed to the junior offspring. Politicians had tolerated enough and welcomed William of Orange to "invade" England. When William arrived in England on November 15, 1688, King James’s officers joined William, and James dared not to engage his weakened army into battle. Louis XIV had offered military assistance to James, but he declined.

Mary, who was James’s daughter and married to William, was the heiress to the throne. James fled England and went into exile to France December 23, 1688. On February 12, 1689, England declared that James II self-abdicated the throne, offering the monarchy to William and Mary, who became king and queen, respectively. In March 1689, James II landed in Ireland and Parliament declared him the king of Ireland. Gunmoney coinage was introduced to Ireland in 1689 by James II, who was the former king of England. In an attempt to regain the English throne, the king had to pay his newly formed army to support his strategic endeavors. James II introduced token coinage consisting of base metals obtained from scrap items, such as old church bells, fencing, broken cannons, and guns.

PCGS AU50 1690 Crown Irish Gunmoney. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Though many different objects were used to mint this type of coinage, the name “Gun Money” or “Gunmoney” was derived from guns – among the many objects used for making the coinage. This early use of clad coinage is similar to the clad coinage that circulates today. However, the refining techniques used varied in consistency, and coinage could be struck with many metals mixed together. Some consisted of bronze, copper, pewter, bismuth, and mixtures unknown. Coinage that survives today could appear green, brown, yellow, slate gray, and a hodgepodge of colors blended together. Silver and gold coins were struck as specimens and are considered extremely rare.

The standard calendar used in most parts of the world today consists of a 12-month year and is known as the Gregorian calendar. Dating for Gunmoney was based on the Roman calendar. In 753 BC, Romulus became the first king of Rome and is credited with the invention of the Roman calendar. The New Year started with the month of March and ended in December, and one year consisted of 10 months. January and February were not in this dating system as they are in the present-day calendar. Denominations included in the series were the sixpence, shilling, halfcrown, and crown.

An interesting factoid about Gunmoney is that not only was it dated with the year, but each coin also displays the correlating month when it was minted, with the exception of the 1690 Crown. If James II regained the throne of England, he promised to redeem Gunmoney in the form of silver. James II most likely wanted these redemptions to occur in an orderly fashion, thwarting any attempts for a “run” on the bank that would usurp silver supplies quickly. Hence, redemptions would have started with coins dated 1689 March and ended with those bearing dates from summer of 1690.

PCGS UNC Details 1689 August Shilling Irish Gunmoney. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView. Click image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, James II was not successful in his campaign to regain the throne, Gunmoney became worthless, and patrons were unable to redeem their token for the promised silver. However, these coins provide us with collectibility, and unique numismatic history for collectors to study and potentially discuss. Hoards of Irish Gunmoney are still being unearthed today in Ireland, and strict laws apply to each new discovery.

Building a complete date set will certainly challenge our members, but we offer an Irish Gunmoney Type Set, Circulation Strikes (1689-1690) for the beginner that seeks to start a collection of these interesting pieces. Advanced collectors seeking more challenging sets to build can choose from the Irish Gunmoney Sixpence and Shilling Set, Circulation Strikes (1689-1690) and the Irish Gunmoney 1/2 Crown and Crown Set, Circulation Strikes (1689-1690). The PCGS Set Registry continues its steady growth with over 158,000+ sets built by our members. We thank you for your ongoing support – our success is because of you, our members. Best of luck in building your sets in 2023. Happy Collecting!

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