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17th-Century Farthing Trade Tokens

The copper money of Ireland is earlier in date than that of England; pennies and halfpennies of that metal having been issued by command of Queen Elizabth. The patent farthings of James I and Charles I circulated equally in both countries. Soon after the Restoration, Charles II granted a patent to Sir Thomas Armstrong for coining copper farthings; those which were issued by him average twenty-five grains in weight; but as he was not allowed by the chief Governor of Ireland to make use of his grant, very few were struck.

The five pieces of money of necessity, as called by Dr. Aquilla Smith, stand first in order of date, having been issued in 1646. Six varieties are known, three of which are dated, and were struck at Youghal and Cork. The Kerry town-piece, No. 503, is the same shape and rude execution, and may have been struck about the same time, or even earlier.

As the tokens of this kingdom are not numberous, they are placed in the alphabetical order of the towns. All the thirty-two counties issued them except Mayo; for the County of Clare there is only one; Fermanagh is only represented by Enniskillen; Leitrim has but one token, issued at Manorhamilton; Longford, three tokens, of Bellinalee, Edgworthstown, and Longford. The city of Dublin issued one hundred and fifty, about one-fifth of the entire number; the Metropolis of Ireland consequently occupies a lower position in regard to that kingdom than the Metropolis of England does to the whol country, the latter having nearly one-third the entire series. The county of Antrim has seventy tokens distributed among twelve towns; Cork forty-two tokens to fourteen towns; and Tipperary thirty-one tokens to ten towns. Town-pieces were issued in Bandon, Belfast, Cork, Dingle, Dublin, Dundalk, Kerry, Killkenny, Kinsale, Limerick, Waterford and Youghal.

The Irish tokens are very different from those of England, in being generally of a smaller size, in proportion to their value, and in the great preponderance of pennies, many of them being no larger than the smallest English farthings; the business of the issuer is commonly expressed by the word MERCHANT, which is rarely found on those of England.

Two proclamations were issued in 1661, prohibiting the issue of tokens; this will acount for the rarity of the dates 1660, 1661, and 1662, of which years this list furnishes but two examples, viz., Hen. Coker, of Drogheda, 1660, and Thomas Cook, of Michelstown, 1661. In 1663 they seemed to have been issued as before, and were continued til 1673, when, on October 17, a proclamation forbade anyone to issue them without license from his Majesty; this seems to have checked their circulation. Probably about this period some of the older tokens were counterstruck, to make them pass at a lower value. There are twenty-two tokens of various dates from 1673 to 1679, but they are of a different style of work; two of them issued at Cork and Kinsale, have inscribed edges.

In 1680 Sir Thomas Armstrong obtained another patent from the King to make copper halfpence. When a sufficient quantity had been struck by the patentee, the Lord-Lieutenant, by a proclamation, declared them the current coin of the realm, and forbade the use of traders' tokens, and from this time their circulation appears to have ceased.

Dr. Aquilla Smith, M.R.I.A., of Dublin, has most obligingly given me descriptions of the principal portion of the Irish tokens, placing at my disposal the whole of the very valuable manuscripts and the stores of accumulated information on the subject, the result of many years of labour. I am also indebted to Mr. J. Davis White, of Cashel; the Rev. Canon Hayman, of Youghal; Mr. R. Malcolmson, of Carlow; the Rev. Canon Grainer, D.D.; W. Fraser, Esq.; and W. J. Gillespie, Esq., and others for constant and most kindly aid, and for many particulars of tokens from their cabinets, and of valuable notes as to issuers. To each and to all my hearty thanks are respectfully tendered.

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