Irish Coinage

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2004 - Copyright
John
_Stafford-Langan
Version 1.12
6th October, 2004

  Coin weights are weights which were designed to be used to check the weight of a gold or silver coin during a transaction.

In the seventeenth and eighteeenth centuries there was an extensive series of locally produced weights available to Irish merchants. These weights were designed to be used to check the weight of many of the more common gold coins and a few silver coins which were in use in Ireland.


Coin Weight for 8dwt and 16grs from the 1714 standard
for a Spanish double pistole

In association with the weight and the scales the merchant would refer to a table of values in Irish pounds shillings and pence of each coin and an accompanying note indicating how much was to be decremented from the value of the coin for each grain it was below the minimum weight.


A table from an early 18th Century Weight Standard (about 1720).

Because there was a wide variety of foreign coin in circulation and many of which were produced to a different fineness (or carat in modern terms) a merchant who did not understand how to use weights and determine the local value correctly could be at a significant disadvantage.


An Irish 18th Century coin scales with its box

The authority to produce weights was granted to a series of local goldsmiths. Typically every few years, and often at the turn of a reign the standards were adjusted. Irish coin weights often carry a date which is generally the date of the standard or license they are derived from rather than their year of manufacture. So for example a weight dated 1714 could have been produced anytime between 1714 and 1723 when a new standard set of values was devised.


Coin Weight for 5dwt and 5grs from the 1751 standard

Irish coin weights of the 17th and 18th centuries are generally made of brass. The weights which were most commonly produced were those designed for weighing the most common coins in circulation (typically English Guineas and Half Guineas) whilst weights for more obscure coins were produced in smaller quantities and are consequently scarcer. This having been said I have seldom seen the modern value of a coin weight take the scarcity of the particular denomination into account, and there is very little published to support the casual collector. Though there is a book from Galata which gives a great deal of detailed information about the series.

The normal range of dates encountered in Irish coin Weights is from 1680 through 1760. Examples from before 1680 are generally scarce and examples from after 1760 are usually undated though they often carry the makers monogram and therefore can be dated. The practice of having a wide range of weights for foreign coins died out in the early ninteenth century as the circulation of foreign coin was reduced and eventually eliminated by about 1830.