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Irish Gun Money Dated by Month and Year
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
March 27, 2013

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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Why are Irish gun money coins dated by the month as well as the year?

James II issued gun money coins in copper, brass or pewter during the Williamite War in Ireland (1689-1691). The intention was to gradually replace them month by month with silver coins following his victory. Soldiers would be able to claim interest on their unpaid wages as well, which had been withheld during the conflict. Unfortunately for James, he lost the war. The base metal coins continued to circulate at discounted values, finally being withdrawn during the early 18th century.

Were Ireland’s gun money coins actually made from melted guns?

James II’s gun money coins were allegedly made from cannons that had been melted; however, other brass objects including church bells appear to have also served as a metal source. There were two issues, the first being of a larger diameter than was the second. For the sake of expediency, some of the small diameter second issue shillings were overstruck on the previous sixpence, while the first issue shillings served as host planchets for the later halfcrowns, and the earlier halfcrowns were overstruck as second issue crowns.

Why do some commemorative foreign coins depict dinosaurs, racing cars, the ship Titanic or other subjects that don’t appear to have any relevance to the country for whose name the coins are being issued?

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The non-circulating legal tender commemorative coin business often focuses on subjects that will sell to specifically targeted markets. The markets targeted may not be coin collectors. Mints, both privately owned and government owned, may contract with a country that is willing, for a fee, to allow the mint to produce and market coins using that country’s name. Looking at the product strictly from a marketing viewpoint, this legitimizes that product as a coin rather than as a medal.

I can understand that a gold bullion coin might be issued in weights/denominations ranging from an ounce to a tenth of an ounce. Why are some issued in such miniscule weights as a 20th or a 25th of an ounce?

There may be a limited collector and investor market for these very low-weight coins, but many of them are made primarily for the jewelry industry.

Is Canada looking to replace its $5 bank note with a circulating coin?

Officially the answer is no, although there may be some behind-the-scenes discussions. Canada is currently preparing to replace its paper composition $5 bank note with a more durable polymer or plastic note that is expected to last much longer in circulation than does the existing issue. A metal coin, of course, can also be expected to survive much longer in circulation than would a paper note.

Why would a country consider issuing a polymer or plastic bank note instead of a metal coin to replace a paper bank note?

Each country needs to look at its individual situation and available resources. Both substitutes make sense, but one nation may have unused available coining capacity, while another might have available security printing capacity. The amount of circulation a specific denomination may experience must also be taken into consideration, as must production, storage, security and distribution costs. These logistics will be different in each circumstance.

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