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National Museum of Ireland Displays Carrick-on-Suir Gold Coin Hoard

Jimmy Deenihan TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht formally opened the display of recently discovered 17th Century gold coins from Carrick-on-Suir. The hoard will go on display in the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks from today.

Carrick-on-Suir Gold Coin Hoard
Carrick-on-Suir Gold Coin Hoard

The hoard was discovered on 14th January 2013 by David Kiersey, Shane Comerford, Tom Kennedy, Shane Murray and Patrick McGrath during ground works being undertaken at Main Street, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary. The families and close friends of the finders were invited to the Museum today to witness the coins being placed on display for the general public. The coins are reported to have been “in a line together” in the ground and may have been wrapped and held together by some material which has not survived.

The find consists of 81 gold coins dating to the reigns of Charles II (1660-85), James II (1685-8), William and Mary (1688-94) and William III (1694-1702). There are 77 guinea and 4 half guinea coins present, with the earliest dating to 1664 and the latest to 1701. The Guinea was a British gold coin minted by the Royal Mint between 1663 and 1814. ‘Guineas’ were so-called because the gold used in making some of them came from Guinea, West Africa and they were minted in four denominations (a half, one, two and five).

When first introduced the value of the guinea was 1£ (20 shillings), however the value of the coin fluctuated with the value of gold. In 1717, the value of the guinea was set officially at 21 shillings. At the time the hoard was buried an agricultural labourer could command a wage payment of 1s per day. The hoard therefore represented in excess of 6 years wages for an agricultural labourer.

The Carrick-on-Suir Hoard probably represents the accumulated wealth of a single family over a number of generations, and was collected in the period following the Cromwellian War down to the end of the decade following the Williamite War. It is not known why the hoard was hidden but it is possible that its wealthy Catholic owner may have considered it necessary to hide his portable assets in response to the imposition of the Penal Laws. Many other scenarios are possible and further research is being conducted to try to establish the historical background of the hoard.

No comparable 17th century hoard of gold coins has been found in Ireland since the discovery in Portarlington, Co. Laois, around 1947, of a hoard that contained a little over 100 gold coins, as well as some silver coins. These are on display in the exhibition, Airgead, a Thousand Years of Irish Coins & Currency, First Floor, South Block, Benburb Street, Dublin 7.