Rare Irish gold coin expected to fetch £100,000 at London auction
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Rare Irish gold coin expected to fetch £100,000 at London auction

AN EXTREMELY rare example of Ireland’s only gold coinage is expected to fetch up to £100,000 at auction in London next month. 

The coin will go under the hammer on September 15 with coin and medal specialists Dix Noonan Webb.

It is one of only 11 surviving pistoles issued by the Duke of Ormonde, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as an emergency currency during the Great Rebellion of the mid-17th century.

All but two of these are in museums or on public display.

Seven are in the National Museum of Ireland, one is in the Ulster Museum and another is in the collection of the American Numismatic Society in New York.

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The coins were used to pay the Royalist garrison of Dublin by Ormonde, who was Charles I’s representative in Ireland.

They were minted using foreign currency, bullion and even rings and chains which were melted down and converted into unofficial currency.

The coin is being sold along with the rest of a collection of Irish coins of the Great Rebellion 1642–1649 built up by Theo Bullmore - a British chartered accountant who rose to become managing partner in the global financial services company KPMG.

“This is one of the great rarities of Irish coinage," said Dix Noonan Webb’s Will Bennett. “This example is only of two known Ormonde pistoles which are available to the market.”

"It also recalls a turbulent time in the country’s history when the authorities found themselves short of currency and had to resort to unorthodox methods to find a solution."

The pistole, estimated at £80,000 to £100,000 is the most valuable of many rarities in Bullmore’s collection of coins.

These include a ‘Rebel Money’ halfcrown issued by the Confederate Catholics, expected to fetch £10,000 to £12,000 and a Dublin Money crown estimated at £6,000 to £8,000.

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Dix Noonan Webb will also be auctioning the collection of Irish silver coins and tokens 1649-1813 built up by the late Harrington Manville, an American who devoted much of his life to the study of British and Irish coins.

The collection will be sold in 52 lots and could fetch more than £100,000.

The history of Ormonde Money…

The story of Ormonde Money began in the summer of 1646 when the Royalist garrison of Dublin was under pressure from the rebels of the Irish Catholic Confederation.

The Duke of Ormonde, who was Lieutenant-General of the King’s forces in Ireland, was short of money and feared that some of his troops might defect if they were not paid.

With silver plate having long since been taken in for conversion to coins, he issued a Royal Warrant from Dublin Castle in July 1646 ordering that gold was to be melted down and converted into ‘pledges’ to pay the troops.

Some of the gold melted down was from foreign currency, including 10,000 pistoles sent from France by Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I.

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Because of this the pledges came to be known as pistoles or double-pistoles, depending on their size.

Demand for this currency persisted and in February 1647 Ormonde issued another Warrant calling in rings, chains and other pieces of gold for coining.

These pledges are the only gold coinage of Ireland.