"Wood's Hibernia" half-penny

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  • Struck by: William Wood
  • London or Bristol, England
  • 1723
  • Copper
  • Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Edward W. West
  • 2002-63

A prosperous copper and tin mine owner from Staffordshire, England, William Wood mistakenly thought that a royal patent to produce coins for Ireland and the American colonies would make him rich. Despite the pressure Wood expended to have King George I grant his requests, His Majesty's mistress, the Duchess of Munster and Kendal, absconded with the royal warrants and actually held the pieces of parchment hostage.

Wood was forced to pay £10,000 to the Duchess as ransom for the release of his patent to strike Irish halfpennies and farthings. Since George I never consulted the Irish Parliament, the issue was taken as an insult and the coins were soundly rejected. After royal orders withdrew Wood's Irish coins from circulation in 1737, profiteers bought and shipped them to America as "casks of hard ware," where some still circulated as late as the1860s.

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