Copper alloy coin
Irish Penny

Minted in London during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, these coins provided Ireland with small coinage while keeping silver in England. (Small silver denominations had been absent from the Irish currency since early in King Henry VII’s reign.)

These coins were produced with three different mint marks – a trefoil, a star, and a martlet. In the Jamestown collection, the star mint mark is most commonly identified. Irish pennies and halfpennies with the star mint mark were produced between May 20, 1601 – May 24, 1602.

People in Ireland rejected these coins, thus raising the question of how these artifacts got to Virginia. Did they come in the pockets of individuals who either had seen military service in Ireland or had been involved with the English settlement of Ireland in the early 17th century? Or were these coins a cheap way for London to satisfy the colonists’ need for small change? In addition to this use, these copper objects would have also been valuable items for trade with the Native Americans. A total of 125 copper Irish pennies, and 16 copper Irish halfpennies have been found at Jamestown, making Irish coinage the most common early 17th century currency in the settlement.