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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 17 September, 2014

Going for gold: 400 year-old coins go on display at National Museum

Eighty one gold coins belonging to a seventeenth century merchant have gone on display at the National Museum of Ireland. Very little chocolate is said to be inside them.

THE ACCUMULATED WEALTH of an entire seventeenth century family has gone on display at the National Museum.

The collection of eighty one gold coins was discovered in Carrick-on-Suir in January by five construction workers; David Kiersey, Shane Comerford, Tom Kennedy, Shane Murray and Patrick McGrath, while they were undertaking ground works on Main Street in the town.

The men, as well as their friends and families were on hand, along with Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, to witness the coins going on display.

Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum, Collins Barracks, Eamonn Kelly says that the hoard likely belonged to a member of the Catholic merchant class who was preparing to flee the country.

Minister Jimmy Deenihan is shown the coins by Eamonn Kelly

“The coins come from a particularly troubled era in Irish history, spanning the end of the Cromwellian war (1649-53) to the beginning of the Williamite war (1689-91) and the Penal Laws, which whacked Catholics, were in full effect,” Kelly told TheJournal.ie.

The theory we have is that the person was a member of the merchant class who was a very careful saver. The fact that all of the coins are Guinea coins tells us a lot. These coins were ninety one per cent gold and were accepted all over Europe and in America, so if the person who owned the coins ever had to leave Ireland in a hurry, they would have acceptable money.

The men who found the coins were all thanked by Minister Deenihan, who praised their “honesty and civic responsibility” in handing the coins over to the relevant authorities. Kelly echoed that sentiment, but was quick to dismiss the notion that reporting the coins to the authorities meant a loss of money.

“We have valued the coins, but wouldn’t want to say how much they’re worth just yet, but the lads won’t have lost anything by reporting it to the authorities.

“The State is often more generous than the black market because it encourages good citizenship.”

All images courtesy of Maxwell Photography

Read: Dead treasure hunter’s loot of 899 artefacts returned to Irish museum

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