World Coins: Ireland Republic 1961 Half Crown

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader on 9/19/2011

Small details can turn a coin into a desired and valued piece.

Sometimes the smallest details can make a big difference in both price and collector desirability. This is especially true in numismatics where a common coin can sometimes turn out to be a rare variety and a treasure. The Ireland Republic 1961 Half Crown is considered a common coin; however, small details can turn it into a desired and valued piece.

The 1961 Ireland Republic Half Crown is a fairly common coin with a mintage of 1,600,000. Yet a rare variety exists that is numismatically known as a mule. A mule is when two dies are paired together accidentally (or on purpose) to create a piece that shouldn’t normally exist with that design combination. This is what happened on the Ireland Republic 1961 Half Crown.

The Ireland Republic Half Crown coins have a common design that started in 1928 and ended in 1967 with the discontinuation of the half crown when Ireland converted to a decimal system. The design features the common Irish Harp and a horse on the reverse. As often happens, the design changed over the years with regards to spacing, letter shape and bead counts.

What makes the 1961 mule so interesting is that a reverse design die, unmodified and retired from use since 1937, was used. While the design of the horse does not differ much from the normal 1961 design, it is hard to believe that a left over die or a new die was hubbed using the old design and put into use 24 years later by accident. The difference may not have been noticed by the mint at the time, but Derek Young, editor of Irish Numismatics, first made the discovery in 1967.

The pickup point for most numismatists is the designer initials “PM.” On the normal 1961 Half Crown, the “PM” is small and fits under the horse’s hind hooves. On the mule, the “PM” is larger and the “P” is not under the hooves.

left: Standard; right: Mule
Click image to enlarge.

Another difference is the style of the “2s6d." On the mule the 6 has a pointed interior and the “d” does not touch the vertical bar on the top. On the normal 1961 Half Crowns the 6 is squared off inside and the “d” is closed and fully connected. In addition, the horse’s tail on the mule has 8 strains while the normal issues have 7. There are also several differences in the lettering design.

While Ireland Republic 1961 Half Crowns are common and mules are still found today by sharp-eyed collectors, the grade plays a major factor in rarity and value. The 1961 Half Crown was a circulating coin and because the variety wasn’t discovered for over 6 years, many coins of the issue circulated. Uncirculated examples are elusive and are in high demand among Irish collectors.

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