When I first started collecting Irish copper, I set a goal to complete a “type set” of the coinage struck at the Soho Mint. This set would only consist of three coins (i.e., an 1805 penny, 1805 halfpenny, and 1806 farthing). I limited myself to the business strike examples as I thought they would be more attainable given my budget. Within a year, I had a solid set built, and I have since been upgrading to nicer examples as they come up for sale. For instance, I recently upgraded the farthing from an MS-64 to an MS-66 example. Although the assigned grade is generally of little importance to me, in this case the 66 example was drastically superior to the 64. Likewise, I recently upgraded my penny from a brown (BN) to a red-brown (RB). I purchased both of these pennies raw and had them graded, and I am stoked that it is currently the only RB example graded at either NGC or PCGS. In both of these instances, a future upgrade is highly unlikely. I am still hunting for a suitable upgrade for the halfpenny, but I am in no hurry.
With that set complete, my attention was then drawn to the proofs. My goal was simple, replicate the type set but with all proof examples. I decided to forgo adding gilt specimens as they are often much more expensive, and I generally do not find them particularly interesting. I had already acquired several very nice examples of the 1806 proof farthing by complete happenstance, so I only needed to track down the halfpenny and penny. The halfpenny proved to be a bit more challenging than I initially thought it would be. Most of the examples that came up for sale were gilt proofs, and the handful of non-gilt examples that were available were not very eye appealing. Eventually, a nice raw example came up for auction, and I did not hesitate to pull the trigger. As I often do, I had the coin graded mostly to protect it in the NGC slab and be able to display it in my custom registry sets. I was delighted when it came back with the cameo designation, but I regret not requesting NGC’s photo services as the toning paired with the cameo contrast make this coin a nightmare to photograph. Nonetheless, I have included my less-than-stellar photos here so you all can get a general idea of what it looks like.
I now only lacked the 1805 proof penny, which would prove a sore topic for me until recently. The proof pennies tend to come up for sale much more frequently than either the farthings of halfpennies, which in part made me pickier about adding an example to the collection. I watched several very nice examples pass through various auction houses without placing a bid, mainly because these coins seemed to be selling for very strong prices. I did not want to pay an exorbitant price for a relatively common coin just to complete a set, but I was willing to pay more for an exceptional coin. I told myself that I would go all-in for a nice cameo piece (either graded or raw) or a nice example with the original shells. After a little over a year of searching, I stumbled upon my newest addition, an 1805 proof Irish Penny with the original silver-lined brass shells (pictured below)!
It took me a bit longer than I initially expected, but I am happy to say that both of these type sets are complete! It is also worth noting that this is currently the only Irish piece in my collection that has retained its original shells. As some of you may know, I have a bit of a weakness when it comes to these pieces. For now, I am very excited to have this goal complete, but I may end up building another set in the near future. Maybe this time, I will include the gilt pieces.