World Coins

Rare Irish pattern penny from 1927 stars in London auction

A pattern bronze penny from Ireland soared during Dix Noonan Webb’s March 3 auction in London, realizing the equivalent of $23,153 U.S.

Primary coin images courtesy of Dix Noonan Webb. Background from

A rare pattern penny for Ireland’s first coinage soared during Dix Noonan Webb’s March 3 auction in London.

The 1927 pattern penny realized £17,360 ($23,153 U.S.) including the 24% buyer’s fee, against the estimate of £4,000 to £5,000 ($5,335 to $6,668 U.S.).

The pattern features a design by Roman sculptor Publio Morbiducci, who was among a slate of artists around the world asked to submit designs in a contest to dress Ireland’s 1928 series of coins.

The roster of invited artists included Ivan Mestrovic, Paul Manship and James Earl Fraser (who declined to participate), according to W.B. Yeats and the Designing of Ireland’s Coinage, published in 1972 by the Government of Ireland, with an introduction by Brian Cleves.

Design contest details

All of the designers were tasked with depicting the same theme, a roster of barnyard animals, as determined by the Irish Coinage Committee. The bronze penny was to feature a harp on the obverse and hens and chickens on the reverse.

Morbiducci did not win the contest, and the exact number of patterns depicting his designs are unknown, according to Dix Noonan Webb, though in 1976, only three pattern pennies were believed to exist in bronze, the firm said.

The winner was Percy Metcalfe, whose designs graced the coins for decades.

The Morbiducci pattern was part of a collection amassed between 1972 and 1978 and was being offered at auction for the first time.

The majority of items in the sale were acquired by collectors from Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and this coin as well was purchased by an Irish collector.

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