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Gunmoney Issues of James II

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The “Gunmoney” issues of James II is included here, as they were “token” in nature, and quite fascinating.  Charles II died with no legitimate heir to the throne, and his brother James, Duke of York, came to the throne as James II. King James II was Catholic — and the Protestants of England did not care for him. A son and heir was born to James II, at which time the people appealed to William, Prince of the house of Orange in the Netherlands, requesting that he take the English throne. Lacking the support of the people, James II fled to France, where he gathered an army and returned to Ireland. His aim was to invade England from Ireland, and retake the English throne.

One problem facing James was lack of funds to support the army he headed. James established mints at Dublin and Limerick and issued a token coinage consisting of Crowns, Halfcrowns, Shillings, and sixpence. These were struck in 1689 and 1690, bearing not only the year but also the month of manufacture. The coins were to be redeemed by his followers in Sterling, and with interest, when he re-took the throne. The month placed on the “coins” was to aid him in knowing how long the piece had been held, and what to pay.

They were first struck from metal obtained from obsolete field cannons, thus the term “Gunmoney” — though any metal he could get was fair game, and many were struck using bells, cooking pots, pans, and scrap. Later issues were reduced in size because of this shortage, and many pieces were overstruck on other tokens and coins, as well as struck in pewter — this latter being quite rare today.

The calendar in use at the time was what is called “old style” — or OS — where the new year started on March 26th. Thus, the tokens struck in March 1689 and those struck in March 1690 were actually struck in the same month.

William, installed on the throne of England as William III, invaded Ireland and defeated James at the Battle of Boyne River. He seized the mint at Dublin, eventually demonetizing the token coinage in 1691.  The mint at Limerick held out for James well into 1691, and continued to coin “Gunmoney” in its smaller forms until late that year. James fled to France, and died there in exile.

The token money itself, having been demonetized so soon after manufacture, is thus fairly common.  It can be hard to find some of the issues in higher grades.  Technically, the pieces do not fit with most of the other token money listed on this site — but they are tokens, nonetheless, and quite interesting in the historical perspective.

The actions of James II and William III have relevance to the present day. William III gave lands in Ireland to his Protestant followers who helped defeat James II in 1690 — to this day they call themselves “Orangemen”, after William of Orange.  The Catholic population and the Protestant population wound up in a divided country, and to this day the problems between them stem from these actions taken over 300 years ago. Hopefully, recent actions taken by the two factions will result in a lasting peace. 

A Note on Siege Money Tokens

During the great rebellion of 1642-9 — and especially in the early years — cities, castles, and forts would find themselves under siege by an opposing army. Needing change for use, large amounts of silver plate was melted down, cut into pieces, and stamped for use of the city or castle under siege. Nearly all of these issues were quite crude, and are all fairly rare today. Since most of them were silver issues, they will not be covered here. See the bibliography for recommended reading.

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