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Irish Political Tokens (Holyhead Collection)

This group of coins was recovered by an English metal detectorist on Penrhos Beach near Holyhead, Isle of Anglesey, Wales starting in 2016 and continuing until today. Holyhead, which lies on the shores of the Irish Sea, is the site of the major ferry connection between the UK and Dublin, Ireland.

While one can only wonder how they became scattered about on the beach there, the seller and I were in agreement at the time as to the likelihood of an Irish connection because of their proximity to the ferry. Only later I came across the likely explanation.

While researching further, I discovered this exchange in October, 2012 between two men on a website that explores Dublin culture called in regard to a "UVF" counterstamped coin given to a member named Donal by his father.

In a reply to the post a man named Brian Hanley said the following. "I had a few of these, you always seemed to come back from the Holyhead ferry with them, both Irish and English coins. I seem to remember you could use English coins here anyway."

If these coins were as common as attested to by Mr. Hanley, then this perhaps explains the appearance of a substantial number of them found in the Holyhead area. Perhaps they were dumped overboard from the ferry, and were later washed ashore. It was illegal to stamp political messages on coins during the Troubles, so perhaps it was thought prudent by someone to dispose of them.

Penrhos Beach is slightly southeast of the Stena Line ferry's route to and from Holyhead. According to Mr. Rainford, all the finds come from a very small area of the beach (about 100 square yards) and are most commonly found after storms have removed sand or relocated it.

All specimens in this group show varying degrees of environmental damage.

According to the seller, those found away from the water deeper in the sand were better preserved than those dug near the water closer to the surface. Being more exposed, they would have been effected by the movement of the surf and their proximity to rocks and debris.

Unfortunately, some of the coins appear to have been cleaned, but natural conditions such as wind and blowing sand may have polished them as well.

Note the full collection catalog at

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