Airgead: A Thousand Years of Irish Coins & Currency

The story of coins and money in Ireland from the 10th century to the present day.


Medieval coins and coin-hoards, to modern banknotes; tokens and medals; the development of paper money from the 18th century to the present; credit cards and internet banking: the purpose of Airgead exhibition is to place coins in their historical, social, and economic context. 

Airgead examines the manner in which the lives of people were influenced by the use of money and how money in turn reflected social and economic trends. With regard to the medals, it explores their historical significance in their own right and throws light on some of the lesser-known events and aspects of Irish history.

Location: National Museum of Ireland - Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks, First Floor, South Block, Benburb St, Dublin 7. 

Exhibition highlights

  • The first Irish coinage struck by the Dublin Vikings
  • The rare gold pistoles of the 1640s
  • The infamous 'gunmoney' of King James II
  • The pastercasts submitted for the Free State coinage of 1928.

Questions that the Airgead exhibition asks

  • How and why did coinage develop in Ireland?
  • What were the political, geographic and economic factors influencing coin usage?
  • How did major political events such as the Act of Union and the foundation of the modern Irish State affect contemporary coinage?

A timeline with relevant coins is used to tell the story of Irish coinage in chronological form, while specific issues are explored in greater depth in the main gallery spaces. 

The use of graphics, magnification, enlargement and interactives help to bring the material to life and allows the visitor to examine the subject in detail.

950-1450: Vikings, Normans and Medieval Mints

950-1450: Vikings, Normans and Medieval Mints

Read how the earliest Irish coinage was imported by the Vikings and how, later, both the Vikings and the Normansminted their own money.

1450-1800: Regional Mints and the Tudors, Stuarts and Williamites

1450-1800: Regional Mints and the Tudors, Stuarts and Williamites

Learn how regional mints developed, as well as what Irish coinage tells us about various eras in English history.

1800-2001: Union and Independence

1800-2001: Union and Independence

Explore coinage of the 19th and 20th centuries as Ireland first toiled under British rule, then marked independence with its own distinctive punt currency.

2013: Hoard of Gold Coins from Tipperary

2013: Hoard of Gold Coins from Tipperary

Read details of one of the most significant finds of 17th century gold coins ever discovered in Ireland.