Designing New Bank Coins

Top row: the Europa Star; Charles Parsons; Bottom row: Ha’Penny Bridge and Eileen Gray commemorative coins


The Central Bank goes to considerable trouble in selecting designs for new Irish coins and recently introduced a new website where the public can buy collector coins online – see But how do the original designers of new coins fare out of this elaborate process?

In September 2018, the Central Bank of Ireland will issue a €15 silver proof collector coin to commemorate 100 years since women won the right to vote in Ireland and the bank has published the usual precise conditions for artists and designers who may wish to participate in the design process. The only detail lacking in the public notice is the amount the artists are to be paid.

Design work for coins, as indeed for stamps, is a very precise skill and on average about a dozen such artists choose to apply for any particular new design. The most recurring names on the winning list in recent years have included Rory Breslin, Noel Hoare, Michael Guilfoyle, Alan Ardiff, Emmet Mullins and Thomas Ryan. On average only three or four new coins will be issued annually. Last year Antonella Napolione designed the Ha’Penny Bridge silver coin and Sebastian Mikolajczak the Jonathan Swift silver coin. The flip side of all new coins continues to be the Irish Harp designed by Percy Metcalfe for the original set of eight Irish coins in 1928. It turns out that shortlisted candidates receive a design fee of €2,000 and the winning candidate receives a further payment of €5,000 which seems like a piffling amount for such a prestigious design that may persist for centuries. Of course, the bank should be more proactive in promoting this special coinage the total issue of which is aimed primarily at the very small collectors’ market. The annual mint set of coins which for last year featured Irish Lighthouses and the Coast Guard costs only €29 which makes them ideal as school prizes at all levels and should be promoted as such. Meantime the Institute of Designers in Ireland (where Kim Mackenzie Doyle is the current President) should make it his business to have the fee for winning coin designs at the Central Bank doubled at least.

John Mulcahy is Editor of the Irish Arts Review