I move the Second Reading of the Coinage Bill. Its purpose is to establish a separate and distinctive token coinage for the Saorstát. It is the natural and logical consequence of the setting up of the Saorstát that we should have here a coinage distinctively our own, bearing the devices of this country. There is a certain advantage also in having control even of token coinage in the matter of maintaining a proper supply of coinage and a supply of the right denomination of coinage. There are also very substantial monetary advantages in the issue of token coinage. It is estimated that the face value of the amount of token coins required for the use of the people of this country would be about one million pounds.
There is, or there lately was, in circulation, and in the possession of the banks, in silver and copper, a great deal more than one million pounds. About a year ago, there was, I think, something like one and a half million pounds. But that was much more than was necessary. During the boom years a great deal of silver came into the country. A great deal of silver was required because prices were high and a great deal more money circulated. The result was that quite a considerable amount of silver coinage came into the country. To a large extent, that went gradually out of circulation and some of the banks had a considerable amount of silver coinage stored in their vaults which was not required for the use of the country. I understand that recently the banks have taken steps to get rid of considerable quantities of the silver coinage that they held. Our estimate is that the amount that would serve the country at the present time, and in the immediate future, would be about one million pounds, speaking of the face value of the coins. It might be that, if ten shilling notes went out of circulation, a further sum would be required, but if we estimate that one million pounds worth of token coins—principally silver—would be required, the profit on that would be very considerable.
We propose to issue a coinage containing a higher percentage of silver than the existing British coinage. Up to 1920 British silver coins consisted of 920 parts in 1,000 of silver. By the Act of 1920, that was reduced to 500 parts in 1,000 of silver. That produces a coin which does not look well, which has to have special processes applied to it in the course of manufacture and which, it is believed, will result in its being a coin that will not wear well. Quite a number of recent issues of silver coin by various countries have been in the proportion of 75 per cent. silver and 25 per cent. alloy. We propose to adopt the same proportions. That will give us a coin which will be a much better-looking and a much better-wearing coin than the existing one.
We propose to issue the coins in something like the following proportions:—Half-crowns, 2,888,000; two shilling pieces, 2,700,000; shillings, 3,600,000; sixpences, 3,600,000; three-penny-pieces, 2,000,000; pennies, 12,000,000; halfpennies, 9,600,000; farthings, 4,800,000. The threepenny piece is an inconvenient and unpopular coin and it is thought desirable to replace that by a nickel coin of a somewhat larger size. That involves also the making of our sixpenny pieces of pure nickel somewhat larger than the present sixpenny piece. We believe that by making them of nickel and by having plain edges, instead of milled edges, which the silver coins will have, there will be no likelihood of confusion and that we will have coins that will be somewhat more easily handled than the existing coins. Assuming that we have silver coins consisting of 75 per cent. silver and 25 per cent. alloy, and that we have sixpenny pieces and threepenny pieces consisting of pure nickel, and other coins of bronze, there will be, at the present price of metal, allowing for the cost of mintage, but not for the cost of freight or the cost of insurance in transit, a profit of £624,000.