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2000 Millennium Punt Silver Proof

Summary
ID Number: 5356
Category: Modern Bank of Ireland Sets
Catalogue Number: 2000 Millennium Punt Silver Proof
Grade: Gem Proof
Weight: 20 g. Silver 0.925 Fine
Date: 2000 Sterling Silver
Denomination: One Punt
Price: $45.
Additional Details
2000 Millennium Punt Silver One Punt Proof.  Struck as a piedfort or very thick coin in Sterling Silver 0.925 fine, 20 g., 31.1 mm., edge engrailed.  In lucite case of issue in black plush box with official Central Bank of Ireland certificate.  95,000 Proof Coins Issued.

The design of the Millennium One Punt was by Alan Ardiff and Garrett Stokes.  They faced a heavy challenge on many fronts, and they excelled on all.  The bar for Irish coin design had been set rather high by poet W.B.Yeats and artist Pearcy Metcalf's harp and animal design of 1927, introduced to Ireland's circulating coinage in 1928.  The millennium need was to commemorate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ in a secular manner.  Departing from the seventy plus year successful animal theme was an adventure in design.  First, the subject matter was the Broighter Boat, a gold model ship found in Feb, 1896 in Broighter, Co. Derry, near the shores of Lough Foyle, and currently housed in the National Museum of Ireland.  This was part of a hoard of seven gold objects of mixed geographic origin, believed to originate in the First Century B.C.  The mast of the ship was used stylistically as the symbol for the cross, with the cross bar canted to give the perspective of looking to the two stars in the field above to the right of the mast of the ship.

This design met the first criteria of being a wholly secular rendition depicting navigation in a boat using the stars, the perfect secular theme for a seafaring nation.  But the scheme lends unshakably to one depicting travel from the ship's origin in the First Century to the Stars, via the Cross.  In 1928 there was criticism, by certain Catholic priests, that the harp and animal coinage was too pagan for the Christian nation of Ireland.  This criticism was silenced by the quiet revelation that the harp was the harp of David, and therefore, the harp of Psalm.  And any casual reading of the Psalms would find numerous references to the animals, and everything that breathed, praising the Lord. 

Thus, when the Millennium designers departed from the time tested animal theme, they took quite a risk.  The pressure to depict and commemorate a religious theme was far greater in 2000, than in 1927 and 1928.  Everything in this design points to the stars, and again, if one flips the coin to the harp, and ponders, it is still the harp of David.  And if time travel is a not so hidden theme, then the time scheme perhaps needs be broadened, not from the First Century B.C., or even from the time of the psalmist and musician, David, but from the time of the desert voyager, Abraham, 14 generations earlier, in Genesis 15:5,   " And he brought him forth abroad, and said , Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be."

So, it might be said that the Millennium Harp and Broighter Boat design is not so much a departure from the animal theme, but a return to the more basic ancient theme.  One of my favorite coin designs of all time, and the last new Irish coin design prior to the introduction of the Euro.
Photos
Obverse side
Princess Kaiulani Collection
Reverse side
Princess Kaiulani Collection
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