Thursday 21 November 2019

From whisky bottles to granny's purse...Find the hidden treasure lying around your home


'The Quiet Man' was filmed in Co Mayo
'The Quiet Man' was filmed in Co Mayo
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

This coming St Patrick's weekend will see many of us dig out - and wear or display - our Irish keepsakes and accessories.

While doing so, keep your eye out for any rare Irish mementos in your home as they could be worth thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of euro. Here are some Irish keepsakes and day-to-day things from the past that might earn you a small fortune at auction.


The 1985 20p coin, which depicts a horse, could be worth between €5,000 and €7,000 at auction, according to Ian Whyte, managing director of Whyte's Auctioneers. These coins were used to test the old pay phones and vending machines, and so your chances of coming across one are very slim. "These coins are very rare," said Whyte. "However, if you had a relative working in Telecom Eireann in the '80s, they may have had one."

Another old Irish coin which is very valuable and rare is the 1943 two-shilling piece - also known as the Irish floirin. "This coin could be worth anything from €5,000 to €15,000 - depending on its condition," said Whyte.

Maureen O'Hara's Quiet Man jacket
Maureen O'Hara's Quiet Man jacket

Indeed, it's worth checking out any Irish silver coin minted before 1945 as they could be valuable.

If you are lucky enough to come across a Viking coin which dates back to 900AD, it could be worth tens of thousands of euro. Last March, a rare Viking penny cast during the reign of the Viking king Sitric sold for about €14,000 (£12,000) at a British auction. Sitric had initially ruled in Dublin before moving to Britain. In Ireland, a rare helmet-type Viking coin with a picture of King Sitric sold for €12,000 in 2011.


An old 'Ploughman' note - so called because of the ploughman illustrated on the front of it - could be worth as much as €15,000. These Irish bank notes were issued between 1929 and 1941. All of the notes had the same design but each of the banks around at the time issued their own note - and so it is the name of the bank on the note which typically determines how rare, and therefore how valuable, it is. "A 'Ploughman' note issued by Northern Bank could be worth anything from €500 to €15,000," said Whyte. In 2013, a £10 Ploughman note issued by Northern Bank in 1929 sold for €14,000. Only 8,000 of these particular £10 Ploughman notes are believed to have been issued.

Should you have a £10 Ploughman note which was more widely in circulation, it's unlikely to be worth as much as those issued by Northern Bank - but it could still be worth a few thousand. "A £10 Ploughman issued by Bank of Ireland could be worth between €1,000 and €2,000," said Whyte.

The old Lady Lavery notes (the notes issued for the Irish Free State) can also be valuable.


Some old stamped envelopes can be worth a few thousand euro at auction. "If you have an envelope with an old 2p stamp from 1935 or 1936 on it, the stamped envelope could be worth €5,000 upwards," said Whyte. "The stamp on its own however might only be worth a few hundred euro." Only a small amount of the 2p stamps (also known as 2d stamps) were issued in 1935 and 1936.

Memorabilia from iconic Irish sporting greats, such as the late George Best, can be worth tens of thousands of euro
Memorabilia from iconic Irish sporting greats, such as the late George Best, can be worth tens of thousands of euro

Letters of historical significance can also be valuable. Letters written or signed by important Irish figures, including leaders of the 1916 Rising or War of Independence, could be worth tens of thousands. In 2003 for example, a letter written and signed by Michael Collins was sold for €26,500 at a Dublin auction. It was written shortly after Collins had returned from London after meeting Winston Churchill and the Unionist leader James Craig.

Very few of us are fortunate enough to have the letters of such major Irish figures in our possession. However, your family may have held onto letters from a late relative who served in World War 1. Letters written from the front during that war could be worth thousands - perhaps tens of thousands. In 2014 (the centenary year of World War I), a love letter and poppy sent by an American soldier to his sweetheart sold for just over €7,000 at an auction in Britain. Some collections of letters sent from the front have fetched more than €10,000.


Mementos from Irish rebellions and wars could be worth hundreds of thousands. Last June, a typed order of surrender from the 1916 Rising, which was signed by Padraig Pearse, sold for almost €300,000 (£263,000) at a Bonhams auction in London.

You could fetch €100,000 for an original Proclamation today, according to Whyte. That's almost half of what you could have sold it for in 2016 (the centenary year of the Rising) however. In 2016, an original copy of the Proclamation fetched €185,000.

"There may be some interesting things in your house if your ancestors were involved in the military, the War of Independence, or the Rising," said Whyte. " A war medal from the 1916 Rising would be worth at least €2,000 - or more, if there's a good story behind it." For example, a 1916 Rising medal awarded to Kathleen Clarke - a founder member of Cumann na mBan and the wife of rebel leader Thomas Clarke - fetched €12,500 at a Whyte's auction last month.

"Be careful about throwing out old books in a family home," said Whyte. "People had a habit of hiding things in books - so always flip a book before you throw it out." An original copy of the 1916 Proclamation for example was once found by a grandson going through his grandfather's books, according to Whyte.


Should there ever be a major film shot in your locality, or should you be an extra in a film, it may be worth your while trying to get some autographs from - or items worn or used by - some of the main cast. These things could be worth a lot of money in years to come - as has been the case with memorabilia from iconic Irish movies of the past.

For example, a tweed jacket worn by Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man fetched about €15,300 (US$16,250) at a Bonham's auction in New York in November 2016. A mug given by John Wayne to O'Hara at the end of the filming of the movie sold for about €8,000 ($8,500) at that auction.


Check your drinks cabinet for any old bottles of Irish whiskey. A sealed bottle of rare and old Irish whiskey could be worth anything from a few hundred euro to a few thousand.

For example, a 1984 bottle of rare Midleton Irish Whiskey sold for €1,050 at a Whyte's auction last month. "Some of the old Redbreast whiskeys can be valuable," added Whyte.


The medals and tops of Irish sports stars could fetch thousands - or more. "The rugby shirts of most interest are the match-worn ones - such as a shirt worn and signed by Brian O'Driscoll or by the late George Best," said Whyte. "Match-worn shorts can fetch into the thousands. An Irish rugby shirt worn by someone who won the Triple Crown in 1949 could be very valuable."

The All-Ireland gold medals of GAA stars can fetch thousands at auction. "You could get €10,000 for some of the more recent gold medals - if it's someone famous," said Whyte. "A Christy Ring medal could be worth between €10,000 and €15,000."

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