Celtic Coins

Posted by Allison on 6 April 2009, 15:23

Every coin collector has their own preferences when it comes to collecting coins.  It is very true to say that coin collecting is a personal endeavour and everyone seems to be taken by a particular type of coin.  Some people like modern coins – commemorative issues, for example, and complete sets of new designs which can be kept to show the grandchildren in years to come – while others prefer to delve back into history to see what they can find.

One of the best examples of a particular time in history that seems to attract coin collectors is that which was occupied by the Celts.  Celtic coins have a certain air of mystery about them which appears to attract a great number of collectors – and since the world isn't exactly overrun with the number of Celtic coins in existence, this can make them even more sought after.

The Celts themselves were a mysterious bunch and it isn't easy to create an image of what the Celts were like, since the evidence which exists is rather sparse to say the least.  The kind of times we are talking about were before Christ, and indeed the earliest suspected instance of Celts appearing in the pages of history came in around 400 BC.

Perhaps this is partly why Celtic coins hold so much interest for a lot of people, since they allow us to look directly into that period of time for which there doesn't seem to be much more information available.  Celtic coins are viewed as some of the earliest examples of British coinage, which makes them particularly interesting to British collectors.

It also seems that in the grand scheme of things Celtic coins didn't have a very long lifespan, beaten as it was in the end by the Romans, who came to the country and conquered it in around 59 AD. 

But before this time Celtic coins exchanged hands on a regular basis and there were hundreds of variations on the coins that the Celts produced.  A quick search on the internet will reveal many different designs, which are fascinating to look at since they give us an insight into what life used to be like when the Celts walked the land in Britain. 

From what we know, and from the coins which have been found, their coinage was very different to what we have today.  The idea of a single country having lots of different types of currency is probably quite a silly one nowadays, since every country has just one currency which it uses – and occasionally more than one country will use the same one.  But in Celtic times there were many different coins in circulation that were each restricted to a single area of the country.

For example, the Chichester cock coin came into being when the Gallic War came to an end, but its use was restricted to the area of land which was directly south of the River Thames in what we now know to be London.  This was a bronze coin and it followed the pattern of what many Celtic coins depicted on them by showing an animal or bird of some kind.

The reason why so many Celtic coins were used in different areas of the same country was because different people ruled over different areas.  Whenever someone new took over a certain area of land, they tended to demand a new set of coins to be used by the people in that area.  Today the world at large seems much smaller to us, since we can send an email to someone on the other side of the world and they can read it almost immediately.  But in those distant days in the past a person's world was restricted to a very small area.  If you lived in the south of Britain now you wouldn't think too much about visiting Scotland, for example.  But back in the days of the Celts that would have been totally out of the question.  A person's world was fairly small back then.

We have already mentioned the rarity of certain Celtic coins, and in some cases there are only two or three of a particular type known to exist.  The gold stater of Cunobelin is a Celtic coin which features a horse on one side and what appears to be an ear of corn on the other.  The fact that there are only two known to exist goes some way towards explaining the four figure asking price.

Similarly the Sussex ducks Celtic coin is a wonderful example of very early workmanship on coins, and features two ducks incorporated into a very ornate design.  There are many more examples of Celtic coins which feature horses, dogs, wolves and any number of other animals, while faces of both men and women give us a further insight into what the Celts may have looked like, and what Gods they worshipped as well.

Every now and then a 'new' Celtic coin is unearthed in some location or another in Britain; famous finds in the past have occurred in Chelmsford and Chichester, as well as many locations in Kent.  Every coin collector who has a metal detector must dream of one day finding a Celtic coin of their very own to add to their collection.

It is sad that there is a limited amount of information available about the Celts, but the fact that there are a number of coins which remain to provide information about their lives and times means that we can still learn more about them.  It is also reasonable to assume that many more Celtic coins still lie undiscovered in the ground across England and the rest of the UK, and as time goes by we can reasonably expect more of these to come to light.

But for now we can admire such coins as the silver coin of Tincomarus, the various different bronze coins the Celts used, and also the staters, for they give us the best picture we have of our ancestors.