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John Conduitt's Top Ten British Celtic for 2022

John Conduitt

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I’ve already posted my Top Ten for 2022, which included a South Ferriby Stork Head from the Corieltavi tribe. But I have enough to create a Top Ten Celtic, even if they aren't as pretty. I’ve organised them by tribe. The coin producing tribes occupied the south of England, as shown on this map from Chris Rudd.


Cantii Tribe (Kent)

When the Gallic Wars ended in 50BC the flow of gold stopped, so Britons struck their own coins. I recently bought a lot with numerous Celtic coins, costing $17 each. 6 of these were Thurrock potins – Britain’s first coins – and their offspring. Being casts that were mass produced by people who were experimenting, they’re not much to look at, but they’re fascinating. Here, Apollo and the butting bull are recognisable. MA stands for Massalia, since it copies a Hemiobolion of that Greek colony in southern France.

Thurrock Potin, 120-100BC

Cantii or Trinovantes tribe, Kent or Essex. Cast potin, 17mm, 3.10g. Head of Apollo left. Bull butting right with central boss, exergual line below, MA above (S 62; ABC 120; VA 1402-01 'Trinovantian A').

This next coin evolved from the one above, but a few decades down the line when the design had degraded. Apollo’s head is now a circle, and he is presumed to be facing left, although I don’t know on what basis. The coin is purportedly from the Brentford Hoard of 1860, when a large number of these were found by the Thames. The details of the hoard have become as murky as the Thames over the ensuing 160 years. Celtic hoards are not at all common and even less so in metals other than gold.

Rounded Bull Potin, 90-75BC
Cantii tribe, Kent. Potin, 17mm, 1.63g. Linear head of Apollo left, pellet in centre. Rounded linear bull butting left; smooth fields with no striations (S 63; ABC 165; VA 125-03 ‘Cantian D’). Purportedly from the Brentford I Hoard (Middlesex) 1860 of 266 potin coins, possibly buried by the Thames, not far from a similar hoard of 25 coins found in 1975. Portable Antiquities Scheme: IARCH-7861ED.

British coins weren’t inscribed until around 20BC, and although there was more than one king in Kent (Caesar mentions four), Cantian coins seem to have covered the whole area. Some coins, however, like this one, are found so rarely it isn’t clear where they come from, and they’re not even found in most catalogues. It has a little corrosion, but it’s been stable since it was found 30 years ago. Still, it’s one of the best in existence, which isn’t hard when there are only 17 on the Celtic Coin Index. At least being so rare, it was easy to find it and recover its lost provenance.

‘Curly Lion’ Unit, 50-20BC

Cantii tribe, Kent. Bronze, 2.45g. Head right, curly hair, encircled by rings and pellets. Lion left, pentagram below (ABC 282; cf VA 154-09 ‘Cantian Uninscribed’). Found Southfleet, Kent, 1992. Portable Antiquities Scheme: CCI-920607.

Catuvellauni tribe (Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Essex)

The Catuvellauni was the most powerful tribe and held sway over much of southeast England. This coin is from the first coinage of Tasciovanus, who founded their capital at Verlamion, and inscribed coins with both his name and the mint (without which, we wouldn’t know of him at all). The Romans later took over the town, calling it Verulamium, some of which remains today despite Boudicca’s attempt to destroy it in 61. Being from the first coinage, this coin has a Celtic style, while later issues are Romanised.

Tasciovanus Unit, 25-20BC

Verlamion (St Albans), Catuvellauni tribe, Hertfordshire. Bronze, 16mm, 1.85g. Conjoined bearded heads right, elaborate hair arranged in two rows of crescents; VER(I) in front. Ram left, pellets and rosettes in front and below, rosette flanked by two pellets above; TA(SC) above (S 242; ABC 2655; VA 1705-01 ‘Trinovantian M’).

This coin is from Tasciovanus’s son, Cunobelin. In contrast to his father, he is well known, inspiring Shakespeare's Cymbeline. He made the Catauvellauni richer by dealing with the Romans, and his many coins have a Roman style or are copied from Roman coins. As mentioned on the coin, it was struck at Camulodunon, the former capital of the Trinovantes, not Tasciovanus’s capital, Verlamion. The rather messy history is derived from the coins. It seems Tasciovanus conquered the Trinovantes but got pushed back. After his death, Cunobelin returned. As with Verlamion, the Romans took over Camulodunon and called it Camulodunum, before Boudicca destroyed it. Perhaps this coin was there that day, and yet it cost just $17.

Cunobelin Unit, 20-40

Camulodunon (Colchester), Catuvellauni tribe, Essex. Bronze, 14mm, 2.19g. Janiform head; CVNO below. Sow seated right beneath a tree; CAMV on panel below (S 346; ABC 2981; VA 2105-01 ‘Trinovantian W’).

Dobunni tribe (Gloucestershire)

Dobunnic history is mysterious, since there are few hoards containing their coins. Links have been made to Catuvellauni coinage, and the gap between Tasciovanus and Cunobelin’s reigns that seems to have led to turmoil and the debasement of the Dobunnic series. This coin is of Anted, who Chris Rudd calls Antedios and Van Arsdell calls Antedrig. He suggests this may have been the same Anted who ruled the Iceni, although that depends on the uncertain dating and whether Anted could cover territory from one side of the country to the other.

The Dobunni were farmers and capitulated to the Romans before they’d even arrived. They therefore did well – there were several villas in their area, and two large Roman towns - Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester) and Colonia Nerviana Glevum (Gloucester).

Antedios Unit, 20-43

Dobunni tribe, Gloucestershire. Silver, 14mm, 1.16g. Celticized head right. Annulate horse left, TED above, AN below (S 380; ABC 2072; VA 1085-01 ‘Dobunnic D’).

Durotriges tribe (Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire)

Many Celtic coin designs are derived from Philip II Staters. The design became so degraded that by the time the Durotriges got hold of it, it was unrecognisable. The Durotriges had strong links with Continental Celts that the Romans didn’t appreciate. The Romans supported their neighbours (the Atrebates and Dobunni) and the Durotriges became increasingly marginalised. The tribe struggled and the content of their coins went from gold to silver to bronze. This bronze stater is more unusual than the abundant and popular silver versions, but they’re not rare. The Durotriges kept to a few uninscribed designs and managed to hang on until the Romans arrived.

Hod Hill Stater, 40-20BC

Durotriges tribe, Dorset. Bronze, 16mm, 2.02g. Crude head of Apollo with wreath, cloak and crescents. Disjoined horse left with rectangular head, body of crescents, vertical legs, pellets above (S 371; ABC 2175; VA 1290-01 ‘Durotrigan J’). Found Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Corieltavi tribe (Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire and Lincolnshire)

Not a huge amount is known about the Corieltavi but they were keen on inscribing their coins. Perhaps a little too much, since some coins feature as many as three names. This gold stater is inscribed Volisios Dumnocoveros. Volisios is thought to have been king around the time of the Roman conquest and is joined on coins by the names of Dumnovellaunus, Dumnocoveros and Cartivellaunos. These might be allies, or subordinates, or sons, or different names for the same people or person. All are only known from coins. Whether this is a coin of Volisios, Dumnocoveros or Volisios Dumnocoveros is speculation.

Volisios Dumnocoveros Stater, 35-40

Corieltavi tribe, Leicestershire. Base gold, 20mm, 5.06g. Wreath pattern fills field, 3 horizontal lines across wreath; VO LI between top lines, SI OS between bottom lines. Stylised horse left with large head, 3 pellets below horse's neck; DVM NOCO VER OS around horse (S 416; ABC 1980; VA 978-01 ‘Corieltauvian P’).

Iceni tribe (East Anglia)

The Iceni is the tribe made famous by Boudicca, but the rulers on their coins are not well known. Like the Corieltavi, it isn’t clear what the inscriptions are meant to represent. The many coins inscribed Ecen or similar might, for example, refer to a king or the Iceni tribe itself. This coin is from Caniduro, or Cani Duro, which might be two people or one. It’s unusual that both CANI and DURO are visible.

Caniduro Unit, 15-20

Iceni tribe, East Anglia. Silver, 13mm, 0.96g. Bristle-backed boar standing right; Å below. Horse with exclamation mark mane leaping right, reversed S under head, CANI above, DVRO below (S 439; ABC 1630, Talbot dies A/2; VA 663-01 ‘Icenian D’).

My last coin is from a similarly obscure ruler, if indeed it was a ruler or even two. Scavo, or Ale Scavo, was one of the last Celtic kings to issue coins after the Roman invasion in 43. The boar is not exactly clear, but there isn't a lot of choice as this is one of only 14 on the Celtic Coins Index and 1 more on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. None were known before 1929. It might not even be Icenian, rather Corieltavian, but there are too few to be sure.

Ale Scavo ‘Running Boar’ Unit, 43-47

Iceni tribe, East Anglia. Silver, 14mm, 1.03g. Boar with bristles right, crescent with pellet above, two smaller pellet-in-ring motifs on either side; ALE below. Horse leaping right, ringed-pellet and pellets above; SCA below; beaded border joined by lines (S 448; ABC 1708, Talbot dies E/5; VA 785-01 ‘Icenian P’). Found Paston, Norfolk.

As you can see, Celtic coins offer something for all budgets, which will come in useful again this year! Thank you for looking.

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John, You're building an impressive collection of British Celtic coins 😊! You are also enlightening us to the wide variety & scope of these interesting coins 😉. My favorites are the Corieltavi stater & the two Iceni silver units 😍. I also like the Corieltavi silver unit you posted in your previous thread 🥰.

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