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John Conduitt

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I just bought a couple of Thurrock potins as part of a larger group lot. They're often to be found in group lots, barely identified, if at all. Despite being Britain's oldest coins, many are as cheap as Constantinian bronzes.

I've posted before about Britain's first coins, but there are many more variants of these cast potins than either I or Spink suggest. They show Apollo and the bull in various stages of stylisation. All come under S 62, 63 and 64, with the Thurrock potins together under S 62 (or ABC 120 in Chris Rudd's classification).

Thurrock Potin, 120-100BCimage.png.c890e2efd4a13e83b9e1ab2b9c049c0c.pngCantii or Trinovantes tribe, imitating a hemiobolion from the Greek colony Massalia. Cast bronze, 17mm, 3.10g. Head of Apollo left. Bull butting right with central boss, exergual line below, MA above (S 62; ABC 120; VA 1402 'Trinovantian A'). The MA for Massalia is very clear on this example.

Van Arsdell, on the other hand, lists the variants separately. Moreover, he has the Thurrock types (S 62) listed as Trinovantian and S 63 and 64 as Cantian. Whether either or both were made by the Trinovantes or Cantii tribes is debatable. Thurrock potins are so named after the findspot of a large hoard in Essex (Trinovantian territory) but many more individual coins are found in Kent (Cantian land).

Thurrock Potin, 120-100BCimage.png.5d28606fd34bb08a293377bd6824aff5.pngCantii or Trinovantes tribe. Cast bronze, 16mm, 3.10g. Head of Apollo left. Bull butting leftMA above (S 62; ABC 120; VA 1404 'Trinovantian A'). The main difference between VA 1402 and VA 1404 is that the bull is butting left.

So who made them?

Gallic tribes cast similar coins, but it doesn't take long to conclude they're not similar enough to be Gallic. It also seems settled that the first 'prototype' potins were made by the Cantii around 120-100BC.

But Van Arsdell suggests the coins in the Thurrock Hoard were unlikely to have travelled far, and so were produced by the Trinovantes, inspired by the Cantian prototypes. He contends the Thurrock Types were cast using different methods. All potins were cast in strips, each coin joined in the mould by a runner system. This left sprues at either end of the coin. But on the Thurrock types, the sprues go right across the design as a raised line, which Van Arsdell says is because a dowel was pressed across the mould to ensure cavities were filled. 

On the other hand, Chris Rudd has them all as Cantian, and cites David Holman and Prof. Colin Haselgrove, who classify them in the ‘Kentish Primary Series’. They see the differences in production as an evolution, rather than evidence of different manufacturers, although they acknowledge there was more than one mint. Who made them, of course, will never be known, but it's safe to say they came from south east England and were the first to do so.

See also:
Strated Potins (Cantian C; S 63)
Angular Bull Potins (Cantian D; S 63)
Dump Potins (Cantian E; S 64)

Edited by John Conduitt
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