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Introduction to Ancient Coinage

Celtic Coinage

A very brief Historical Introduction

Celtic coinage is the most intriguing and varied of all the British coins as no one knows specifically for whom, when or where they were produced. They were struck by hand in gold, silver and bronze and used for approximately 150 years. The earliest coins to circulate in Britain c150BC were made in Gaul and are known as Gallo-Belgic A-F. The (A) being derived from the Macedonian gold staters of Philip II (359-336B.C.)


Coins were brought to Britain by trade, as pay for returning mercenaries, by raiders and settlers from the Continent, and gifts between tribal leaders. The first British coins to be produced were the cast bronze "Thurrock Potins" c100BC. The production of gold coins started c70BC with the 'Westerham Stater' being the first distinctive British Stater.
From Julius Caesars expeditions to Britain in 55/54BC to the Claudian invasion in 43AD, southern Britain was increasingly influenced by the Romans. Latin legends began to appear for the first time. The first inscribed staters to appear were inscribed 'COMMIOS' possibly issued by Caesar's Commius. Coinage still continued to be produced after the Roman invasion of 43AD. But in 61AD with the death of King Prasutagus and the suppression of the Boudiccan revolt that followed, Celtic coinage came to an end.

Roman Coinage

A very brief Historical Introduction

The Claudian invasion of 43AD signalled the beginning of the end of Celtic coinage in Britain. Britainnia became a province of the vast Roman Empire and during the first few centuries no local coinage was officially produced. Regular Imperial coinage from Rome was circulated.
Although Britain was on the outskirts of the Roman Empire a surprisingly large number of coin types alluded to events in the province, such as wars. Two mints were established in Britain - London and Colchester. London produced an enormous amount of base coinage until its closure by Constantine the Great, in 325AD. Other coins (copies) were produced unoffically in troubled times of the early 270's.
The withdrawing of the legions in 411AD by Honorius signalled the end of Roman Britain, although the civil administration continued until the the Teutonic invasions.

See our "Roman Newspapers!!" for much more History involving Roman reverses.

Hammered Coinage

A very brief Historical Introduction

The withdrawal of Roman forces from Britain signalled the change to Anglo-Saxon Britain. The collapse of administration resulted in the deterioration of money. Coins were copied from obsolete Roman coinage and later made in Anglo-Saxon style. Gold coinage became increasingly debased and by the mid 650's silver coinage took over.
By the 770's coinage degenerated to base silver and finally to copper or brass, Pennies were then issued by various rulers and remained virtually the sole denomination of English coinage for almost five centuries.
The currency was controlled mainly by the central government and the coinage types were changed at intervals in order to raise revenue from new dies and keep the currency in good state. Full pennies were sheared into 'halfpennies' and 'fourth things' - farthings.

Around 1106-7 the standard of coinage deterioriated and many genuine coins were being cut to see if they were plated counterfeits. This continued until the 'Great Re-coinage' of Edward I, 1279. Interestingly, Edward I Pennies were legal tender up until 1698, some 425 years after first being introduced.
Bi-metalic coinage was successfully introduced in about 1351 along with new silver denominations, the Groat and its Halves.


By 1663, the ancient hand hammering process was finally superseded by machinery made by Peter Blondeau who initiated the first portrait coins of Oliver Cromwell in 1656.

Traditional aid used to help remember the order of English Monarchs from William the Conqueror on:-

Willie Willie Harry Stee
Harry Dick John Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four five six....then who?
Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
Harrys (twain), Ned six (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again...
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four, Will four Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
Came George the fifth in nineteen ten;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George six was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's all folks until her death.

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