Iron Age, mid-2nd century BC
Probably made in northern France or Belgium

One of the earliest coins in Britain

This is a superb example of the Iron Age die-engraver’s art. It also represents what is thought to be the first type of coin ever to circulate in Britain. They were probably made on the Continent in northern France or Belgium. Gold coins like this crossed over the English Channel, perhaps in trade or as gifts between high-ranking individuals. Some of them were eventually buried in coin hoards and not recovered by their owners. The owner may have died, or simply forgotten where they had put them. Alternatively, the coins may have been intended as permanent, sacred offerings to the gods. They are mostly found today by metal-detectorists, in locations throughout south-east England. Another one was found at Fenny Stratford near Milton Keynes.

The design of the coin is, at several stages removed, descended from the Greek gold staters of King Philip II of Macedon (reigned 359-336 BC). The hair on the left-facing head has grown considerably, while the original two-horsed chariot on the reverse of the coin has been transformed here into a lively, abstract depiction of a horse surrounded by a large array of symbols.

I.M. Stead and S. Youngs, Celts, British Museum Pocket Treasury (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

D. Nash, Coinage in the Celtic world (London, Seaby, 1987)

Weight: 1.74 g
Diameter: 15 mm