Iron Age Coins of British Tribes

by blackspanielgallery

The Iron Age coins of Britain exists as pre-roman coins, but only for a small number of tribes.

Late Iron Age coins appeared in some, but certainly not all, of the British tribes. Before the Roman occupation of Britain, the people lived in tribes. In the late Iron Age some of these tribes used coins. The coin used in pre-Roman Britain seems to have been concentrated in the southeastern part of the area.

According to the article, Britain’s First Coins by Chris Rudd, published in The Journal of Ancient Numismatics, Volume 1, Issue 4, there were eleven tribes that had coins. They were the Atrebates, Ecuni, Cauti, Ragni, Belgae, Durotriges, Trinovantes, Dobunni, Corioltouvi, Catuvellouni, and East Wiltshire.

The Coins in Hoards

The late Iron Age coins are rarely found one at a time.  They are often found in hoards.  Apparently few used them.  Perhaps they belonged to kings, or maybe rich merchants.  They could have been used in trade, especially with the people of the continent.  In fact, some seem to have originated on the continent with the Belgic people.  And, there is a strong likelihood that some of the Belgic migrated across the English Channel, and set up settlements in Britain.  Perhaps this is how the idea of coinage come to Britain.


Two sources indicate many of the coins had no monetary use at all.  Because of where they were buried they are thought to have been votive offerings to the gods of Britain. 

Coins Minted in Britain

While some of the coins may have arrived by the Belgic, or others involved with trade with Gaul, some of the coins were minted right in Britain.  What evidence is there of this?  There are gold and silver coins with the images of tribal kings, and their inscriptions.   

The Use of Effigies of Kings

The use of effigies of kings was a new concept.  I learned from a friend, a historian who collects ancient coins, that Julius Caesar was the first to use his own image on Roman coins.   Before Julius Caesar the Roman coins showed a Roman god.  The departure caused a problem, the people were riled for they thought the gods would no longer favor Rome.  How did Julius Caesar solve his dilemma?  He proclaimed himself a god, as did his followers who ruled Rome.


Coins and History

Coins can give us a look at the rulers, and possibly sequence them in a line in history, albeit for but a brief time period.  Also, coins can record, albeit in a slanted manner, significant historical events.  Coins can act as miniature history books, each type giving a snippet of the entire story.  Yes, they will favor the ruler of the area for which they were minted, but they are a great starting point to understand events of the past.


Unfortunately, coins were not used throughout ancient Britain, at least as far as we know.  Tribal coins were unknown until a few centuries ago.  Have we found all kinds of tribal coins? 


Late Iron Age coins are often called Celtic coins, but there is a discussion over what the term means.  That discussion is not within the scope of this article.

English Flag Mug


There is much more to the history of the tribes of the late Iron Age in Britain, but my interest is in the coins.   


This article contains links to affiliate programs and Adsense advertising.  These must use cookies to allow for proper crediting. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


The introduction image is allowed by an associate program.

Updated: 08/06/2018, blackspanielgallery
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
frankbeswick on 09/30/2018

Sometimes we older folk can feel disappointed that younger generations, maybe our children, do not share our interests. For example, only one of my four children shares my passion for growing things. We just have to inspire and enthuse them in the hope that an interest may slowly arise.

blackspanielgallery on 09/29/2018

Young people collecting has been a topic at my local coin club. Perhaps one reason is they use plastic cards and rarely get change to sort through. Getting coins from circulation is how many collectors get interested.

frankbeswick on 09/29/2018

Young people have many pressures.Maybe in maturity they will take an interest.

Tolovaj on 09/29/2018

Coins are amazing part of the history and, in my opinion, a very attractive one. Yet, young people rarely bother to even look at them, not to mention the possibility of collecting. Doesn't that attitude say a lot about today's society?

frankbeswick on 08/18/2018

The area of East Wiltshire was near the borders of certain tribes, these being the Atrebates, Dobunni and Trinovantes, but we don't know the precise boundary lines, so it is likely that there may have been confusion about which tribe produced the coins.

blackspanielgallery on 08/18/2018

I am not expert in English history, but I do research coins. That is beyond my area of expertise. One problem is the borders seem to have been nebulus, and if you look back before coins came to the area maps may have different names,. Considering when these tribes were in existence, it is amazing anything is j=known. Coins reveal some things, but according to what I read the coins were unknown until about 400 years ago, so what else still remains a mystery?, Frank might know the answer to your question.

DerdriuMarriner on 08/18/2018

blackspanielgallery, Thank you for the informative article and product line and for the reference to the Rudd article (which I've now read). Is there any speculation as to why the name of the East Wiltshire people is unknown?

frankbeswick on 08/08/2018

Some were tribes, others kingdoms containing several small tribes, such as the Brigantes of North East England.

blackspanielgallery on 08/08/2018


sandyspider on 08/08/2018

Found the coins of the British tribes very interesting.

You might also like

1001 Arabian Nights: The Stories Behind the Story

1001 Nights, for many more known as Arabian Nights is one of most popular col...

Three Men Who Influenced England

Three men had a great influence on early England, and their influence can be ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...