Books on Celtic Coins

I don’t sell books on the site because everyone will just go and buy from Amazon anyway, but I do have a lot and I can comment on the following ones. Some of them are a bit specialised and expensive for what they are so feel free to contact me before buying any of them.

If you just want a book to identify British Celtic Coins, then get “Ancient British Coins”. It’s really the best general book at the moment. If you want to dig deeper into the topic, or like collecting books, then read on. 

Celtic Coins (General)

An Introduction to Celtic Coins” by Derek Allen is a nice lightweight read. “Coinage in the Celtic World” by Daphne Nash covers the same topics, but in much more detail. Neither book is particularly expensive, but you’ll probably get more value from Nash’s book if you can only afford one.

British Celts (General)

Ancient British Coins” is a must have for anyone considering collecting coins from this area. It’s now the defacto reference book for British Celtic coins (when you see “ABC” references, this is the book they refer to). It’s getting a bit out-of-date now and is missing a few of the more recent types, but there’s no better replacement.

Celtic Coinage of Britain” by Robert Van Arsdell is still a great book, although his reference system is now superseded, as are some of his conclusions. The “VA” reference numbers you’ll come across refer to this. 

“Coins of England and the United Kingdom” by Spinks has a section at the start covering British Celtic coins.  I have a copy, but I wouldn’t recommend it just for the Celtic coins.  If you do get it, don’t pay any attention to the prices. They have no relationship with reality.  This is the book for the “S ” reference numbers. 

“The Coinage of Ancient Britain” by R. P. Mack is well out of date, but I still like it. It comes in various editions.  3rd Edition (1975), 2nd Edition (1964) and the first edition (1953). “Mack” or “M ” reference numbers refer to this

British Iron Age Coins in the British Museum” by Hobbs. It contains photos of every coin in the museum’s collection, and a good deal of background. Perhaps the most useful feature is the index of symbols, which lets you look up a coin by its artwork. If you find coins with “BM” or “BMC” references, this is the book they refer to.

“Celtic Coinage in Britain” by Philip de Jersey, and “The Tribes and Coins of Celtic Britain” by Pudill and Eyre, are both interesting books that won’t break the bank.

Problems of the Iron Age in Southern Britain” contains a paper (pp. 97-308) by Derek Allen called “The Origins of Coinage in Britain: A Reappraisal”.  Better known as “Origins”, this is where he organised the Gaulish and British coins into the “Gallo Belgic” and “British” categories (i.e. GB-E and British A). 

British Celts (Specific)

Made for Trade: A New View of Icenian Coinage” by John Talbot goes in-depth into the coins of the Iceni tribe. If you collect, or plan to collect, their coins, then this is a must-have book.  If you just want a quick guide to the coins, then “Coins of the Iceni” is a great book.

Divided Kingdoms: The Iron Age Gold Coinage of Southern England” by John Sills takes a very in-depth look at the gold coins from this area. There are two aspects of this book that make it a must-have for the serious collector. Firstly, it fully defines all the coin types. If you are planning to collect an applicable coin set (gold coins from southern England) then this is the book that defines the set. Secondly, Sills has included full catalogues for every applicable coin. Weight, die numbers, CCI or PAS reference where available, or other source information (auction details, eBay details, dealer details, private collection details, etc) where not. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to find the actual coin from these (for example, eBay items are only archived for 90 days so references to them are meaningless now), but it does give you a very accurate rarity figure for a coin, and for individual dies for the coin. If you find coins with “Sills” references, this might be the book they refer to.

John Sills has another book called “Gaulish and Early British Gold Coinage” which, despite its title, covers only three types of coins from Britain (Insular Cf, Insular Xe and Insular Xf). It’s probably not worth the cost just for these, as they are also covered in his Divided Kingdoms book. However, if you want to know about the evolution of gold coinage in Gaul, and therefore Britain, then it’s a great book.

If you are interested in identifying Corieltavi silver coins, the “Boar Horse: Uninscribed Silver Coins of the Corieltavi” is the book for you.  For a slightly more specialised look at the Corieltavi coins, then “The Coins of the Coritani” by Derek Allen might be worth tracking down.  It’s 40 pages long (excluding plates) and out of date (it was published in 1963 and even the tribe’s name has changed) so probably only worth it if you are really into these coins.

The Coinage of the Atrebates and Regni” by Bean is his PhD thesis on the topic. It’s almost certainly superseded by “Divided Kingdoms” so probably only worth getting if you specialise in the coins from this area.

“The Coinage of the Dobunni: Money Supply and Coin Circulation in Dobunnic Territory” is about the only book that exists that focuses solely on the Dobunni.  Again, only worth getting if you are really into these coins. I found “Bagendon, a Belgic oppidum: A record of the excavations of 1954-56” to be a much more useful book on the topic (pp. 75-149 “A Study of the Dobunnic Coinage” by Derek Allen)

Finally, “Coin Hoards in Iron Age Britain” by Philip de Jersey gives details of every Celtic coin hoard ever found in Britain. The casual collector probably won’t get much out of this book, but if you start to seriously collect British Celtic coins, then this will help you with your detective work.

Art on Celtic Coins

Ancient Celtic Coin Art” by Simon Lilly costs almost nothing and is dedicated to the subject, although don’t expect any scientific analysis. Instead, think “new age”. “Celtic Improvisations: An Art Historical Analysis of Coriosolite Coins” by John Hooker contains quite a good discussion about the art on Celtic coins, and it’s remarkably general considering the book is entirely focused on the coins from one tribe.

Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain” by John Creighton also covers the topic nicely, with his discussion of serial imagery and the ritualistic reasons behind the art.  The book is mainly about other things, but I never read beyond the section on serial imagery.  If you like inscribed coins and the tribal dynasties, then you might enjoy the rest of it.