The signs and symbols imprinted in Celtic coins are rare glimpses of the multiple facets of Celtic symbolism
The different designs in ancient Celtic coins are records of Celtic symbology.
Antique Celtic coins started out as imitations of ancient Greek coins, later old Roman gold staters.
As time went by, the images on the coins gradually evolved becoming more original to include Celtic motifs and subjects.
Here are some of the most common features of Celtic coins:
Abstracted Figures in Celtic coins
Ancient Celtic coins are recognized for their distinct abstracted designs and expressionistic images.
When ancient Celts started minting their own coins, they incorporated their art into it. This transformation from the classical images of Greek coins became the trademark of Celtic coins.
Animated figures, bizarre representation of Celtic signs and symbols, and hard lines are common among different Celtic tribes from Western and Central Europe.
The famous head of Apollo from the gold stater of Philip II of Macedon slowly evolved to become more Celtic in form.
Horses in Celtic coins
Horses are considered to be a Celt warrior’s best friend. The excellence of Celtic horsemanship impressed the Romans that they adapted it into their own cavalry training.
This value towards horses is mirrored in the coins that the Celts produced. Celtic coins often have horse images on them.
Older coins had the horse drawing a chariot similar to that of the Greek gold stater. Subsequently, it advanced into a figurative horse composed of pellets and adorned with a rider in chain mail and other Celtic symbols.
This relationship between the horse and its rider is highlighted in a man-headed horse images common among Gaulish Celt coins.
The Head in Celtic coinage
The Celts considered the head to be the container of one’s soul. During battles, a victorious Celtic warrior decapitates his foe and displays the head as trophy, even embalming the head for preservation to show it off to strangers.
This belief was translated into their coinage. Heads of tribal leaders and decapitated heads with ropes are common in Celtic coins. The heads portrayed in Celtic coins differ from other ancient coins. Theirs are more animated, stronger and more bizarre.
In terms of worth of a Celtic coin, presence of the bust of a prominent Celtic historical figure, like that of Vercingetorix and Queen Boudica, significantly increases the coin’s value.
Creatures in Celtic coinages
The Celtic people were animists – those who believe that all aspect of the natural world has spirits anyone can communicate with. This philosophy towards nature was rendered into the coins that they minted.
Apart from the horse, there is also a wide variety of animals in Celtic coins. Butterflies, dolphins, eagles, boar, bulls and starfish are examples of prevailing imprints in the coin.
Mythical creatures such as the dragon, the Sphinx and the centaur are also common Celtic coin patterns.