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The disciplined and only apparently unruly swirls of Celtic art have a universal appeal. There was a particularly attractive gold stater of Gallo-Belgic type on offer. To get the background re Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars – he did not like them a bit. It is an interesting coin because it is one of the few Celtic coins which has contemporary literature to support it. It was issued by the Ambiani; they bequeathed their name to Amiens. This example is no stranger to the salerooms. I last saw it at Sotheby’s in April 1999 when it realised £560. This time out it required £1250. Better than stocks.

When the Emperor Honorius ordered the withdrawal of the legions from Britannia in AD410, the local coinage, although still loosely based on the Roman system, became very degraded in style. From that time there was practically no coinage, only old Roman ones which were used for some two centuries or more. By the mid-seventh century, a few very rare base gold coins were issued in this country.

Until now they had taken on a distinctive early Anglo-Saxon style and they are now very rare indeed. Most of the extant examples are from the Crondall (Hampshire) hoard found in 1840. Since 1944 the hoard has been in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

This indicates just how very rare these pieces are. The few that turn up are eagerly sought after. There was just such a coin in the recent sale but not nearly so exciting as the example just cited. It must have been quite a difficult lot to estimate but they had a shot at £1500-1800. It got away at just £1400. This is hardly a market trend-setter but is used to indicate just how difficult it is to estimate the rarest items.

Medieval English silver pennies of Henry III’s times are an acquired taste and hardly aesthetically pleasing. The first tranche of the Professor Jeffery Mass collection was sold here, probably the most comprehensive collection ever formed privately. This dispersal does have trade interest. Collectively they took 69 per cent over the top estimate.

A rare variety struck at Canterbury, which is otherwise one of the most common mints, realised £880, which is more than double the valuation given in Spink’s 2004 standard catalogue. This, together with the sale reported above and another Spink sale of English coins, demonstrate that the market in English coins is currently very firm indeed.

If this market is led by investors rather than collectors there may be a readjustment in the future. Investors all tend to unload their coins at the same time. We should just hope that there will not be a repeat of the considerable softening of the market occasioned by just these circumstances in the mid ’70s.