A metal detectorist unearthed a rare gold coin in Hampshire County in March 2023. The coin, bearing the inscription “Esunertos,” was auctioned on September 28 for a remarkable £20,400 ($24,720) at Spink auction house, surpassing all expectations and setting a new world record.
The coin, described as a quarter slater by Spink Auctions, dates back to sometime between 50 BCE and 30 BCE, a period following Julius Caesar’s initial Roman raids on Britain in 55 BCE. The Latin alphabetic inscription on the coin translates to “mighty as the god Esos” in Gaulish, a language commonly spoken in the region during that era.
John Sills, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford’s Institute of Archaeology, told Live Science that Esunertos is a little-known Iron Age ruler who may have held sway in what is now western Hampshire. Sills hails the discovery as “one of the outstanding discoveries of recent decades in Celtic numismatics.”
Esunertos, speculated to have ruled from the formidable Danebury Fort, emerges from history as a potentially influential leader during a politically tumultuous period. Ian Leins, a curator of collections and interiors at English Heritage, told Live Science that in the aftermath of Caesar’s invasions, Britain experienced a dynamic political landscape, giving rise to leaders like Esunertos who, based on contacts, ancestry, land, or control of resources, minted coins to expand their influence.
The auctioned coin, one of only three known to bear Esunertos’ name, has opened a new chapter in the understanding of Iron Age Britain. The imagery on the coin includes a worn head of Apollo and a triple-tailed horse on the reverse side, depicting elements of Iron Age artistry and classical influences.
Gregory Edmund, Iron Age Coin Specialist at Spink Auctioneers, who led the team of experts in the recording of this new find, remarks on the coin’s significance, stating, “This fabulous piece of prehistoric artwork completes the mental image we have when we think of Iron Age Britain – the war horse and chariot.”
Lewis Fudge, the metal detectorist who made the discovery, expressed his elation after the auction, stating, “I am over the moon. To think my find has generated its own Wikipedia page is incredible.”
Fudge’s initial expectation for the coin’s value was around £4,000 ($5,000), but the intense bidding at Spink Auctions surpassed all predictions, setting a new world record.