Celtic Designs on Modern Coins, 1916-2016

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Since Greek and Roman antiquity, states have used their coinage as an important means of asserting their legitimacy and influencing the ways in which their own peoples and others regard them. When the Irish Free State issued its first coins in 1928 it used the Irish language for inscriptions. It also placed a Celtic harp on the obverse, a practice maintained with only one exception on all coins of the Free State and Republic since that date. (This obverse in fact continued a British tradition of ‘harp’ coinage for Ireland which prevailed strongly from the reign of Henry VIII to the last pre-independence Irish coinage in 1823.) But otherwise ‘Celtic’ designs and motifs have not been especially prominent on modern Irish coins, despite the strong emphasis placed by Irish officialdom on the country’s proud Celtic heritage. This paper will explore the use of identifiably ‘Celtic’ elements on Irish coins, and the possible reasons why they have not prevailed more, and will also examine the limited use of such elements in the coinages of the Isle of Man, the United Kingdom, France, and states as diverse as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Fiji. It seems clear that whether one has in mind ancient or more modern Celtic traditions and cultures, the Celt (unlike. for example, the Viking) has not greatly caught the imagination of those who have influenced modern coin design.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventNinth Australian Conference of Celtic Studies - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 27 Sept 201630 Sept 2016


ConferenceNinth Australian Conference of Celtic Studies
Internet address


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