16 March 2022



The Ashmolean has acquired 1085 Late Iron Age coins, accepted by HM Government under the Cultural Gifts Scheme from collector and scholar Dr John Talbot.  The collection includes ornately designed gold and silver coins minted between c. 100 BCE–50 CE by the Iceni community in East Anglia, the tribe of famous ‘queen’, Boadicea (Boudica).  They comprise a rich resource for the understanding of the Iceni and a fascinating period of British history.  The acquisition has been made during the centenary year of the Ashmolean’s coin department, the Heberden Coin Room.

Professor Chris Howgego, Keeper of the Heberden Coin Room, says: ‘Over the past 100 years, the Ashmolean’s Coin Room has become one of the world’s leading collections and an internationally renowned centre for teaching and research in numismatics and monetary history.  Thanks to Arts Council England’s Cultural Gifts Scheme and the generosity of Dr John Talbot, this gift adds an extraordinary new resource for the study of Late Iron Age Britain and Iceni culture.  The coins promise to reveal new details about early British history for future historians and museum visitors.’

The Iceni lived in northern East Anglia.  We do not know how they identified themselves but Julius Caesar, in his account of expeditions in Britain, called them the Cenimagni; while Tacitus later gave them the name we use today.  The best known Iceni individual is ‘queen’ Boadicea who led a spectacular and violent uprising against the occupying Roman forces in 60/61 CE.  With their detailed imagery, Icenian coins contain a wealth of information about the Iceni and Late Iron Age life in Britain – from economic structures to political changes to broader culture.  Individually, the coins are miniature works of art, with intricate depictions of animals, human heads and a typical Iron Age visual trope – hidden faces which are revealed by rotating the coin.

This major gift has doubled the number of Celtic coins at the Ashmolean.  John Talbot is a leading scholar on British Iron Age numismatics.  His collection, assembled over 20 years, includes every known type of Icenian coin, and in many cases the finest known example.  The Talbot collection will be published on the Heberden Coin Room's website, which will link them to the recently launched Iron Age Coins in Britain and Celtic Coin Index Digital websites. These will connect the Ashmolean’s collections with others across globe via Linked Open Data, providing a comprehensive resource for scholars and members of the public around the world.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson says: ‘The Cultural Gifts Scheme exists so outstanding collections such as these Iron Age coins can be displayed for people to see, learn from and enjoy. I thank Dr John Talbot for his generosity and look forward to seeing this fascinating new resource in the Ashmolean Museum.’

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman of the AIL Panel says: ‘The Talbot Collection of Iceni coins is extraordinary for its size and comprehensive coverage, comprising 1085 coins. This generous gift is made by Dr Talbot, a leading authority in the field of Iron Age numismatics, and so it is no surprise that the collection contains coins of exceptional beauty, quality, and rarity. I hope that this example will encourage others to donate Cultural Gifts and continue to support our national collections.’

Highlights of the Talbot collection are now in the Ashmolean Money Gallery (lower-ground floor) in the special display, ‘From Julius Caesar to Boadicea – a century of Icenian coins’ (until 2 October 2022).



Claire Parris, Press Officer, Ashmolean Museum | | 07833 384 512


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The acceptance of this collection will generate a tax reduction of £150,000.

The Cultural Gifts Scheme was launched by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in March 2013 as an important element of its expanding programme to encourage philanthropy for the arts. The Acceptance in Lieu Panel, chaired by Edward Harley OBE, advises Ministers on all objects offered under the Cultural Gifts Scheme. The Scheme is administered by Arts Council England and enables UK taxpayers to donate important objects to the nation during their lifetime. Items accepted under the Scheme are allocated to public collections and are available for all. In return, donors will receive a reduction in their income tax, capital gains tax or corporation tax liability, based on a set percentage of the value of the object they are donating: 30 per cent for individuals and 20 per cent for companies.

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