Imported Gaulish staters were the first coins used by the three tribes. Large Flan, Abstract Design and Gallic War Type coins are known from the tribal territory. The tribe began striking INSULAR TYPES sometime during the 60s B.C. These are heavier than their Gaulish prototypes, but lower in gold content. Around 55 B.C, the tribe struck the WESTERHAM TYPE staters, apparently a short-lived issue. The Westerham Type was replaced by the lighter ATREBATIC ABSTRACT TYPE later in the Gallic War.
The tribe produced an enormous number of staters and quarters during the war. At the time Commius was in collaboratation with Caesar, the tribe may have been part a scheme against the Durotriges, who had contacts with tribes in Brittany. They also may have received aid from the Romans seeking war materiel.
These are fractional denominations of which there are a large number of varieties. It is uncertain whether they should be called quarter staters and thus the term 'fractional' is used. The intricate design is struck on a small flan and crucial details may be missing. The weights vary from 1.0 to 1.4 grammes, indicating the heavier coins are actually of Gallic War date, while the lighter issues are probably post-war. The series has been catalogued by three major subtypes: Apollo heads, Apollo head variations, and alternate obverses.
Largely based on the work of John Sills since 1989, the earliest coinage can now be described.
During the 60s B.C., INSULAR TYPES began to be struck in the tribal territory. Later, about the middle of the Gallic War, one of the WESTERHAM TYPE staters and one of the GEOMETRIC TYPE quarter staters were stuck, possibly in response to the impending invasion of Caesar in 55 B.C.
Both of these coinages were apparently short-lived.
- Obverse has been described as a wolf-and-twins motif or a boat with three occupants
- Originally, this type was assigned to the Cantii (143 - 01) based on a small number of findspots. Since 1989, additional finds have been identified over a much wider area and Sills has reasonably suggested the type should be assigned to the territory of the Atrebates, Regni & Belgae
The Atrebates, Regni and Belgae occupied the territory that is today Berkshire, Sussex and Hampshire. Whether three distinct political groups struck coins cannot be proven today, nor can separate territories be demonstrated. The Regni are virtually unknown to history until the Roman period, and the tribal area of the Belgae is a matter of controversy. Though Belgic immigration is mentioned by Caesar, he does not specifically say where they settled, and we only have the Roman name Venta Belgarum to suggest a location. The Atrebates, also mentioned by Caesar, had tribal members on both sides of the Channel.
Traditionally, the three tribes have been treated numismatically as one. Based on the current state of research, there is no reason to change this approach. Attempts have been made to identify a separate coinage for the Belgae. These have been largely, but not entirely, based on reports of new types of silver coins published in numismatic trade lists since 1994. The coins do not appear to form a coherent issue of a single issuing authority and questions exist regarding their precise status. These enigmatic coins demand careful analysis and reflection before they are accepted as evidence for a Belgic coinage. Certainly, after the Gallic War, only one coinage circulated in the territory. It may someday come to pass that coinages for the Belgae and Regni can be identified, but only after a rigorous analysis of the new types has been completed. Most of these are listed under "New Material". For the remainder of this discussion the three tribes will be referred to simply as the "Atrebates" for the sake of brevity.
Initially, the three tribes constituted one of the most advanced groups in Britain. They had trading contacts with Belgic Gaul in the late second and early first centuries B.C., and were one of the earliest to strike coins. The earliest stater, the INSULAR TYPE struck before the Gallic War, is derived from imported Gallo-Belgic C. The next coinage, the WESTERHAM TYPE, is now felt to be inspired by the Trinovantian/Catuvellaunian coinage of the same name, struck during the Gallic War. After the war, the tribal position changed dramatically, and the Atrebates may have fallen out of favour with the Romans. It is possible the cross-Channel trading rights were given to the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni instead. A loss of trading rights may have been the result of Commius' activities during the War.
Commius, at first a supporter of Caesar, became disillusioned with the Romans and went over to Vercingetorix. After the collapse of Celtic resistance at Alesia, he fled to join the British part of his tribe. Later, the Atrebates struck coins with his name, and possibly the acceptance of Commius in Britain was the reason they fell out of favour. The change in trading rights altered the relative fortunes of the two tribes forever. By the end of the millennium, the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni had economic influence throughout southern Britain and had begun to rival the Atrebates.
The Atrebates seized the opportunity of the Trinovantian/Catuvellaunian Interregnum to mount a military incursion into Kent under their leader, Eppillus. Eppillus struck a victory stater commemorating the initial success of the expedition. The incursion was cut short, however, by the elevation of Cunobeline to the Trinovantian/Catuvellaunian throne. He drove the Atrebates out of Kent and Eppillus promptly disappeared. He is replaced on the coins by Verica, a self-styled 'son of Commius'.
Sometime before the Claudian invasion, Verica was in turn overthrown. He probably was the historical Celtic leader 'Bericus' who appeared in Rome seeking aid from Claudius. Verica was replaced on the coins by Epaticcus, who styled himself a 'son of Tasciovanus'. Whether the family-tie was real is not so important, the result was the Atrebatic leadership was now held by a Trinovantian/Catuvellaunian sympathizer. Shortly before the Claudian invasion, Epaticcus was replaced by Caratacus, the famous leader of the British resistance against the Roman invaders. The Atrebatic coinage came to an end during the forties, as Caratacus fled westwards to lead the resistance amongst the tribes in Wales. One Atrebatic leader known to history, Cogidubnus, has not yet been identified on the coinage. It seems he was not elevated to leadership until the coinage had come to an end.
The oppidum of Calleva, Silchester today, was the site of an Atrebatic mint, and the name Calleva appears on coins of Eppillus. Other leaders may have had mints elsewhere, but none have been identified. Plausible mint sites for separate Belgic or Regnan coinages have not been identified.