5.2 Coin use post c.AD 440

After the AD 430s, some gold imperial issues did arrive in Britain. Alongside these official pieces are several barbarian and pseudo-imperial pieces, copies of official coins made by various barbarian tribes on the Continent, notably the Visigoths and Franks (Abdy and Williams 2006, 114-51). Bland and Loriot list a significant number of pieces from the second half of the 5th century into the 8th century (Bland and Loriot 2010, 84-85, table 32). Many of these gold coins were re-purposed as jewellery and a number come from graves (Abdy and Williams 2006, 23-29, nos 6-47; Abdy 2009b; 2009c). That the term solidus was still current in Britain in the 5th century is shown by its use in a letter written by St Patrick (Patrick, Epistola 14: 'mittunt viros sanctos idoneos ad Francos et ceteras gentes cum tot milia solidorum ad redimendos captivos baptizatos'/'they send suitable holy men to the Franks and other peoples with so many thousand solidi to ransom baptised captives.', Hood 1978, 37 and 57).

There are two hoards that date to the later 5th century. One, the Oxborough hoard from Suffolk, can be dated to around AD 475 or later and comprises three coin pendants, one with a silver denarius of Severus Alexander (AD 222-35) and two with late Roman solidi of Severus III (c.AD 461) and Julius Nepos (c.AD 474-5) (Abdy 2009b; 2009c). The Patching hoard, found in West Sussex, consists of 13 imperial and 10 Visigothic solidi, 3 miliarenses, 23 imperial and 3 Visigothic siliquae and one Roman Republican denarius. In addition, the hoard contained 54 pieces of scrap silver and two gold rings (White 1998; White et al. 1999; Orna-Ornstein 2009; Abdy and Williams 2006; Abdy 2009c). It has been argued that the Patching Hoard marks the ultimate transition from Roman Britain, where coins were specific to financial transactions, to that of a bullion-using society (Abdy and Williams 2006).

There were no bronze coins in the Patching hoard and indeed barely any base-metal coins arrive in Britain after the nummi of Valentinian III mentioned above (Byzantine bronze coins do start to arrive after the monetary reforms of Anastasius in AD 498. See Moorhead 2009). A single later 5th-century bronze piece of Odovacar, struck in Rome c.AD 489-91, was found in a Saxon grave at Barfreston in Kent in the 19th century (Abdy and Williams 2006, 40, no. 122; Moorhead 2009, 269, no. 3). This absence of bronze coins does strengthen the idea that the tri-metallic currency system was no longer used. It should be noted that finds of late Roman bronze coins at Wroxeter and other post-Roman British sites have been used to argue for the continued use of coinage in the early Anglo-Saxon period, although the archaeological contexts can be disputed and the presence of coins in the archaeological record does not necessarily imply their use in anything approaching a monetary economy (Dark 1994, 200-6; 2000, 143-4; Reece 2002, 63-6; Williams 2010, 56). Finally, although finds of later copper Byzantine coins in Britain show that base metal coins did arrive on these shores in the 6th and 7th centuries, there is no reason to believe that these coins served an economic function in Early Medieval Britain (Moorhead 2009; Morrison 2014). Indeed, the evidence suggests that coin use, in whatever form it took in Roman Britain, had dwindled by the early 5th century, although vestiges of it might have survived until as late as c.AD 430.