The gold at the end of the rainbow
CELTIC, Central Europe. Vindelici. Early 1st century BC. Stater (Gold, 16.5 mm, 7.40 g, 10 h), "Regenbogenschüsselchen" type. Head of an eagle to left with a pellet above and below the beak; the whole within a wreath-like torc with an annulet at each end. Rev. Three pellets within a solid torque with a pellet at each end; all within cup-shaped incuse. De la Tour 9430. Kellner type IIA. KMW 444. Very fine.
From the Trausnitz Collection, acquired from Athena on 13 July 1995.
This curious looking coin comes from southern Germany and was surely issued by the Vindelici, a powerful tribe living in that area. These coins entered into German folklore as "Regenbogenschüsselchen", which means "little rainbow cups" and refers to the belief that where a rainbow touched the earth, it left a treasure of gold. The strongly convex/concave form of these coins with their odd designs of stars, crosses, birds’ heads, wreaths, coiled serpents or dragons, torques and pellets confirmed their other-worldly strangeness in the eyes of their simple Teutonic finders. It is now clear that the ultimate ancestor of these types was, in fact, the gold stater of Philip II, paid in vast numbers to his Celtic mercenaries. The Celtic die engravers first copied the originals very accurately, but as time went on they began to emphasize and de-emphasize parts of the original types, thus creating designs that are so bizarre they seem to come from drug induced dreams, like those of Coleridge.