Some of the coins of this group were thought, at one time, to be the earliest Coriosolite coins. This was because of an apparent realism in the heads (due mainly to a large face coupled with correspondingly smaller attendant details, such as the ear-curls and forelocks), combined with the belief that the art began in a realistic style, and gradually descended into barbarism and decadence.
By the same reasoning, Class VI coins, which are now known to be the earliest in the series, were placed last. This mistake is an easy one to make, as there are cultures and periods where there is indeed decay in the quality of art. This can be seen in the gradual decline following the classical period of Greek art and again in the decadence and weakness after the height of the Hellenistic period. The earliest Celtic gold coins tried to copy their Greek prototypes before the Celtic aesthetic reasserted itself, leading to a synthesis of the two traditions. It is commoner for the work of a single artist to start out awkwardly, or, at least cautiously, hesitant to experiment with novelty. As the craft is practiced, a person naturally tends to improve, exhibiting considerable ease in the task; the work only tends to deteriorate if the artist becomes cynical, bored, or feels that the job is unimportant.
Although there is no clear dividing line, the reverses in Group I undergo numerous changes: there is a tendency toward curl-and-leaf motifs rather than the dominant banners of Group H, and the drivers eventually embark on a series of bizarre variations before settling on a new design that will only be abandoned during Class III.
As in the previous group, the coins of Group I are ordered on the basis of minor changes, and the chronology is ultimately a matter of judgement. The changes to the driver do, however, enable the last coins of this group to be placed with more certainty: after much dithering, the die engraver finally settles on a design for the driver that provides, along with other features, a smooth transition into Class III.
The chronology is as follows:
(48, 49, 50, 51), 52, 53, 54,
In the first obverse of this group, Coin 48, the beaded lips are replaced by a downward extension of the base of the nose, terminating in a semi-oval, flattened on the bottom to form the upper lip. Opposed to this diagonally, a similar shape forms the lower lip. The overall effect is reminiscent of the smile found on Archaic Greek heads. This design is peculiar to Coin 48. The back of the neck is formed by one of the hairs as were usual in-group H. For the rest of this group, there is a normal line for the back of the neck.
The reverse of Coin 48 is similar to Coin 34, save for the driver, which resembles that found on Coin 42, both of Group H.
On the obverse of Coin 49, the nose descends from the front of the forehead in a straight line, making it larger, and the lips again consist of two beads. The back of the neck is no longer an extension of a hair.
The reverse of Coin 49 is similar to Coin 33 of Group H, except that the St. Andrew's cross of the banner does not continue to the center, and there are small lines set at 45º to the banner's corners near the end of each limb of the St. George's (Greek) cross, save for the top one.
The obverse of Coin 50 is of the same style as the previous coin.
The reverse has a banner consisting of a simple St. George's cross; the lash is a single wavy line that divides into two where it connects to the top corners of the banner. Between the banner and the pony is an additional lash similar to the one on Coin 46 of Group H, but terminating in a simple curl without the leaf.
The obverse of Coin 51 differs from the preceding two coins only in the proportions.
There is major change in the design of the reverse of Coin 51, which will last with some variation to the end of Group K (Class III); this is a return to the double curl-and-leaf emblem in front of the pony seen previously on Coin 46 of Group H. The lash is also of the same style as on Coin 46.
The obverse of Coin 52 has a much narrower head than that on the previous coin.
The reverse is similar to the previous coin except that the lash is no longer wavy, but is a smooth curve terminating in a bead near the curl of the head above the pony.
The obverse of Coin 53 may be from the same die as Coin 52.
On the reverse of this coin, the driver is given a body very similar to that of Coin 28 of Group G (Class IV). Although the arm, of course, does not connect to the body as in Coin 28, but forms an additional limb between the nose and the hand, as in Coin 48. The style of body continues uncharged except for its proportions until the end of Group K.
Coin 54 differs from Coin 53 only in its proportions.
The following seven coins were thought to be the earliest in the Coriosolite series: the reasons for this are described in the introductory passages to Group I. Their major novelty is not the apparent realism of the head on the obverse, but the extraordinary series of driver's heads that appear on the reverse. The significance of these odd designs is uncertain. The designs could have some mythological connections, but a more likely explanation is that the die engraver was merely trying to develop a new style for the driver's head by experimentation rather than evolution.
Coin 55 has a large head on the obverse, of slightly different style than on the previous coins.
The reverse has what appears to be an additional body above the palmette-derived one of the two previous coins; this additional body is of the same shape as the lower one, but is solid rather than segmented. A long arm descends from this below the shoulder and connects to the hand. This body does not have a head, that position being taken up by the head above the pony. The lower body, apparently superfluous, may be intended to be viewed as the body of the chariot. Such ambiguities are common in Celtic Art and are quite deliberate. The outer curl-and-leaf emblem in front of the pony is omitted, and the lash is a short wavy line connecting to the bead of the emblem in front of the pony's forehead. The lash connects to the curl of the small head as it did prior to Coin 52.
The obverse of Coin 56 could be from the same die as Coin 55.
The driver on the reverse is again of novel design, the solid body above the chariot body is of a backward apostrophe shape, its head an outline of wishbone form with one bead for an eye and another at the end of the nose. A beaded line follows the curve of the back, terminating in a solid curl. The emblem is similar to that on the last coin, though the lash is longer, and the bead at the junction of the lash and the emblem is omitted.
The head on the obverse of Coin 57 is similar to that of Coin 55 but smaller and with a proportionally larger nose.
The reverse is not entirely visible on the two specimens in the hoard, but what there is approximates the design of the following coin.
On the obverse of Coin 58, the head is of the same style as the previous coin, but is yet even smaller.
The reverse of Coin 58 has a driver with a beak-shaped nose and a crescent-shaped solid behind his eye; the back of his head is formed of beads. The emblem is similar to that on Coin 54, except that the lash is very wavy above the pony's head, and its terminal bead is set lower than that on Coin 54.
The head on the obverse of Coin 59 is again made larger, and the lips are slightly stalked, a feature which will last for the rest of this group.
The driver's head on the reverse of Coin 59 retains a beaked nose, but this is drawn more naturalistically, and resembles the beak of a crow or a raven. The solid crescent is made smaller, set lower, and points upwards at a 45º angle to more accurately represent a cheek section. The beaded line running from the arm around the back of the head does not connect to the top of the face as it does on the preceding coin, but stops just short of this; an additional beaded line, connected to the top of the face, descends behind the head and terminates in a solid curl. The emblem in front of the pony, while similar to the last, reverts to a lash that is not as wavy, and connects to the curl of the head above the pony in the usual manner.
The obverse of Coin 60 is similar to the previous coin, except for a small line running from the inside of the nose tip to the lower eyelid. It is difficult to find any purpose for this line, and it is most likely due to a die break, or to a slip of the tool while engraving the nose.
There are two varieties of the reverse of Coin 60: on the first, the head above the pony has no curl; and on the second, a curl is present. The driver's head is of a new design: the front of the face is a concave line with a bead at the junction of the arm. A diadem line runs from the top of the face, and stops short of the beaded line forming the back of the head. The crescent -shaped cheek section is retained, as is the bead for the eye. The hair is of split-palmette derivation, and the curl at the back descends from a shape probably derived from the base of a leaf stem. This style of driver is called the "link-driver" because it, along with other features, forms a link between Class I and Class III.
The major transition between these Classes comprise Group J, the coins of which were entitled "Link Coins" by Rybot; although at the time they were thought to link coins which later were assigned to Classes VI to IV, III and II. Of these, the similarities to Class III were accurately observed by Rybot, the other connections were made based on loose similarities, and any connection, if it exists, was due to influence rather than evolution.
The obverse of Coin 61 resembles the preceding coin.
On the reverse, the head above the pony has a nose of two stacked beads, and the curl-and-leaf emblems have only a short lash, each terminating in a bead in front of the pony's mane.
Coin 62 resumes the mouth ornament on the obverse last seen in Group H, and the back of the neck is much lower than the front.
The reverse of Coin 62 is similar to the first reverse variety of Coin 60, but the curl of the driver's head omits the leaf-stem-base shape, and ascends to a partial diadem.
The obverse of Coin 63, which is the last coin of Group I, is the same as the obverse of the preceding coin.
The reverse of Coin 63 has the curl-and-leaf emblems conjoined with a bead, the united lash then connecting to the small head, again given a curl in the usual manner. The curl of the driver's head is set as it is in Coin 60 and 61, but the leaf-stem-base shape is absent, and the end is linear.
Class I ends with Group I. This was a very difficult Class to place into chronological order, and some uncertainties must remain, particularly in those coins that were outside of the sub-groups, and before the last coins of Group I. I have, as usual, given greater emphasis to the most minor of design elements, as, everywhere, the telling characteristic style is to be found in the details.