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Research Coins: Printed Auction


Iconic Rarity of the Umayyad Caliphate

Triton XXII, Lot: 1227. Estimate $150000.
Sold for $190000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

ISLAMIC, Umayyad Caliphate. temp. 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. AH 65-86 / AD 685-705. AV Dinar (20mm, 4.23 g, 6h). Unnamed (Dimashq [Damascus]?) mint. Dated AH 77 (AD 696/7). First portion of the kalimat at-tawḥīd: lā ilāha illā-llāhu waḥdahu lā sharīka lahu (there is no god except Allah, and one [is] he; (there is) no partner to him) in three lines; in outer margin, the “Umayyad Second Symbol” (Sura 9 [al-tauba]:33): muḥammadur rasūlu-llāh arsalahu bi-’lhudā wa dīn al-haqq lī-yuzhirahu ’ala al-dīn kollihi walau kariha al-mushrikūn ( · Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; him He sent with guidance and true faith to make it prevail over all other faiths even though the polytheists may hate it) / Sura 112 (al-ikhlas) Āllah ahad Āllah āl-samad lam yalīd wa lam yalūd (Allah [is] One; Allah [is] the Eternal, the Absolute; not begetting and not begotten) in three lines; in outer margin, b-ismi-llāh zarb hazā l-dinār fī sanat seb’ wa seb’īn (in the name of Allah struck this dinar in the year seven and seventy (after the Hijra)). AGC I 41; SICA 2, 1 var. (no pellet); Walker, Arab-Byzantine, pp. lvi and 84; Album 125; ICV 155; Roma XIV, lot 894 (same dies); Sotheby’s London, 18 April 1994, lot 290 (same dies). Near EF, attractive surfaces with underlying luster. Extremely rare with addition of pellet in obverse marginal legend and ālef in the reverse, and the key date in the series.

This is an exceptional opportunity to acquire a superb example of the Umayyad dinar struck in the year 77 of the Hijra. This iconic coin was the first of its kind to describe the tenets of the Islamic Faith rather than being issued on behalf of a political dynasty. It exercised an influence far beyond the borders of the Islamic Empire for over a thousand years. It drew a clear line between the coinage of the former rulers of the Levant, who were the Trinitarian Byzantines, and the monophysite Arabs. Its texts perfectly encapsulated the new Faith of Islam. The obverse field states the unique nature of God, and in the margin that Muhammad, as the messenger of God, was responsible for the spread of this belief. The field legend on the reverse expands on this by ruling out the incarnation of Christ as the Son of God. The margin emphasizes that the coin was struck in the name of God, rather than the Umayyad ruler, and shows the date of its striking in the new Hijra era. Thus, the legends encapsulated a vigorous response to the Byzantine gold solidus of Justinian II where an image of Christ was placed on the obverse and that of the Emperor grasping a cross on the reverse.

History does not record the exact date at which the Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik bin Marwan introduced his new coinage, but because of the rarity of this issue the cataloger suggests that it was probably toward the end of the year 77, perhaps for the pilgrimage season at the time of the ‘Eid al-Adha. All those who held examples of this coin in their hands, and the annual issues which followed after it, carried with them a powerful missionary document, which explained all that was necessary for a follower of the Faith to accept. In an age before modern communications, coinage was the most effective messenger that the government possessed to sway the hearts and minds of the people under its rule.