Stephen Album Rare Coins > Auction 44Auction date: 15 September 2022
Lot number: 197

Price realized: 300 USD   (Approx. 300 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

UMAYYAD: al-Junayd b. 'Abd al-Rahman, governor, ca. 730-735, AE fals (1.94g), ND, A-205T, Zeno-291946 (this piece), Bactrian monogram or tamgha in center, name around, al-amir al-junayd ... possibly followed by his father's name // two Bactrian letters in center, uncertain Bactrian legend in the margin (possibly with a few Arabic letters), unpublished, F-VF, RRR. Likely from eastern Khorasan or Tokharistan. This is the second reported Umayyad fals with Bactrian letters; the first appeared in our Auction 43, Lot 209. See also #300887 (Zeno-291947).

Estimate: 160-240 USD

Starting price: 140 USD

Match 1:
Stephen Album Rare Coins > Auction 44Auction date: 15 September 2022
Lot number: 198

Price realized: 280 USD   (Approx. 280 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

UMAYYAD: al-Junayd b. 'Abd al-Rahman, governor, ca. 730-735, AE fals (2.02g), ND, A-205T, Zeno-291947 (this piece), Bactrian monogram or tamgha in center, name around, al-amir al-junayd ... possibly followed by his father's name // two Bactrian letters in center, uncertain Bactrian legend in the margin (possibly with a few Arabic letters), unpublished, F-VF, RRR. Likely from eastern Khorasan or Tokharistan. This is the third reported Umayyad fals with Bactrian letters; the first appeared in our Auction 43, Lot 209. See also #300881 (Zeno-291946).

Estimate: 160-240 USD

Starting price: 140 USD

Match 2:
Stephen Album Rare Coins > Auction 44Auction date: 15 September 2022
Lot number: 548

Price realized: 260 USD   (Approx. 260 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

SAMANID: temp. Nasr b. 'Abd al-Malik, ca. 360-361, AE fals (2.33g), Bukhara, AH351, A-1463Ovar, citing al-malik al-muwaffaq (last letter omitted) on the reverse, with the word bakh ("good") below, unpublished and possibly unique, VF, RRR. The issues of Nasr in AH349 are common, followed by fulus dated 350 (Zeno-118613) and this piece dated 351. Regular fulus in the name of al-Mansur commence in 352 in immense quantities (continued until 357). Nasr is not cited on any silver or gold coins.

Estimate: 130-170 USD

Starting price: 110 USD

Match 3:
Classical Numismatic Group > Islamic Auction 2Auction date: 27 October 2022
Lot number: 82

Price realized: 575,000 USD   (Approx. 572,240 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

Umayyad Caliphate, Gold coinage. AV Dinar (19.5mm, 4.29 g, 5h). Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin mint. Dated AH 93 (AD 711/2). Obverse margin: Muhammad rasul Allah arsulahu bi'l-huda wa din al-haqq li-yuzhirahu 'ala al-din kullihi
Obverse field: la ilaha illa / Allah wahdahu / la sharik lahu / Ma'din amir / al-mu'minin / Reverse margin: bismillah duriba hadha al-dinar sanat thalath wa tisa'in; pellet below b of duriba
Reverse field: Allah ahad Allah / al-samad lam yalid / wa lam yulad. Bernardi 47 (this date not recorded); cf. Morton & Eden 54 (23 April 2012), lot 34 (dated AH 89, same obverse die). Lustrous. Superb EF. Of the highest rarity, believed to be one of only two specimens known.

Of the greatest rarity, desirability, and historical significance, Umayyad dinars from the 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful' occupy a unique place in Islamic numismatics.

Two types of these coins are known. The first issue, to which this coin belongs, was struck under the caliph al-Walid I (AH 86-96) and examples are now known for almost all years between AH 89-93. These dinars carry the legend Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful,' positioned in the fourth and fifth lines of the obverse field. The second type, issued by the caliph Hisham (AH 105-126), is attested for the year AH 105 only. These coins carry a longer inscription, Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin bi'l-Hijaz; unlike the first type, this appears in the fourth and fifth lines of the reverse. The addition of bi'l-Hijaz gives these dinars the distinction of being the earliest coins, and quite possibly the earliest dated objects, which name a location in the present-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, while these special dinars were first recorded by numismatists more than a century ago, many aspects of their issue and significance have yet to be fully understood. The present coin, an excessively rare and beautifully-preserved example from a previously unpublished date, helps shed further light on the history and significance of this fascinating coinage.

Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Commander of the Faithful,' was the formal title used by the caliph. It was first adopted as such by 'Umar b. al-Khattab (AH 13-23) some fifty years before the term khalifa, 'successor', began to be used by 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (AH 65-86). Because Umayyad post-Reform gold and silver coins were anonymous, these 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful' dinars are the earliest Islamic gold coins which preserve the caliph's ancient title. The title Amir al-Mu'minin does not otherwise appear on Islamic gold dinars until the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid (AH 170-193).

Ma'din means 'a mine.' As in English, the word can be used literally and metaphorically, but when seen on early Islamic coins it is used in its literal sense of a place from which natural resources are excavated. By way of example, there can be little doubt that Ma'din al-Shash and Ma'din Bajunays, which appear as mint-names on 'Abbasid dirhams struck in the late second century, mean 'the mine at Tashkent' and 'the mine at Bajunays' respectively, As well as denoting denote the place where these dirhams were struck, the addition of Ma'din also indicates the source of the silver used in their production.

Thus the literal meaning of Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful,' denotes a physical location: a mine belonging to the caliph. The first scholar to study these coins in detail, Paul Casanova, took this interpretation for granted, concluding that the gold used to strike them came from a mine which belonged to the caliph himself ('J'en ai conclu que l'or dont cette monnaie avait été frappée appartenait personnellement au Chef des Croyants'). Casanova identified this as the Ma'din Banu Sulaym, located between Medina and Mecca. This mine was recorded as having been purchased by the caliph 'Umar (AD 99-101) from the heirs of Bilal b. al-Harith, who had in turn been granted the mine by the Prophet himself. Casanova did not present any direct evidence that the Ma'din Banu Sulaym was ever known as the Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin, but argued that it would be natural for the mine to acquire this name after being bought by 'Umar in AH 100 and, presumably, inherited by two further caliphs thereafter. But since Casanova's study was confined to the later dinars dated AH 105, which carry the additional phrase bi'l-Hijaz, his argument was convincing enough: the coins mentioned a mine in the Hijaz belonging to the caliph, and Casanova had successfully identified one.

More than fifty years after Casanova's study appeared, George Miles published a much shorter article describing a second Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin dinar, this time dated AH 91 and without the additional bi'l-Hijaz. Except for the date, this coin is identical to the piece offered here. Drawing heavily on Casanova's work, Miles asserted that the phrase Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin on this coin must also refer to the Ma'din Banu Sulaym, even though it lacks the phrase bi'l-Hijaz and was struck eight years before 'Umar became caliph acquired the mine in question. This is clearly problematic, and more recent scholarly thinking is clearly expressed in the words of Lutz Ilisch who, discussing a similar coin dated AH 92 in the Turath Collection, concluded that 'Whatever was meant by the term ma' seems clear that no relation to the Ma'din Bani Sulaym was meant by the inscription.'

However, Miles was on much surer ground when pointing out that the reverse die of his coin, dated AH 91, had also been used to strike ordinary dinars at the Damascus mint. He was also able to find an obverse die-link between the ANS's Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin bi'l-Hijaz coin and a standard Damascus dinar dated AH 105. From this, Miles concluded that all Ma'din dinars were in fact struck at Damascus, and that the Ma'din legend denoted the source of the gold rather than the place of striking. While the currently accepted explanation is somewhat more complex, Miles was right about two important points: that the Ma'din dinars were either struck at Damascus or a satellite mint dependent on it, and that the Ma'din inscription does not signify a mint-in the conventional sense, as Casanova had assumed. Mint-names on Umayyad Post-reform gold and silver coins are, without exception, placed in the marginal legend before the date. But on the present coin we find that Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin is positioned in the field rather than in the margin, and is even on the other side of the coin from the date legend. Taken together, the placement of the Ma'din legend and the die-link with Damascus dinars allow us to reject suggestions such as those of Samir Shamma, who argued that Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin denoted an Umayyad gold mint situated at Medina in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Miles did not address the question of why these special dinars should only have been struck in certain years and in such small quantities. Lutz Ilisch, however, has noted that the Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin dinars dated between AH 89 and 93 coincided with al-Walid embarking on a series of major building works in the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. These included the reconstruction of the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina (AH 88-90). Al-Walid is recorded as having undertaken the Pilgrimage in AH 91, when he took the opportunity to inspect the building work. Al-Tabari records that the Caliph distributed gifts in Medina, which are described as including slaves, gold and silver vessels, and also money. It is clear from al-Tabari's account that al-Walid took a strong personal involvement in events in Mecca and Medina during these years; we hear of messengers travelling between the Holy Places and Damascus, governors and other officials being appointed and dismissed, and several reports of measures being taken to weed out elements in the region who were opposed to al-Walid's caliphate. Similarly, we find that the Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin bi'l-Hijaz dinars dated AH 105 were struck when the new caliph Hisham visited the Holy Places immediately after his accession. In other words, it seems that these special Ma'din dinars were issued during periods when the caliph was particularly concerned with, and personally present in, the Holy Places. They were not issued at other times, even though we can only assume that the mine which 'Umar purchased in AH 100 must have yielded gold in other years than AH 105 alone.

Because the Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin inscriptions denotes the source of the gold rather than the place of striking, the question of where these coins were physically manufactured remains uncertain. Miles, as we have seen, argued that the coins were struck at Damascus, and Album has pointed out that the high quality of their manufacture might also indicate that they were products of the main Umayyad gold mint. Lutz Ilisch, however, has proposed that they were in fact struck at an itinerant mint, dependent on and supplied by the main facility at Damascus, which could accompany the caliph on his travels when needed, and has stated that 'an origin from Medina in the Hijaz is generally accepted.' Some support for this view comes from the circumstances surrounding the strking of the Hijaz dinars dated AH 105. While we know that the dies used for these coins were prepared at Damascus, we know Hisham himself went straight to Arabia after his accession and did not enter Damascus as caliph until the following year. Thus these dinars at least were almost certainly struck at a travelling mint rather than the Umayyad capital.

The connection between the Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin dinars and caliphal involvement with the Holy Places gives a possible answer to another question: if this inscription denotes the source of the gold, why was it felt necessary to mark this explicitly on the coins? Gold must have reached the Damascus mint from many sources, including mines, taxation, trade, tribute, and treasure captured in great military victories. Why did two small issues of dinars struck from gold excavated from a mine merit public recognition, while great military victories did not? The answer, we must assume, is that it was felt necessary to emphasise that these coins were struck from gold which belonged to the Caliph personally, and this was probably for symbolic rather than practical reasons. There may have been economic considerations behind identifying coins struck from the Caliph's personal resources, although we can only assume that other mine owners simply sold their gold or brought it to the mint to be coined, and it is not clear why the caliphs, who often had great personal wealth, should have been any different in this respect. But the symbolic value of special gold coins which were marked out as coming from the Caliph's personal wealth would have been considerable. We know from al-Tabari that al-Walid gave out gifts during his stay in Medina, and these will have come from his personal possessions rather than state funds. What could have been more appropriate than to present special gold dinars with the 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful' inscription, imbued with greater significance by being marked as a personal gift?

If we accept that the Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin dinars were struck for presentation and distribution by the Caliph himself, this would also explain why they were clearly only struck in very small numbers. The present coin exemplifies this point because its obverse die, which carries the special 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful' legend, was evidently in use for at least five years. We have surviving coins paired with reverse dies dated AH 89, 91 and 92, and this newly-discovered dinar now allows us to extend this sequence further to AH 93. Being undated, there would have been no reason to stop using these special obverse dies until they were no longer serviceable. But it is exceptional for a die to survive for at least five years without breaking, and this strongly suggests that they were only used to strike very small quantities of dinars. Nor is this an isolated case: the other two known 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful' obverse dies must also have remained in use for at least two years, since we have dinars dated AH 91 and 92 struck from each.

Intriguingly, therefore, the very ambiguity of the term Ma'din Amir al-Mu'minin, which has caused so much confusion to modern numismatists, might be deliberate and reflect an intentional double significance. On one level, 'Mine of the Commander of the Faithful' would have been an inscription which simply denoted the source of the gold from which the coins were made, and which was entirely consistent with the kind of practical information one might expect a coin to carry. But anyone who was given one of these coins by the caliph himself must surely have appreciated another level of meaning: that the coin was a personal gift from the caliph's own personal 'mine' - not only a physical location, but a metaphor for his personal resources. If so, these remarkable dinars are the earliest gold presentation coinage from the Islamic world.

Specialist Bibliography

Album, S. Sylloge of Islamic Coins in the Ashmolean. Volume 10. Arabia and East Africa, Oxford (1999).

Album, S. Checklist of Islamic Coins. Third Edition. Santa Rosa (2011).

Casanova, P. 'Une mine d'or au Hidjaz', Ministère de l'Instruction Publique at des Beaux-Arts (Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques), Bulletin de la Section de la Géographie, Tome XXXV (1920), pp. 69-125.

Ilisch, L., The Turath Collection. Leu Numismatics Ltd Auction 64, Zurich, 27 March 1996.

Miles, G.C. 'A unique Umayyad dinar of 91 H./A.D. 709-710,' Revue Numismatique, 6e Série, Tome 14 (1972), pp. 264-268.

Estimate: 750000 USD

Match 4:
Stephen Album Rare Coins > Auction 44Auction date: 15 September 2022
Lot number: 196

Price realized: 550 USD   (Approx. 550 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

UMAYYAD: AE fals (1.05g), NM, ND, A-205S, Qur'an sura 112 fills the obverse, the reverse cites the amir 'Amara b. Huzaym, who governed Marw briefly during the first 2 months of AH116, and both style and his name strongly persuades that this mintless fals was struck at Marw, nice strike, unpublished, VF, RRR. During his illness at the end of AH115, the governor of Khorasan, Junayd b. 'Abd al-Rahman (cited on fulus of Marw 112 & Balkh 114) appointed 'Amara b.Huzaym as his successor. Junayd died in Muharram 116, but 'Asim b. 'Abd Allah was named governor of Khorasan by the caliph Hisham. 'Asim detested Junayd and his underlings, so when he arrived at Marw in Safar 116 (or a few weeks later) he arrested 'Amara and may well have had him executed. Thus this type must have produced during a very short period of no more than two months at the start of AH116.

Estimate: 260-350 USD

Starting price: 220 USD

Match 5:
Classical Numismatic Group > Islamic Auction 2Auction date: 27 October 2022
Lot number: 11

Price realized: 20,000 USD   (Approx. 19,904 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

Pre-reform issues, Arab-Sasanian. temp 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan. AH 65-86 / AD 685-705. AR Drachm (30.5mm, 2.51 g, 3h). Standing Caliph type. Without mint-name. Dated AH 75 (AD 694/5). Obverse margin: bismillah - la ilaha illa Allah - wahdahu Muhammad ra - sul Allah
Obverse field: Sasanian bust to right; duriba fi sanat to right, khams / wa saba'in in two lines to left / Reverse field: The Caliph standing facing, wearing elaborate robe, right hand on the hilt of a sheathed sword hung at his waist; Amir al-mu'minin to left; khalifat Allah to right. Album L40 (RRR); cf. Morton & Eden 54 (23 April 2012), lot 23 (same obverse die). Cleaned, broken and expertly repaired (not affecting the Caliph's image). Good VF. Extremely rare.

'The standing figure on the Arab coins was designed with the thought of producing a rival, so to speak,
of the representation of the Emperor...a figure of the same general appearance, but specifically
Arab and Muslim as opposed to Byzantine and Christian.

The emperor wears a crown; the caliph wears the kufiya. The emperor holds a cross;
the caliph carries a sword and is prepared to draw it against the enemies of Islam.
The emperor wears a loros...the caliph wears a robe or mantle, presumably the burdah of the Prophet.'

- George Miles, 'The Earliest Arab Gold Coinage,' ANS MN 13 (1967), p.216

This is the first confirmed depiction of the Caliph on an Islamic silver coin. Although the silver issues of Bishr b. Marwan which feature a standing figure on the reverse with hands raised in prayer are often termed 'Caliph Orans' drachms (see lot 7), it is now thought that this is probably a depiction of an imam (or possibly Bishr b. Marwan himself) rather than the Caliph.

It has traditionally been accepted that this extremely rare type was probably struck at Damascus, the Umayyad capital, although it carries no mint-name. Goodwin has pointed out that the only copper fulus to bear the legend Amir al-mu'minin - khalifat Allah were struck at Sarmin, Manbij, and Ma'arrat Misrin but not at Damascus, and while he concludes that Damascus is 'quite a strong probability' he does not exclude the possibility that these drachms might have been struck elsewhere. But in his study of the Orans drachms of Bishr b. Marwan, Treadwell simply refers to these coins as 'the silver issues of Damascus dated AH 75', without qualification.

If it was indeed struck at Damascus, this coin represents a considerable advance from the relatively traditional types issued there in the previous year (see lot 10). On the obverse, the Sasanian bust and marginal legends have been retained, but the name and titles of Khusraw have been removed and replaced by the date, written in Arabic, which has been moved from the reverse. Here we also see a further step towards the familiar mint/date formula used on the post-reform coinage. The Damascus drachms dated AH 74 simply have the date in words, exactly it appears on the Pahlawi date legends, while the present coin adds the prefatory formula duriba fi sanat, 'struck in the year'. But it is the much more fundamental redesign of the reverse which is particularly striking here. The familiar Zoroastrian fire-altar and attendants have finally been removed, and in their place is the single, visually imposing image of the caliph himself, wearing Arab dress and carrying a sword. While there is some ambiguity over the the identity of the figure on the so-called 'Caliph orans' drachms, the legends on the present coin could hardly be more emphatic, identifying him as the 'Commander of the Faithful' and 'God's Caliph.'

It has been noted that the spelling of khalifa is unconventional, as it lacks both the long i and the final ta marbuta. Robert Darley-Doran has suggested that the phrase may in fact read khalqat Allah, meaning 'the image of God' (so Goodwin, p. 39). But while this may be a closer fit to the Arabic script, it is difficult to see why this phrase might have been chosen to accompany what is manifestly an image of the caliph himself. It seems more likely that the unusual spelling seen here represents a variation which was regarded as acceptable at the time, or was simply an engraving error. Both of these features are attested elsewhere on the Damascus precious metal coinage during the 70s/690s.

Estimate: 30000 USD