Heritage World Coin Auctions > Dallas Signature Sale 3102Auction date: 2 November 2022
Lot number: 31153

Price realized: 16,000 USD   (Approx. 16,206 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

Philip V gold Cob 8 Escudos 1714 Mo-J MS63 PCGS, Mexico City mint, KM57.3, Cal-2212, Onza-396 (Few specimens known), Oro Macuquino-396. 27.08gm. Type with date on reverse, and GRAT obverse legend. Highly collectible among the colonial gold Cob series, with Calicó stating that only a few specimens are known in his book, La Onza. While the date is mostly off-flan, with only the lower part of the last digit discernible, this single year type is easily identifiable. Bearing an eye-appeal seen in 1715 Fleet shipwreck pieces, this choice specimen is dressed in matte-like sun-gold surfaces with only the trivial trace of handling. Among the handful of certified examples, only two rank finer, making for a prime opportunity to own an example from this hotly-contested series.



© 2022 Heritage Auctions | All Rights Reserved

Estimate: 8000-12000 USD

Match 1:
Daniel Frank Sedwick, LLC > Treasure Auction 32Auction date: 3 November 2022
Lot number: 28

Price realized: 13,000 USD   (Approx. 13,324 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

Mexico City, Mexico, gold cob 8 escudos, (1714) J, "GRAT" variety (date on reverse not visible), NGC MS 62 (1715 Fleet Label). S-M30; KM-57.2; Cal-2212; Tauler-396. 26.75 grams. While the "GRAT" dies (so named for the placement of GRAT where the date normally appears, along with moving the date to the legend on the reverse) were clearly a refinement of the details, unfortunately the planchets were not so well prepared and you tend to see flat areas and doubling where multiple attempts were made to impart the die details onto the coin. This coin is a classic example, with some parts choice (like the all-important GRAT plus the crown and most of the cross) but much of the centers are weak or flat or slightly doubled, with luster throughout per the grade, also with clear denomination VIII over IIIV, one of several die-punching errors that characterize the "GRAT" dies. From the 1715 Fleet, with original Cobb Coin Co. (Mel Fisher) plastic and paper tags NCB-MOE4295 (1987).

Estimate: $10000 - $15000

Match 2:
Heritage World Coin Auctions > Dallas Signature Sale 3102Auction date: 2 November 2022
Lot number: 32737

Price realized: 14,500 USD   (Approx. 14,687 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

Philip V gold "1715 Fleet" Cob Escudo ND (1711-1713) MXo-J XF, Mexico City mint, KM51.1, Cal-Type 206. 3.5gm. Bearing well-defined motifs with bold mint/assayer, stamped "CARRIED ABOARD APOLLO 14", "31 JAN" and "9 FEB 1971". A piece that overlaps two great Floridian fields of collecting: Shipwreck and Space memorabilia.

According to the original 2010 Sedwick description, the connection between the space program and the 1715 Fleet had been known to few people, as other than being geographically close to each other, several of the original "Real Eight Company" divers had "day jobs" in the Cape Canaveral base. In fact, two series of silver Robbins medallions were struck from melted-down 1715-Fleet silver ingots, the first series releasing 82 medallions which were flown to the moon on the 1969 Apollo 12; and the second series with 177 medallions struck just after the 1971 Apollo 15 from a ingot actually flown aboard the mission. Remarkably, the ingot for the Apollo 15 mission (supplied by noted salvager Art Hartmann) was originally supposedly to be a gold ingot, which was deemed too heavy for the flight. The present offering was the first confirmation that Fleet gold in fact reached the moon, after all, in the form of this coin, which must have been carried among personal items (in a "PPK," or Personal Preference Kit, as confirmed by expert Larry McGlynn) by one of the astronauts on Apollo 14 (Alan Shepherd, Stuart Roosa and Ed Mitchell)--the Apollo program's third manned lunar landing--and then later stamped with the memorial engravings. A unique and historically important item, likely to engage both shipwreck and space memorabilia enthusiasts.



© 2022 Heritage Auctions | All Rights Reserved

Estimate: 3000-5000 USD

Match 3:
Stack's Bowers Galleries (& Ponterio) > Collector's Choice November 2022 AuctionAuction date: 14 November 2022
Lot number: 71674

Price realized: 4,400 USD   (Approx. 4,260 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
Lot description:

MEXICO. Cob 4 Reales, 1668-Mo. Mexico City Mint, Assayer Geronimo Becerra (G). Charles II. PCGS Genuine--Graffiti, VF Details.
cf. KM-39; Cal Type-91. Weight: 13.48 gms. This piece is unlisted with this date or assayer in Krause or Calico, and as such it may have been struck with an 8 Reales die. This darkly toned Mexico City Cob offers a pleasingly clear date along with a bold mintmark and assayer. The reverse shows a complete cross within unbroken octolobes. The noted graffiti is visible on the flat area on the top of the obverse. A satisfyingly detailed piece with rustic charm. To view all items from the Pat Johnson Collection, click here.

From the Pat Johnson Collection.

Estimate: $300 - $500

Match 4:
Spink > Auction 23104Auction date: 31 March 2023
Lot number: 712

Price realized: This lot is for sale in an upcoming auction - Bid on this lot
Lot description:

NGC MS63 | *Top Pop* | Anne (1702-1714), "Swift's Petition for the British Copper Coinage to the Lord High Treasurer, Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford", A Medallic Gold Pattern for a Farthing, 1713, Commemorating the Historic Act of Union of England and Scotland, an extraordinary personal striking after John Croker and Sir Isaac Newton at the Royal Mint, c. 1738, before Arundell's confiscation and destruction of the dies at the Tower of London, ANNA • DEI • GRATIA • draped bust 'A' three-quarters left, with beaded hair, toothed border and linear circle, rev. en médaille, BRITANNIA • 1713 • The Queen personified as Britannia seated left on Globe, wearing loose drapery, holding oval shield inscribed with Cross of St. George and St. Andrew, spear resting beside, olive branch in right hand, double exergual line below, thicker inner line touching tops of legend, edge plain on a thin flan, 5.95g [92.0grns // 3 dwt 20 grns], 23.7mm., 12h (Snelling [1766], Pl. 8, no. 5; Tyssen [1802], 2743; Ruding [1817] -; Till [1837], no. 3; H W Henfrey, type E; Montagu 11 [Fourth Portion, lot 148] = Murdoch 884 = Huth 586 = Brigg = Hewitt 391 this coin; Peck [BNJ, 1958], Group 3, O4*/Rb, no. 22a; Peck 22 = BMC 751 this coin mentioned [cf. Pl. 16, J]; BM 1935.0401.8229 same obverse die; W&R 61 this coin), faint traces of doubling in legends highly reminiscent of Royal Mint Pattern Strikings for contemporary Hanoverian gold specie and the Cromwellian Half-Broads restruck by J S Tanner in 1738; nevertheless with faint cabinet friction and inconsequential marks to rim, otherwise splendidly lustrous with brilliance across gloriously original fields, a truly sublime auriferous canon by the celebrated 18th Century medallist John Croker, conceived by him at the behest of Jonathan Swift at the apogee of national patriotic fervour following the historic Act of Union of England and Scotland and Peace of Utrecht, all whilst the Royal Mint was under the Mastership of its most famous comptroller Sir Isaac Newton; an indisputably storied British numismatic rarity and much-like Thomas Simon's famous 1663 'Petition Crown' - prized from inception by connoisseurs and 'Ruding's vulgar collector' alike; resulting in at least one prison sentence! Of the highest rarity, especially in this metal with only two specimens known; the other permanently impounded in the British Museum collection. With a matchless pedigree and the indisputable 'Queen of Rarities' within this historically-lauded and prohibitively exclusive four-coin series; now returning to public auction for the first time in over 50 years; and thus an unprecedented opportunity for the metaverse-refined, globally-astute but still privately-minded cognoscente of today, in NGC 'St Helier' holder, righteously graded MS63 (Cert. #6769435-005).
The St. Helier Collection of English Gold Coins,
'A highly important collection of Patterns struck in Gold', Glendining, 13 April 1972, lot 391 - a pièce de plaisir, struck from somewhat rusty dies but brilliant proof surface, extremely rare - £620 [Spink for St. Helier],
Capt Vivian Hewitt, collection purchased en bloc by Spink, 1967,
M A Brigg [a.k.a. 'North Country Collector'], portion of collection purchased by Baldwin, by 1943,
R Huth, First Portion, Sotheby's, 4-7 April 1927, lot 586 - brilliant and very rare in gold - £29.0.0 [Seaby for Brigg],
J G Murdoch, Second Portion, Sotheby's, 8-13 June 1903, lot 883 - "a beautiful impression, very rare" [Pl. XIV] - £12.5.0 [Spink for Huth],
Montagu, Fourth Portion, Sotheby's, 15-17 July 1897, lot 148 - "Pattern Farthing, 1713, struck in gold, ANNA. DEI. GRATIA., draped bust of the Queen to left, wearing pearl fillet in hair, similar to bust on Pattern Halfpenny, rev. BRITANNIA 1713 (date in legend), Queen with attributes of Britannia seated to left, broad border on either side (11), extremely fine and rare - £15.0.0 [Spink for Murdoch]
, ,
, ,
"The Lord Treasurer quarrelled with me at Court for being four days without dining with him; so I dined there to-day, and he has at last fallen in with my project (as he calls it) of coining halfpence and farthings, with devices, like medals, in honour of the Queen, every year changing the device. I wish it may be done." Jonathan Swift, Letter LVIII to Mrs Rebecca Dingley, London, 4 January 1712/13, ,
Queen Anne's accession on 8 March 1702 witnessed a glut of copper coinage in the London economy, and guaranteed an almost permanent ban on the striking of new specie during her rule. This embargo was overseen by the new Master of the Mint, Isaac Newton, whose renown had grown ever since the publication of his 'Principia' on the three laws of motion in 1687. However his appointment as Warden to the Royal Mint came through his separate experimentation with alchemy, a skill that proved useful during the Great Recoinage in 1696. His tight comptrollership of the specific tolerances of each coin has forever after resulted in a contemporary specie marred by planchet adjustment marks - Newton's numismatic legacy was in effect a challenge to collectors to find a uniformly struck-up Williamite coin!
, ,
His elevation to Master on 25 December 1699 following the death of Thomas Neale saw him inherit an unassailable problem with the assaying of pure copper. Thus far the technology had proven beyond the horse-drawn capabilities of the 17th Century mint who could neither roll, nor properly test the blanks they could even produce. Therefore since April 1694, 700 tonnes of pre-made blanks were provided by Sir Joseph Herne, Sir Francis Parry, George Clark, Abel Slaney and Daniel Barton. In 1698, a petition by the merchants of Southwark bemoaned the abuses of these patentees for their evident production of base copper coin, and worse still, their flooding of the London market. This precipitated a one-year hiatus on further production from 24 June 1698. By final lapse of the contract in 1701, an extraordinary £137,200 of this copper coin had been struck, more than sufficient for the next decade of service to the British economy.
, ,
By 1712, however, the clamour for small specie had returned, and with it several petitions. The first published by Beardwell of Blackfriars in 1710, re-championed the cause of tin money in a circulated printed address: 'A humble and Seasonable Proposal to the Queen to raise Money without any Tax sufficient to rebuild her Royal Palace of White-Hall in Greater Magnificence than ever'. The imagined dialogue between an out-of-work coin-engineer; a shopkeeper; a market woman and a beggar extolled the virtues of a return to a 'small farthing, light and clean as silver that cannot be counterfeited without loss and immediate discovery.' Fanciful and unrealistic as that claim may have been at the time, these accounts are phenomenally enlightening. We hear of the Shopkeeper's son 'once being employed at Somers Key to make the Tin Farthings of King James that were cryed down as Popish imitations for being too heavy', which comes in sharp contrast to the fearful market woman who when asked 'pray let me see your farthings', is horrified to discover from the coin-engineer and shopkeeper that most of her money, which are actually halfpennies, are 'dull, nasty thick counterfeits'. But as the coin-engineer mourns, 'there is such a number of foul cast Half-pence that in 40 shillings, you must take 20 shillings in those Half-pence, or else you can receive no money.' The coin engineer then regails us of his past work at mints in Holland and France before employment at the Tower which eventually took him with James' army to Ireland following the Glorious Revolution in 1688. His evident adeptness with the edging technology (castaing machines) to prevent counterfeiting reveals his insider knowledge of William III's unfulfilled plans for a new tin coinage after 1695. This forms the basis for his appeal to Queen Anne in 1710, for which he produces the evidence of the market woman, who is 'forced to take Farthings about me, but are so heavy they tear out my pockets on the way home and [en]cumber me badly.' When pressed on whether the petition would be successful for the poorest, the engineer proposed: "Suppose the Queen should cause small Farthings as fine as silver to be coined, do you think they would then carry those?", the beggar chimes in: "O God bless Her Majesty, I think they would and she could not do a Greater Charity to the Poor, and all small Dealers, for then every body would carry more plenty of them in their Pockets."
, ,
The appeal however would ultimately fall on deaf ears, for Newton, since knighted for services to his Parliamentary constituency of the University of Cambridge in 1705, was pre-occupied only with a small coinage in copper that but for its seignorage, would have the intrinsic metal value equivalent to face. His incorrigible stance, driven by an ambition to reduce Mint production costs ultimately overlooked the essential need for tin-alloy in the specie to ensure the efficiency of the Mint's aged rolling mills. The few trials Newton did muster would all fail the only available test available 'by the hammer', a limited technology that would still be in use at the conversion to bronze coinage in 1860. Landing the ignominy of a failed Pyx in 1710 (later overturned on appeal), would suffer a similar fate with his few copper trials at the hands of copper-smith James Bertie. Denounced as 'coarse copper', the prepared planchets ultimately cracked under striking pressure leaving the wide-spread production of copper specie for Queen Anne all but abandoned. In April 1717, Newton finally relented and purchased new copper blanks for the production of George I's first 'dump issue' copper specie.
, ,
"I can calculate the movement of the celestial bodies, but not the madness of men" Newton famously quipped, and much like the South Sea Bubble that cost him some £20,000 in 1720, the coining of copper Farthings and Halfpennies would equally overwhelm him. However as Peck notes in his article for the BNJ, it is evident that at least some of the corpus of Halfpennies and Farthings survive from his own experiments. 'Termed Group 1 and 2', they comprise the double-headed issues and those showing signs of rust, but are clearly distinct from the Group 3 issues with new letter puncheons which are presumed to be the strikings cause by Mr Charles Bush of the Ordnance Office of the Tower of London after he obtained the 'dies for the Halfpenny' and caused some to be struck off before they were confiscated and destroyed by warrant of then Master of the Mint, Richard Arundell (1737-1745). As Peck notes, mysteriously few examples of the Halfpenny survive that can be so clearly attributed as 'restrikes', particularly as off-metal issues, although the clumsy repurposing of Halfcrown edge lettering with the regnal year 'DVODECIMO' opens the tantalising possibility that some may have been struck during the twelfth year of King George II (i.e. 1739), if not that of Queen Anne (1713).
, ,
The first mention of a copper coinage in the numismatic review of Queen Anne's reign comes from the observations of Stephen Martin Leake in his seminal publication: 'Nummi Britannici Historia: An Historical Account of the English Money', (W. Meadows, London, 1726, pp. 142): "There was likewise Half-pence and Farthings of two different kinds, struck Anno 1713, and 1714 of fine Copper, but there were so very few of these coin'd, that they are preserved as great rarities; on one side is represented her Majesty's Head, ANNA. DEI. GRATIA. on the Reverse Britannia, circumscribed BRITANNIA. 1713, the other of 1714 has the Date under Britannia." [sic]
, ,
This quite innocent notation about 'great rarities' would inadvertently give rise to an extraordinary folklore surrounding the issue that would endure nationwide for more than two centuries and constantly plague the numismatic discourse amongst servants of the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum. Such mythology would not be so readily accepted by another contemporary Richard Dodsley, however:
"So modern a Thing as a Queen Anne's Farthing has risen to the Dignity of a Curiosity, merely because there were but a few of them struck. Some industrious Artists, who would have the greatest Scruple of counterfeiting the current Coin of the Kingdom, have been so blinded by their Love of Virtu, as to imitate these rare Farthings, looking upon them solely as Curiosities. I just mention this for the Sake of those laborious Medallists; because the present Honourable Attorney-General, tho' a very Learned Man, is no Antiquarian, and might possibly be of the Opinion, that those admirable Copies would come under the Penalties of the Statute against Clipping and Coining.' The Museum or the Literary and Historical Register, Volume the First (London, 1746, pp. 47-48) [sic]
, ,
Dodsley's input came after the first public auction appearance of Queen Anne's Farthing at the dispersal of Leonard Wooddeson's cabinet, late member of the Board of Works, by Aaron Lambe in Pall Mall on 20 March 1733/34 [lots 34 and 90]. Intriguingly the second listing herein described her Farthing as being 'made of lead'. White metal or more correctly tin specie had of course been phased out by Act of Parliament on 17 April 1694 during the co-reign of her predecessors. Whilst examples of this coinage have been recorded as patterns 'struck in tin' (Archbishop Sharp, 1977, lot 274), it is tantalising to think that Dodsley's greatest fear may have been true inside two decades of the original production.
, ,
It is possible that Snelling's mention of Mr Bush's possession of the Halfpenny dies also extended to Farthing matrices, for the prevalence of restrikes in Gold and Silver extends across three Patterns for 1713, and one of 1714 and on multiple weight standards. Whilst the Halfpenny was conceived as an alleviation to the problem of 'weighty small change', a renewed farthing production would also serve an important purpose in the rumbling political debate about how best to commemorate Queen Anne's reign and her notable victories over the Spanish and French. Jonathan's Swift diverse petition championed these designs, as well as those heralding the Act of Union of England and Scotland in 1707, in his treatise to the 1st Earl of Oxford. Intriguingly it is also the Oxford family collection that affords us the earliest mention of a Queen Anne Farthing struck in gold and probably also the necessary 'smoking gun' to corroborate large swathes of Peck's hypothesis. , ,
At the sale of the 2nd Earl's collection in Christopher Cock's salerooms (18-23 March 1741/42), an example of 'Her Farthing, struck in Gold of weight 6 dwt 4 grns' featured as lot 172. Harley's personal assent to the coinage perhaps resulted in this memento being struck by Newton. However the date of sale does not entirely eradicate the possibility of this actually being a later restriking; especially as the youngest coin in the Oxford cabinet was a 1739 Halfcrown. Another early beneficiary of these exclusive gold Pattern strikings was the Honourable Bryan Fairfax, whose sale in 1751 included a further example of 'a pattern of her farthing, 1713 - 4dwt 2grns' curiously lotted alongside 'a ten shilling piece of Oliver - 3dwt 0grns'. It is inferred from this bizarre lotting practice, that Queen Anne's coin was actually conceived at the Royal Mint at the same time as the famous Tanner re-strikings of the Cromwellian Half-Broad. The dies for this latter coin, created from Simon's original puncheons, had been ordered in 1738 by Richard Arundell, then Master, for the purposes of 'gifts for his friends'. The penalty for illicit possession of dies under the 1696 Recoinage Act was high treason for Charles Bush. Arundell personally overseeing the production of such restrikings, including that in the cabinet of the Lord Chancellor's son is a far more conceivable notion. At Dr Richard Meade's dispersal in 1755, another remarkable 1713 Pattern appeared for the first time; the 'PAX MISSA PER ORBEM' issue, struck to commemorate the Peace of Utrecht. Traditionally referred to as one of the four Pattern Farthing designs, Matthew Prior's letter to Viscount Bolingbroke in May 1713 actually confirms this to be his own personal contest to the official 'Treaty of Utrecht' medal by John Croker, simply struck on a Farthing planchet but a heavier weight standard. By great fortune, an example of this in gold has also resurfaced in recent times, firstly at a public auction in Queensland (IAG Signature 96, 22-23 October 2022, lot 404 - AU$52,000); before returning to London with a favourable third-party grade and an optimistic six-figure re-sale estimate., ,
The most enduring mythology about the Queen Anne Farthing in the centuries since these seminal sales has been the extraordinary idea 'only three coins were produced before the die irreparably broke.' So infectious was this folklore, that it would be presented as incontestable evidence in a court of law; prompt a nationwide frenzy; and create widespread disappointment amongst beneficiaries left worthless heirlooms that had been preposterously overvalued. However like with the scoliotic discovery in King Richard III's spine, there appears to be a large grain of truth to this propagated falsehood. Whilst the surviving count of Queen Anne Farthings extends into three figures across all metals (gold, silver, copper, brass, tin and lead), the present corpus for gold strikings stands at just twelve known coins, of which at least half are impounded in National Institutions (British Museum = 5; Hunterian Museum = 1), with the remaining six largely untraced since the Hewitt dispersal (1972), that is of course until the re-emergence of the present example today. In the extensive, but perhaps not entirely exhaustive studies of Charles Wilson Peck, only two examples of the present type or 'first issue' have ever been recorded. The other specimen has been impounded in the British Museum since the Samuel Tyssen sale (April 1802, lot 2743). The remaining varieties have either three, if not four specimens extant. In any respect, the present coin is therefore not just unique to commerce, but also the rarest of the already prohibitively exclusive Queen Anne Pattern Farthing series in gold., ,
To date, only five individuals have ever achieved the monumental feat of owning all 'four types' of Queen Anne's Farthing in Gold:
, ,
Samuel Tyssen (1802)
John Gloag Murdoch (1903)
Reginald Huth (1927)
M A Brigg (1943)*
Captain Vivian Hewitt (1967)
*Although public sale records do not corroborate Brigg's claim, we have it on the good authority of Charles Wilson Peck.
, ,
Incredibly Hyman Montagu, the legendary 19th Century collector and author of 'The Copper, Tin, and Bronze Coinage of England' failed in the task. With the opportunity of two varieties appearing at auction in the same month for the first time in over half-a-century, it is beholden upon the nerves of today's connoisseur to rise to this immense challenge, particularly as this offering sits at the very top of the rarity tree.

Estimate: £20000 - £30000

Match 5:
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'din...it 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