On the 25th April 2012 A. H. Baldwin & Sons Ltd will sell one of the greatest selections of classical Islamic rarities by public auction. The much anticipated sale comprises 150 of the rarest and highest quality Islamic coins from the first to the thirteenth century of the Hijri and includes a large selection of some of the finest examples of the coinage of Mecca ever to be offered at auction. A sale of this magnitude is sure to garner interest internationally from museums and institutions as well as private collectors and provides a unique opportunity to own some of the most sought after Islamic coinage known to exist.
Although the auction contains items from more than one vendor, the heart of the sale comprises a collection begun in the 1950s by a private collector. This collector had a passion for only the finest Islamic coinage and a deep-rooted interest in the heritage and historical nature of the coins he collected. As the title of the auction suggests, every single one of the 150 lots is of sublime quality and many are of enormous historical and cultural significance. A few of the most outstanding items are detailed below, but many more will be included in the catalogue which will be available to view online from the end of March.
A dechristianised copy of a Byzantine solidus of the emperor Heraclius and his two sons, struck in the reign of the Caliph ‘Abd al-Alik Bin Marwan in the year 72-72 of the Hijra is the earliest Islamic gold coin to contain the Kalima, the statement of faith, bismillah la ilah illa Allah wahda Muhammad Rasul Allah (no god but God unique, Muhammad is the messenger of God.) Pictured here, the coin is sure to gain a lot if interest. The last example sold by public auction achieving 500,000 Swiss francs.
The rarest of all Islamic coins, the Umayyad Dinar, struck in the first year of Hisham Bin ‘Abd al-Malik and the last of al-Alid II Bin Yazid, at Ma’dan amir al-Mu’minin Bi’l-Hijaz (mine of the prince of the believers in Hijaz) in 105 h. This extremely rare dinar is the earliest gold coin which can be said with certainty to have come from the Arabian Peninsula. A coin of this type and of this quality was sold at auction in London in 2011 and achieved a staggering £3.7 million, making it the second most expensive coin to ever be sold at auction.
Umayyad Dinar, time of Hisham Bin ‘Abd Al-Malik, struck in Ifriqiya in the year 122 h. By this time the legends on the gold dinars in both east and west followed the same wording and pattern, with the exception that the Umayyad mints in Ifriqiya and al-Andalus bore their mint names in the reverse marginal legend. It is possible that this coinage was struck to support the first Muslim campaign against the Byzantines in Sicily. Umayyad gold coins with mint marks are excessively rare.
Abbasid Dinar, Al-Mu’tazz Billah, Makka 252 h. The gold for this famous dinar of the Caliph al’Mu’tazz dated 252 h came from the fabric covering of the Makam Ibrahim (the holy stone) in the Holy city of Makka. The gold thread was taken from the fabric and melted down before being struck to produce this coin.
Abbasid Dinar, Al-Musta’sim Billah, Madinat al-Salam 656 h. The year 656 h marks the end of Abbasid power, and the last issue of Abbasid coinage. The Abbasid dynasty was the third of the Islamic Caliphates and indeed one of the greatest, ruling for over 500 years, from 132 h. In the first days of the month of Muharram, Madinat al-Salam was besieged by the Mongol forces of Ilkhan Hulagu, and surrendered within a few days. At this time the city reverted to its original, popular name, Baghdad. The Caliph, Musta’sim Billah was murdered and a shadow caliphate lived on under the Mamluks of Egypt. Later the office of caliph was claimed by the Ottomans after their conquest of Cairo.
Fatimid Dinar, al-‘Aziz Billah, Makka 366 h. After al-Mu’izz conquered Egypt he went on to seize the Holy City of Makka in the Hijaz. This excessively rare dinar was struck in the name of his successor al-‘Aziz during the latter’s struggle with the Qarmatids.
Ayyubid, al-Nasir Yusuf I (Saladin), Dinar, Dimashq 583 h. While Saladin struck an abundant gold coinage in al-Qahira (Cairo) and al-Iskandariya (Alexandria), this is the only dinar bearing his name from the Syrian mint. The date, 583 h., the year in which Saladin (one of the greatest leaders to fight against the Christian crusaders) won the decisive victory at the Horns of Hattin, suggests that it was a special donative issue struck to reward his victorious troops.
The extraordinary ‘Magnus Princeps’ bronze portrait medal of Sultan Mehmed II. Made shortly after Mehmed II’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and attributed to the medallist and sculptor Pietro a Milano, this masterful uniface portrait from the High Renaissance is remarkable in showing the Sultan as a young man at this hugely significant time. The only known example, this medal is considered the earliest surviving representation of the great Ottoman ruler.
The medal was bought as part of lot 696 in an auction held by Christies, Rome on 14th December 2000 and was one of a selection of items from a significant European collection. The historical importance of this splendid medal was not realised at the time. This unique and incredible piece of history carries an estimate of £300,000 – 400,000
Anonymous Mahdi of the Sudan, Gold ‘Guinea’, ‘Misr’ 1255 h. Regnal Year 2. It is recorded that when the Mahdi seized power in the Sudan he used an Egyptian Guinea bearing the tughra of the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd al-Majid as a pattern for his gold coinage. It is clear that the coin is a reasonable copy, but that it would only fool those who had to accept it in Umdurman (Khartoum), the Mahdi’s capital.
Sa’udi Arabia, gold pattern Guinea, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Sa’ud, Makka al-Mukarrima 1370 h. This is the pattern for the first gold coinage of Saudi Arabia. The design of the obverse is identical to the issued coinage, but the description of the denomination on the reverse is inscribed without the vowel marks. This is the only known example.
Graham Byfield, Baldwin’s in-house Indian and Islamic specialist, commented:
This is probably the most important and comprehensive selection of Islamic rarities ever to be offered at auction, and we are delighted to have been chosen to sell it. Baldwin’s have been holding specialist Islamic auctions for almost twenty years now and this auction will cement our position as the forerunner for Indian and Islamic coinage in the UK.
The collection in its entirety will be sold in three parts by Baldwin’s in London during 2012. This, the first part, will be sold during London Islamic week on the 25th April in The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair. The second part of the collection will be sold on the 9th May in London and will contain a broad selection of some of the lesser value coins. Bidders are strongly encouraged to attend this landmark auction where possible, although the sale will be broadcast over the internet using the services of www.thesaleroom.com/baldwins .