Umayyad dinars struck from gold from the Caliph’s own mines
Two of the rarest and most highly-prized of all Islamic gold coins are to be offered for auction in London by Morton & Eden on April 4, 2011. The Umayyad dinars, dated 92h and 105h (711 and 723AD) respectively, were made from gold mined at a location owned by the Caliph himself – known on the coins as the ‘Mine of the Commander of the Faithful.’
The later dinar has the additional legend “bi’l-Hijaz” (“in the Hejaz”), making it the earliest Islamic coin to mention a location in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These two great rarities will be offered by specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden as part of their sale of Important Coins of the Islamic World on April 4 201. They are estimated at £250,000-300,000 and £300,000-400,000 respectively.
“Each of these coins is not only an astonishing rarity but also an important historical document,” said Morton & Eden Islamic coins specialist Stephen Lloyd. “Scholars have identified the site of the mine itself as Ma`din Bani Sulaim, located north-west of the Holy City of Mecca.”
Gold has been mined there for thousands of years, and the site is still worked today. Remarkably, mediaeval Arab writers record that the Caliph bought a piece of land in this area, containing at least one gold mine, almost exactly when these coins were made. But while there is general agreement on the source of the gold, the question of exactly where these coins were struck is harder to answer.
“The capital, Damascus, is a strong possibility, but mint workers and their tools could easily have travelled with the Caliph and struck coins wherever he stayed,” Stephen Lloyd said. “Scholars have noted that the dates of these very rare dinars seem to coincide with the occasions when the Caliph himself led the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, while an old inscription also shows that a road built specially for the pilgrimage went right past this mine. So one plausible theory argues that the Caliph visited his gold mines while en route for Mecca, and it is possible these coins might have been struck while he was travelling.”
These remarkable coins form part of an important auction devoted solely to Islamic coins carefully selected for their rarity and historical significance. Other highlights include a number of very rare Umayyad silver dirhams including an issue from Oman struck in 90h (estimate £20,000-30,000, see separate release) and no fewer than five Abbasid dirhams struck in the Holy City of Mecca.
For further information, contact the Stephen Lloyd or Tom Eden on 020 7493 5344 or [email protected].