KUWAIT CITY, Oct 21: One of the rarest and most sought after gold coins of the Islamic world fetched £288,000 when it was auctioned by specialist auctioneers, Morton & Eden in London today (Thursday Oct 20, 2016).
More than 1,300 years old, this pure gold ‘dinar’ is a little smaller than a UK one-pound coin, measuring approximately 20mm in diameter and weighing 4.25 grams. It was bought by an anonymous buyer, bidding over the telephone. Islamic coin specialist Stephen Lloyd of Morton and Eden explains: “What makes this coin so desirable is the fact that the gold from which it was made appears to have come from a mine owned by the Caliph himself. This is one of very few known Umayyad dinars, which not only bears inscriptions from the Holy Quran, but has two additional lines reading Ma’din Amir al-Mu’minin, literally ‘Mine of the Commander of the Faithful’, which was the title held by the Caliph.
“The Caliph was all-important. As the successor to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he was the supreme religious and political leader of the Islamic state. It is this direct link to the Caliph which, combined with its age and rarity, makes this dinar so significant.”
Coins with this special inscription were only ever struck in extremely small quantities, hence are extremely scarce.
The die for the obverse, which bears the additional all-important lines of provenance was used so sparingly that it survived for about four years. These dinars represent one of the greatest prizes to which any collector of early Islamic coins can aspire. The dinar was issued when the whole Islamic world was controlled by the Umayyad dynasty.
It was struck under the caliph al-Walid I in the Islamic year 92h, which equates to AD 711. At its zenith, the Umayyads controlled the fifth largest empire known to history, both in area and proportion of the world’s population, stretching from Spain to Northern India. Coins with this intriguing legend are only known to have been struck in 89h, 91h, 92h (as here) and 105h, the latter bearing the additional inscription bi’l-Hijaz. Gold is still mined in this region, located within the present- day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and this gives a strong hint that the gold used in this coin may have come from a similar source — if so, these would be the first Islamic coins with links to the Kingdom.
There is even an on-going debate among scholars as to whether there might be a connection between these coins and the Hajj pilgrimage. Regardless, these dinars remain among the most sought-after of all early Islamic coins. Most of the other known coins of these dates are held in private collections or major international museums, including the British Museum, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and the National Museum of Qatar. Stephen Lloyd added: “It is very difficult to give an accurate idea of how much ‘buying power’ the dinar would have had when it was originally issued. Even then however it would have represented a significant sum, probably something like £500 to £1,000 in today’s money.” This particular specimen had been consigned for sale from a European private collection