The First Islamic Coin Leads Bonhams Islamic and Indian Sale
Bonhams is to offer Islamic coins for the first time as part of the forthcoming Islamic and Indian sale on 11 June in London. Leading the sale will be An Umayyad Gold Dinar from the Reign of 'Abd al-Malik (AD 685-705). The Year 77H Dinar is an extremely rare example of the first Islamic coin and has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.
The coin dates from the reign of Abd al-Malik, who was a member of the first generation of born Muslims. It seemed inconceivable to him that the flourishing Umayyad Caliphate did not have a currency of its own – that affairs of state, and everyday commerce, were being conducted using Byzantine coinage, or copies of it, featuring Christian symbols and images of foreign leaders. Following a period of development and transition, which saw the production of a de-Christianised Byzantine solidi – a proto-type gold coin depicting a standing Caliph – The Year 77H Dinar, the first entirely Islamic coin, was produced.
Head of Bonhams Islamic and Indian Department, Oliver White, commented: "The Year 77h Dinar is fascinating, and its significance to early Islamic history cannot be overstated. In an age before printing and modern communications, coinage was the most effective tool a government possessed to sway the hearts and minds of the people. Anyone bearing this coin carried with them a powerful religious message, which explained to new followers the principle tenets of the new faith. The 77h Dinar, the first purely Islamic coin, formed the basis of almost a thousand years of subsequent coinage in the Islamic world – each coin spreading the word of Islam."
The coin is highly symbolic in its simplicity. There is no image, no reference to a ruler or a place. There are only statements of faith and a date, which is noted only in the context of the Hijrah. The central three lines simply read 'There is no god but God alone, He has no associate', with the reverse reading 'God is one, God is eternal, He does not beget, nor is He begotten'. Encircling the inside of the coin is the line, taken from the Qu'ran, 'Muhammad is the messenger of God, who sent him with guidance and the religion of truth that he might make it supreme over all religions', whist the reverse simply states, 'In the name of God, this dinar was struck in the year seven and seventy'.
Though the exact date on which this coin was introduced into circulation is not recorded, the rarity of this issue suggests that it was probably towards the end of the year 77, potentially to coincide with the pilgrimage season at the time of the 'Eid al-Adha. The coin offered is believed to be the only professionally graded example of the coin.
The coin section of the sale will also feature:
• An Abbasid dinar from the reign of Harun Al-Rashid dated 171 AH. Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000. In the year AH 170 caliph Harun al-Rashid broke with tradition and placed his name on the coinage. For the years AH 170-171 his name and title were inscribed across the central reverse field citing him as Harun amir al-mu'minin, 'Harun Commander of the Faithful. Harun al-Rashid is best known as the ruler who appears in some of the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights, some of which are set at his court.
• A Mongol gold dinar of a type struck during the reign of Genghis Khan, dated 639 AH. Estimate: £5,000 - 7,000.
• Two Umayyad silver Dirams from Islamic Spain, Cordoba, dated 108AH and 119 AH. Estimate: £2,800 - 3,400.
Other sale highlights include:
• A Fine Gem-set and Enameled Gold Minute Repeater Pocket Watch Made for and Bearing the Initials of Awn al-Rafiq, Sharif of Mecca, by Constant Piguet, Switzerland, circa 1900. Estimate: £50,000 - 70,000.
• An Indo-Portuguese Silk-Embroidered Linen 'Five Senses' Coverlet (Colcha). Gujarat, 17th Century. Estimate: £30,000 - 40,000.
• A Study of a Bird Perched on the Branch of a Flowering Plant, by Shaykh Zayn al-Din, from the Collection of Lady Impey. Company School, Calcutta, dated 1777. Estimate: £25,000 - 35,000.
• A Large Metal Thread-Embroidered Calligraphic Panel (Hizam) From the Belt of the Qa'ba. Mecca, 20th Century. Estimate: £20,000 - 30,000.
The sale will also feature The Nugent Collection of Company School Paintings.
William Dalrymple's article, for Bonhams Magazine on The Company School, The Nugent Family and the works offered, 'In Good Company', can be read here: https://www.bonhams.com/press_release/30048/
The sale will be a live 'behind-closed-doors' auction on 11 June. An auctioneer will be present on the rostrum, and bids will be accepted in the following formats: online, on the phone, or by leaving an absentee bid. All bidding will be done remotely in accordance with the latest government guidelines.
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