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CNG Islamic Auction 2

Lot nuber 11

Pre-reform issues, Arab-Sasanian. temp 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan. AH 65-86 / AD 685-705. AR Drachm (30.5mm, 2.51 g, 3h). Standing Caliph type. Without mint-name. Dated AH 75 (AD 694/5). Good VF.

CNG Islamic Auction 2
Lot: 11.
 Estimated: $ 30 000

Arab-Sasanian and other Pre-reform issues, Silver

Sold For $ 20 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Go to Live

Pre-reform issues, Arab-Sasanian. temp 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan. AH 65-86 / AD 685-705. AR Drachm (30.5mm, 2.51 g, 3h). Standing Caliph type. Without mint-name. Dated AH 75 (AD 694/5). Obverse margin: bismillah - la ilaha illa Allah - wahdahu Muhammad ra - sul Allah Obverse field: Sasanian bust to right; duriba fi sanat to right, khams / wa saba‘in in two lines to left / Reverse field: The Caliph standing facing, wearing elaborate robe, right hand on the hilt of a sheathed sword hung at his waist; Amir al-mu’minin to left; khalifat Allah to right. Album L40 (RRR); cf. Morton & Eden 54 (23 April 2012), lot 23 (same obverse die). Cleaned, broken and expertly repaired (not affecting the Caliph’s image). Good VF. Extremely rare.

‘The standing figure on the Arab coins was designed with the thought of producing a rival, so to speak, of the representation of the Emperor...a figure of the same general appearance, but specifically Arab and Muslim as opposed to Byzantine and Christian.

The emperor wears a crown; the caliph wears the kufiya. The emperor holds a cross; the caliph carries a sword and is prepared to draw it against the enemies of Islam. The emperor wears a loros...the caliph wears a robe or mantle, presumably the burdah of the Prophet.’

- George Miles, ‘The Earliest Arab Gold Coinage,’ ANS MN 13 (1967), p.216

This is the first confirmed depiction of the Caliph on an Islamic silver coin. Although the silver issues of Bishr b. Marwan which feature a standing figure on the reverse with hands raised in prayer are often termed ‘Caliph Orans’ drachms (see lot 7), it is now thought that this is probably a depiction of an imam (or possibly Bishr b. Marwan himself) rather than the Caliph.

It has traditionally been accepted that this extremely rare type was probably struck at Damascus, the Umayyad capital, although it carries no mint-name. Goodwin has pointed out that the only copper fulus to bear the legend Amir al-mu’minin - khalifat Allah were struck at Sarmin, Manbij, and Ma‘arrat Misrin but not at Damascus, and while he concludes that Damascus is ‘quite a strong probability’ he does not exclude the possibility that these drachms might have been struck elsewhere. But in his study of the Orans drachms of Bishr b. Marwan, Treadwell simply refers to these coins as ‘the silver issues of Damascus dated AH 75’, without qualification.

If it was indeed struck at Damascus, this coin represents a considerable advance from the relatively traditional types issued there in the previous year (see lot 10). On the obverse, the Sasanian bust and marginal legends have been retained, but the name and titles of Khusraw have been removed and replaced by the date, written in Arabic, which has been moved from the reverse. Here we also see a further step towards the familiar mint/date formula used on the post-reform coinage. The Damascus drachms dated AH 74 simply have the date in words, exactly it appears on the Pahlawi date legends, while the present coin adds the prefatory formula duriba fi sanat, ‘struck in the year’. But it is the much more fundamental redesign of the reverse which is particularly striking here. The familiar Zoroastrian fire-altar and attendants have finally been removed, and in their place is the single, visually imposing image of the caliph himself, wearing Arab dress and carrying a sword. While there is some ambiguity over the the identity of the figure on the so-called ‘Caliph orans’ drachms, the legends on the present coin could hardly be more emphatic, identifying him as the ‘Commander of the Faithful’ and ‘God’s Caliph.’

It has been noted that the spelling of khalifa is unconventional, as it lacks both the long i and the final ta marbuta. Robert Darley-Doran has suggested that the phrase may in fact read khalqat Allah, meaning ‘the image of God’ (so Goodwin, p. 39). But while this may be a closer fit to the Arabic script, it is difficult to see why this phrase might have been chosen to accompany what is manifestly an image of the caliph himself. It seems more likely that the unusual spelling seen here represents a variation which was regarded as acceptable at the time, or was simply an engraving error. Both of these features are attested elsewhere on the Damascus precious metal coinage during the 70s/690s.

The final winners of all CNG Islamic Auction 2 lots will be determined during the live sale that will be held on 27 October 2022.

Winning bids are subject to a 22.5% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 25% for all others.

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