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CNG Islamic Auction 2

Lot nuber 84

Umayyad Caliphate, Silver coinage. AR Dirham (28mm, 2.70 g, 7h). Arminiya mint. Dated AH 78 (AD 697/8). Near EF.

CNG Islamic Auction 2
Lot: 84.
 Estimated: $ 10 000

Umayyad Silver and Bronze, Silver

Sold For $ 12 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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Umayyad Caliphate, Silver coinage. AR Dirham (28mm, 2.70 g, 7h). Arminiya mint. Dated AH 78 (AD 697/8). Obverse margin: Muhammad rasul Allah arsulahu bi’l-huda wa din al-haqq li-yuzhirahu ‘ala al-din kullihi wa law kariha al-mushrikun (Qur’an ix, 33) Obverse field: la ilaha illa / Allah wahdahu / la sharik lahu / Reverse margin: bismillah duriba hadha al-dirham bi-Arminiya fi sanat thaman wa saba‘in Reverse field:Allah ahad / Allah al-samad lam / yalid wa lam yulad / wa lam yakun lahu / kufuan ahad. Klat 45 = Naqshabandi & Bakri 3 (same reverse die). Pierced, small portion of edge broken and repaired. Near EF. Lightly toned. Excessively rare.

All Umayyad post-Reform silver from the year AH 78 is of the highest rarity, to the extent that Walker, writing in 1956, was unaware that any such coins even existed.

Walker believed that the earliest post-Reform Umayyad silver coin was a mintless dirham dated AH 79 (Walker p.104, Kh.4), which he attributed – almost certainly correctly – to the mint of Damascus. He considered that this was an experimental piece which, like the associated reformed gold dinars, was struck without a mint-name. On this analysis, Walker argued that the first post-reform silver coins were issued in Damascus in AH 79, and that it was only when a number of other mints subsequently began striking dirhams that it was felt necessary to incorporate the mint-name also. The two pieces offered here show why Walker’s hypothesis, while plausibly argued, now needs fundamental revision.

It is now known that at least five different mints struck reform-type dirhams in AH 78: Adharbayjan, Arminiya (as here), Jayy, Shaqq al-Taymara, al-Kufa, and possibly Damascus also. While some of these dirhams are essentially identical to issues struck from AH 79 onwards, Arminiya is one of two mints where dirhams struck in AH 78 have legends arranged differently from the norm. Here, the legend in the reverse field is spread over five lines rather than the usual four, and the mint and date is positioned in the reverse margin rather than on the obverse. It is difficult to reconcile these glaring divergencies with Walker’s argument that the reformed dirham coinage was an innovation which spread outwards from Damascus. It seems more likely that the decision to begin striking the new coins at all Umayyad silver mints was taken in AH 78, and that while most did not begin production until the following year, a handful of mints were in a position to begin immediately. In the case of Arminiya, where the caliph’s brother Muhammad b. Marwan was then governor, silver drachms were already being struck locally shortly before the coinage reforms were implemented. Having local workers who could produce new dies on site might explain why Armenia could begin striking post-Reform dirhams before other mints. The placing of the mint/date formula on the reverse is exactly the same arrangement as seen on the post-Reform gold coinage, and it may well be that the die-engravers in Armenia used gold dinars as their prototypes when engraving dies for the new silver dirhams; this would further argue against the idea that dirhams were first struck in Damascus and only then introduced elsewhere.

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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