Rare Islamic gold coin to be auctioned at Morton & Eden


13 May 2024
The earliest appearance of the Shahada on a gold coin struck during the caliphate of ‘Abd al-Malin bin Marwan (AD 685 – 705) is coming up for auction with Morton & Eden in London on 12th June.

The extremely rare coin, which measures just 20mm in diameter and weighs 4.27g, is expected to sell for between £150,000 and £200,000 due to both its historical importance and rarity. Tom Eden of Morton & Eden said ‘It was very exciting to be shown this coin which had in the past been assumed to be a standard Byzantine issue. Careful examination of the edge showed that at some stage it was mounted probably in a jewellery setting and this could be a reason for its survival for coins like this were supposed to be handed in and melted following the introduction of the first purely Islamic dinars in AD 697. 

Its historical importance lies in the fact that it is the very first gold coin to bear the words of the Shahada in its legends in order to spread the tenets of Islam. In the last 42 years, only four other examples have appeared for auction – a sign of its great rarity today.’ 

Above: The coin is the earliest appearance of the Shahada on a gold coin

Related article: Islamic rarity sold by Baldwins

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Establishing an Islamic currency 

During the Umayyad period of Arab expansion across former Byzantine and Persian lands, experiments were put in hand by the caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan to establish a national Islamic currency. 

In former Byzantine regions where the solidus was well-established as the primary gold coin in commerce, the Arabs started to experiment by initially removing any traces of Christian symbolism from the coinage whilst also keeping the images of the Byzantine rulers. 

Related article: An introduction to Byzantine coins

The next stage of establishing an Islamic currency was to eliminate all Latin inscriptions and introduce the Shahada in kufic script which emphasises the basic tenets of Islam – Bismillah la illah ila Allah wadahu Muhammad rasul Allah which translates to 'In the name of God, there is no god but God. He is unique. Mohammad is the Messenger of God.'

The caliph were able to establish a purely epigraphic Islamic coinage in AD 697, and coins like this one being auctioned, which was struck around 691 – 694 were demonetised.

Related article: Islamic coin could fetch £1 million