Junk box gems: pysa coin of Zanzibar


25 October 2018
Could you identify this mystery coin found in a dealer's junk box? Discover more about the coin and its origins in our regular junk box gems feature…

Copper, a pair of scales; reverse Arabic writing.

This is a pysa of Zanzibar, dated 1299 hijra, which is AD1881/2.

The inscription has not only to be read from right to left, you must also read the second, third and fourth lines first and finish with lines one and five - very normal in Arabic inscriptions. It then reads ‘Sultan Sa’id bin Barghash bin sultan - may Allah protect him’.

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The ‘f’ in the last word - hafizahuh - would in general Arabic be a small circle with a dot above it, but in Zanzibar (and Morocco) the dot goes below, to make it still more intriguing to read! 

Zanzibar is now part of Tanzania, but was an independent sultanate when this coin was made. It is the leading producer of cloves.