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Morton & Eden Ltd
Auction 85  27 April 2017
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Lot 117

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Estimate: 100 000 GBP
Lot unsold

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ILKHANID, ULJAYTU (703-716h), Medallion of 25-dinars weight, Madinat Baghdad 710h. OBVERSE: In margin: the names and titles of the twelve Imams; In field: 'Abdallah | la ilaha illa Allah | al-malik al-haqq al-mubin | Muhammad rasul Allah | al-sadiq al- wa'ad al-amin | 'Ali wali Allah al-mu'minin | Sali Allah 'alayhi wa [salam] | [unread]; To right, above, and left: inna al-din – 'inda Allah - al-Islam. REVERSE: In margin: Qur'an 9:33-34; In central quadrilobe: duriba fi | ayyam dawla al-mawla | al-Sultan al-a'azam malik riqab | al-imam Uljaytu Sultan Ghiyath | al-dunya wa'l-din Khudabanda Muhammad | khallada Allah | mulkahu; In quadrants: lillah al-amr min qabl wa in ba'd | uljaytu sultan (in Uyghur) | duriba Madinat Baghdad | sanat tisa' wa saba' mi'at. WEIGHT: 101.48g. REFERENCE: cf Diler 364 for smaller contemporary issues with mostly similar legends. CONDITION: Flat area on each side, probably where damage from mounting has been repaired, edge smoothed, two indentations in reverse field and scattered marks, generally very fine and of the highest rarity. The tradition of producing special coins and medallions of exceptional size and weight goes back to the Classical world. A number of Roman medallions still exist today, and the practice continued into the Byzantine period as exemplified by the celebrated medallion weighing 36 solidi produced by Justinian I. Even larger pieces are mentioned by contemporary writers who otherwise paid scant attention to numismatic matters; then, as now, giant coins were regarded as something notable and important. In the Islamic world, the practice of producing special coins dates back to the Abbasid period, with the caliph al-Mutawakkil (232-247h) perhaps the first to begin producing them regularly and in a relatively consistent format. Al-Mutawakkil's donative gold and silver coins appear to have been identical to currency issues in legends and weight, but the calligraphy was especially fine and the design was slightly modified so as to leave a wide, plain border around the legends themselves. Apart from making them stand out from regular coins, this would of course have permitted mounting without damage to the legends, and these donative issues are indeed often found pierced or fitted with loops. It seems that these presentation coins were bestowed at court by the caliph himself, meaning that to receive one was a mark of his favour and so it is not surprising that a person would want to publicise the fact by mounting and wearing the coin publicly. Under al-Mutawakkil's successors the practice was introduced of striking smaller donatives as well as medallic coins of standard weight, with the lighter coins possibly intended to be scattered over the heads of the populace on ceremonial occasions. Interestingly, these fractional gold dinars sometimes survive mounted as ear-rings, suggesting that women might receive and display these special coins also. Under the later Abbasids, and also the Buwayhids, larger donatives soon followed. An Abbasid silver five-dirham piece dated 325h is known (Ilisch D III 24), while the Buwayhids struck a gold five-dinar piece at Baghdad in 351h (Ilisch DI 20 ) and a magnificent ten-dinar medallion weighing 42.96g at al-Muhammadiya in 362h (Morton & Eden auction 73, 23 April 2015, lot 166). The latter appears to be the heaviest surviving Islamic gold coin until the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir produced a marginally heavier piece to mark his accession in 575h (Ilisch 49, weight 44.50g). But it seems that the Buwayhids were the most enthusiastic and innovative dynasty for issuing donative coins at this period: as well as struck medallions such as those mentioned above, cast portrait pieces were also produced (the casting process being preferred because the large flan made it difficult to strike portraits with sufficient relief). Even more remarkable is the astonishing coin of 1,000 dinars weight (presumably equivalent to more than 4kg of gold!) which Ibn al-'Athir claims was struck by the Buwayhid Fakhr al-dawla at Jurjan in 378h. Sadly, if this ever existed we must assume it has long since been melted (from Ilisch, note to no. 22). Indeed, the sheer size and intrinsic value of massive donative dinars such as the present coin must account for their great rarity today. Once the ruler who had issued a particular medallion had died, been killed or had otherwise fallen from power, it may well have been unwise to remind the head of the new regime that one had been close to his predecessor. As these huge medallions were simply too large to be convenient or practical as circulating coin, doubtless many of them ended up in the melting pot. GHIYATH Al-DIN ULJAYTU succeeded his brother Ghazan Mahmud as the eighth Ilkhanid ruler in 703h. Originally baptized a Christian like his mother, when he was initially named 'Nikola' in honour of Pope Nicholas IV, he later converted to Buddhism and finally to Islam. Uljaytu nevertheless married the sister of the Byzantine emperor Andronikos II and went to considerable lengths to maintain diplomatic relations with Christian Europe. His reign was marked by inconclusive campaigns into Gilan and also against Mamluk Egypt, where initial success was thwarted by supply problems and plague among his troops. Domestically, he faced continual discontent in Anatolia, where the brutality of Ilkhanid rule caused repeated insurrections, but he proved able to quell a revolt in Khurasan and restore peace there. He died at the age of 36, having fallen ill during a hunting expedition, and was succeeded in 716h by his son, Abu Sa'id. After his conversion to Islam, Uljaytu initially espoused Sunni beliefs (first the Hanafi and later the Shafi'i school) before finally adopting Shi'ism. Numismatically, these events are reflected in his coinage:. Uljaytu introduced the names of the four rashidun as a regular feature of the legends, and after adopting Shi'ism he also added the names of the Twelve Imams, as seen in the obverse margin here. Apart from its exceptional size, the legends on this piece are almost identical to those found on regular dinars struck in Baghdad in this year (Diler 364). Much like the Buwayhid ten-dinars mentioned earlier, its impact is that of an exceptionally large and impressive coin rather than recalling the style of a portrait medallion. This impression is confirmed by the weight, which at 101.48g is extremely close to that of a silver presentation medallion struck at Tabriz in 724h by Uljaytu's son, Abu Sa'id (Ilisch 27). Ilisch describes the latter coin, which weighs 103.65g, as being equivalent to ten Ilkhanid silver dinars, but whatever the precise metrology it seems extremely likely that both pieces were designed to the same standard, and one which would fit comfortably within the existing Ilkhanid system. XRF analysis conducted by Messrs Oxford X-ray Fluorescence Ltd earlier this year confirms that metal in the smoothed area on this coin has different trace elements from the rest of the piece, suggesting that gold from another source has been used here to effect a repair. It would be surprising, as noted above, if such a magnificent presentation medallion as this had not been mounted for display, and it may be noted that the line-drawing published by Ilisch showing the silver medallion of Abu Sa'id mentioned above also shows clear evidence of past mounting. A certificate from Oxford X-ray Fluorescence Ltd, confirming the trace elements and fineness of the gold in both the main and smoothed parts of the piece is offered with the lot. (100000 - 200000 GBP)
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