Antique: 1,300‑year‑old Islamic dinar sells for 3.7 million euro

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Islamic Coin
Islamic Coin
From UMMULKHAIR AKIBU, Abuja

An Islamic dinar coin, dating back to 723AD, was sold a few days ago for a record E3.72 million, nearly twice its pre-auction estimate.

One of just 12 still in existence, it attracted bids from around the world, with the hammer falling at E3.1 million. With fees, the anonymous buyer will pay E3.72 million, which is a coin sold at auction.

Stephen Lloyd, an Islamic coins specialist at London auctioneer Morton & Eden, said: “the remarkable price reflects the historical significance of this fabulous coin”.

The Umayyad coin was made of gold from a mine owned by the Caliph, one of the successors to the prophet Muhammad. Prior to the mine being owned by the Caliph, the previous owner had acquired the land directly from the Prophet Muhammad, adding further importance to the coin.

It is said to be the first Islamic gold coin to name a location in Saudi Arabia and indeed the earliest from the Gulf region as a whole.

It is about the size of a one euro coin and inscribed “Ma’din Amir al-Mu’minin bi’l-Hijaz”, which means “mine of the commander of the faithful”. And the legend ‘bi’l-Hijaz’ affirming that the mine was located ‘in the Hijaz’, located between the holy cities of what are Mecca and Medina.

Stephen Lloyd, Morton & Eden’s Islamic coins specialist, said: “Not only is it beautifully preserved and an astonishing rarity but it is also an important historical document… Scholars have identified the site of the mine itself as Ma’din Bani Sulaim, located north-west of the holy city of Mecca.”

Medieval Arab writers record that the Caliph bought a piece of land in this area, containing at least one gold mine, almost exactly when these coins were made. But while there is general agreement on the source of the gold, the exact location of where the coins were struck is not confirmed.

The Umayyad dynasty, which succeeded the four ‘Rightly Guided’ caliphs, controlled the entire Islamic world for almost one hundred years.

The first-ever dinar was issued in 77AH (696-7AD) by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. Only about a dozen of these coins are known, and almost all are now held in private collections or major international museums. 

This is only the second example ever to be offered at public auction. In 2011 Morton & Eden sold another Umayyad gold dinar from 105AH (723AD) for £3.1m to a London dealer. It was inscribed as coming from the personal gold mine of the Caliph who led the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

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