Autumn 2019

Art & Auctions
Rarest Islamic Coin on Sale

The Umayyad dinar, dated 105H (723AD), bears a short line of text Ma‘din Amir Al-Mu‘minin, which translates as ‘Mine of the Commander of the Faithful’



One of the world’s rarest and most highly-prized of all Islamic gold coins will be offered for auction in London in October.

Measuring a mere 20 mm across, about the size of a modern £1 piece, the gold coin has an auction estimate of £1.4 million to £1.6 million ($2 million). This is the highest estimate for any lot previously offered for sale by specialist auctioneers Morton & Eden. 

The reason for this expensive price tag is the fact that this Umayyad dinar, dated 105H (723AD), bears a short line of text Ma‘din Amir Al-Mu‘minin, which translates as ‘Mine of the Commander of the Faithful.’ In other words, it states that the dinar was made from gold mined at a location owned by the Caliph himself. As the successor to the Prophet Muhammad, the Caliph was the supreme religious and political leader of the early Islamic state, making this the ultimate provenance for any Islamic relic.

What makes this dinar even more desirable is the fact that it bears the additional legend “bi’l-Hijaz” affirming that the mine was located “in the Hejaz”, between the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah, in the west of present day Saudi Arabia. Prior to the mine being owned by the Caliph, the previous owner had acquired the land directly from Prophet Muhammad adding further importance to the coin. In essence, this is the first Islamic gold coin to name a location in Saudi Arabia, and indeed the earliest from the Gulf region as a whole, say Morton & Eden.

Only about a dozen of these coins are known today, and almost all are now held in private collections or major international museums. This is only the second specimen ever to be offered at public auction. The other was also auctioned by Morton & Eden in 2011 when it sold for an astonishing £3.72 million, setting a record price for any Islamic coin and for any coin sold at auction in Europe.

“This coin is fabulous. Not only is it beautifully preserved and an astonishing rarity but it is also an important historical document,” said Morton & Eden Islamic coins specialist Stephen Lloyd. “Scholars have identified the site of the mine itself as Ma’din Bani Sulaim, located north-west of the Holy City of Makkah.”

Gold has been mined in this region for thousands of years, and the site is still worked today.

The coin has been consigned for sale by a private collector. The sale, held by Morton & Eden, will take place on October 24 in one of Sotheby’s London salerooms.  

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