Starting price: 120’000 GBP

Estimate: 150’000 GBP

Lot 34. Umayyad, ‘Abd al-Malik bin Marwan (65-86h; AD 685-705), Arab-Byzantine solidus, circa 72-74h, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius flanked by his sons Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas, each crowned and holding an orb surmounted by a globe finial, rev., vertical shaft surmounted by globe and set on four steps flanked by the letters B and I; in the margin Bismillah la ilaha illa Allah wahdahu Muhammad rasul Allah,

4.27g (Miles The Earliest Arab Gold Coinage, ANS MN 13 (1967), pp. 210-211, type A: same dies as nos. 6 [Penn Museum, Philadelphia], 8 [Staatlische Museum, Berlin = Walker p. 21, B.2], 9 [Cabinet des Medailles, Paris = Lavoix 26], and 11 [private collection]; SICA 1, 607 [Ashmolean Museum], also same dies;  cf. Qatar 198, different dies; Barber Institute of Fine Arts, coin AB30, different dies; Bernardi 5; Album 3549), slightly clipped  and with faint traces of having been mounted, otherwise good very fine and extremely rare.

The importance of this coin lies in the appearance, for the very first time on a gold coin, of the Shahada, the Islamic profession of faith inscribed in kufic script on the reverse. It is generally thought to date to 72-74h immediately before a dated series of solidi portraying the caliph himself which are dated from 75h to 77h and immediately after a series of dechristianised Arab-Byzantine solidi which retained Latin inscriptions but dispensed with all forms of Christian symbolism, most notably the crosses. The Shahada proclaims the oneness of Allah thus rejecting the Christian Trinity and affirming Muhammad as the messenger of Allah.

The letters B-I which flank the vertical shaft on the reverse stand for the indiction year 12 of Heraclius’s reign (the equivalent of AD 638-639). The letters are found in ligature form on the Byzantine coin which would have acted as the model for this Arabic coinage.

After several years of experimentation in 77h the caliph finally introduced the first purely Islamic coin, the dinar, slightly lighter than the solidus, which dispensed with iconographic images and all earlier gold coins were demonetised.

Only four other coins of this type have been sold at auction over the last 42 years, comprising:Munzen und Medaillen 62, Basel, 9th October 1982, lot 3.Spink’s 18, Zurich, 18th February 1986, lot 87.Numismatica Genevensis SA 6, Geneva, 30 November 2010, lot 285.Morton & Eden 92, London, 26 April 2018, lot 12 and earlier at Baldwin’s 19, London, 25 April 2012, lot 7

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