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1461-1467 AD Islamic Gold Coin Ashrafi Mamluk Al-Zahir Abu Sa'id Khushqadam VF+

  • $ 247.77

Description: A gold coin from the Mamluk era. This is a gold Ashrafi with a rather small flan. Upon investigating the coin we see the name "..bu Sa'id Kh..." on the bottom line of the obverse. Based on that assessment we attribute the coin to Khushqadam whose full name is Al-Zahir Abu Sa'id Khushqadam. Khushqadam is from the Circassian Burji Mamluk dynasty. The Obverse of the coin shows two lines separated by cables facing left and reads "...suultan al-Malik al..." on the first line followed by "..bu Sa'id Kh..." on the second line. The reverse Bil Hudah; elah ella Allah; ...sul al.." on three separate lines again separated by cables facing left. The coin does not show the mint or the date because of the small flan. The coin clearly shows the sultan's Title "..suultan al-Malik al.../...u Sa'id..". Abu Said is the name of either Jaqmaq, Khushqadam, Temirbugha, or Qansuh the first. The character following Sa'id on this coin is definitely not "Qa" or "T" and is a bit difficult to discern but we believe it is more like a "Kh" and as such our assertion that this is an ashrafi issued by Khushqadam. Please carefully review the scans as they are part and parcel of our description.

Date: Date off flan, struck in the period 865-872 AH (1461 - 1467 AD).

Mint: Unknown.

Size and weight: This is an Ashrafi, weighs ~3.3 grams (worth over $200 in gold at current prices) and is ~15 mm in diameter. The Ashrafi is a standard 3.3 to 3.5 gram coin of high purity gold (over 22K) and standard weight minted after the Venetian ducats. This type of coin was established by Al-Ashraf Barsbay, who ruled from 1422-1438 AD and instituted monetary reform during his reign.

References: It is Album #1019 and is Wilkes 1056.

Condition: I would grade this coin as very fine or much better. The coin itself is much better than the photos suggest with very well defined and legible calligraphy. the coin has impeded soil in the calligraphy, especially on the obverse. The coin has a few minor scratches, dings and wear commensurate with its circulated state. A nice coin worthy of a spot in your collection. Please see photos for additional condition information.

Historic Perspective: The word Mamluks in Arabic means "owned", hence their nickname "Slave Kings". They succeeded the Ayyubids and ruled Egypt and Syria for about 250 years. They had been recruited by the Ayyubids and then, like the Turkish mercenaries of the Abbasid caliphs, had usurped power from their enfeebled masters. Unlike their predecessors, however, they were able to maintain their power, and they retained control of Egypt until the Ottoman conquest in 1517. Militarily formidable, they were also the first power to defeat the Mongols in open combat in 1260, at Ayn Jalut near Nazareth in Palestine.

The Mamluk sultans are usually divided into two dynasties, the Bahris (1250 - 1382 AD), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burjis (1382 - 1517 AD), chiefly Circassians. These names arise from the location of the barracks of the Mamluks within the city of Cairo (Al Kahira). Those originating from the barracks on an island in the Nile are Bahari (sea dwellers) and those who were in the towers are the Burjis (the tower dwellers). The Bahri sultans were usually selected from a few chief families, but during Burji times there was scant respect for hereditary principle in the selection of rulers. Neither dynasty was able to exercise more than a limited power over the turbulent Mamluk soldiers. The sultans reigned, on average, less than seven years and usually met violent ends. In spite of the dangers that threatened the sultans at home, they usually conducted a vigorous foreign policy. They defeated the last of the Crusaders and repulsed the Mongol invasion of Syria. At times they held all Palestine and Syria and the holy places of Arabia. Even after the Ottomans occupied Egypt they wheeled quite a bit of power until Mohammad Ali massacred the last of them at the Cairo Citadel in the early 1800's.


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