Cairo Egypt Gold Coin 835 AH Mamluk Ashrafi Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Abu Al-Nasr Barsbay 825-841 AH / 1422-1438 AD
Description: A gold coin from Barsbay (Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Abu Al-Nasr), who ruled Egypt and Syria during the period 825-841 AH (1422-1438 AD). Barsbay is from the Circassian Burji Mamluk dynasty. Although the coin does not show the mint name, it was most likely struck in Al-Qahira, current day Cairo the capital of Egypt. The coin shows part of the date namely the five and part of the thirty indicating that the coin was struck in the year 835 AH. The fact that the date is partly evident in the bottom of the obverse is rather uncommon since these small flan coins very seldom capable of accommodating the date and mint name, so this coin represents a find. Please carefully review the scan as it is part and parcel of our description.
Date: 835 AH - 1432 AD.
Mint: Although the mint name if off the flan, the coin was most likely struck in Al-Qahira current day Cairo the Capital of Egypt.
Size and Weight: This is an Ashrafi, weighs 3.4 grams (gold value at current prices of almost $130) and is ~18 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 instituted monetary reform during his reign. As such this coin represents one of the earliest examples of the Ashrafi.
References: It is Album #998 and is similar to Balog #707 but missing the mint. The coin is listed in Lane Poole's Catalog of the Khedivial Collection as 1566-1568.
Condition: I would grade this coin as very fine or much better. The coin itself is much better than the scan shows with very well defined and legible calligraphy. It has sharp, very readable and distinct writing. It shows some weakness of strike left of center towards the bottom on the obverse and in the corresponding portion, left of center towards the top, on the reverse. Other than that the coin is definitely a quality coin, very nice, and worthy of a spot in your collection.
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 Qahira). 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.