Cairo Egypt Gold Coin Mamluk Ashrafi 873-901 AH / 1468-1496 AD Al-Ashraf Abu Al-Nasr Qa'itbay
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Description: A gold coin from the Mamluk sultan Qa'itbay (Al-Ashraf Abu Al-Nasr), who ruled Egypt and Syria during the period 873-901 AH (1468-1496 AD). Qa'itbay is from the Circassian Burji Mamluk dynasty. The coin does not show neither the mint name nor the date of minting, which is pretty much the norm with these small size coins where both the date and the mint are off the flan. The coin was most likely struck in al-Qahira, current day Cairo the capital of Egypt. The coin clearly shows the sultan's name "Qa'itbay" on the obverse. Please carefully review the scan as it is part and parcel of our description.
Date: Date off flan, struck in the period 873-901 AH (1468-1496 AD). Mint: Mint off flan but most likely 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 ~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 #1027 and is similar to Balog #808b. The coin is listed in Lane Poole's Catalog of the Khedivial Collection as 1597-1606.
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. The coin is a bit off round, which is also common for this type of coin. It has a few minor scratches, dings and wear commensurate with its circulated state. A definite quality coin worthy of a spot in your collection. Please see images 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 Bahri (1250 - 1382 AD), chiefly Turks and Mongols, and the Burji (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 Burji (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.