A Forerunner: Kuwait’s 1 Baiza Coin of AH 1304 (1887)

Map, circa 1850s, with "Kueit" clearly marked on this map by German geographer Karl Ritter

Map, circa 1850s, with “Kueit” clearly marked on this map by German geographer Karl Ritter

The area that is today Kuwait has seen a wide array of coins throughout the centuries: Abbasid dirhams and dinars, Ottoman paras and liras, Austrian thalers, Indian rupees and others. However, conventional history of Kuwait’s coins begins only recently – in 1961, which is when the Kuwaiti Dinar was first issued by the Currency Board. This was not the first time Kuwait established its sovereignty by issuing coins. One lesser known fact is that there had been at least one previous attempt to create a local currency. Sheikh Abdullah II Sabah II Al-Jaber I Al-Sabah (1814–1893) was the fifth monarch of Kuwait and eldest son of Sheikh Sabah II Al-Sabah whom he succeeded. Sheikh Abdullah ruled from 1866 to 1892, and in 1886, he ordered the minting of a copper coin, known at that time as the Kuwaiti Baiza.

Kuwait_KM-1_Baiza_AH1304_01 Kuwait_KM-1_Baiza_AH1304_02

The primitive, crude, hammered coins were locally produced. According to Kuwaiti Islamic coin specialist M. Al-Hoseini, the person overseeing the minting operation was a senior member of the prominent Bodi tribe. Very few coins were produced, with up to 4 possible types with notable distinctions in the text, design, and even planchet thickness. The obverse reads “ضرب في الكويت” (struck in Kuwait) along with the date 1304 (1887), and the reverse carries the seal of Sheikh Abdullah. The coins circulated for several weeks but were short lived.

Due to extremely low mintage figures and limited circulation, the 1 Baiza is particularly rare. The Standard Catalog of World Coins lists two types (KM# 1 is the one depicted throughout this entry), and indicates “Rare” instead of an actual value, further highlighting that the coin is generally not collectable due to the combination of rarity and immense historic significance that it possesses. In Steve Album’s list, the coins have an RRR rarity designation, defined as “Almost never available. Few collectors will ever have the chance to acquire these pieces.”

The coins as they are listed in Krause's Standard Catalog of World Coins, 19th Century.

The coins as they are listed in Krause’s Standard Catalog of World Coins, 19th Century.


We were able to locate 4 previous listing records for this coin, appearing on the market approximately once every 10 years:

Listing in Scott Cordry's Auction (1982)

Listing in Scott Cordry’s Auction (1982)


Listing in Steve Album's List (1993)

Listing in Steve Album’s List (1993)


Listing in Steve Album's List (2004)

Listing in Steve Album’s List (2004)


Listing in Baldwin's Auction (2012)

Listing in Baldwin’s Auction (2012)


And finally, a Kuwaiti book from the late 1980s on the history of Kuwait’s coins and currency, with the Baiza on the front cover, once again acknowledging its historical significance.

Book, "The Story of Currency in Kuwait", with the Kuwait Baiza on the front cover

Book, “The Story of Currency in Kuwait”, with the Kuwait Baiza on the front cover


Rare Mirror Brockage from Egypt

This is a remarkably clear and dramatic brockage error 5 Piastres from the Sultanate of Egypt. It shows an incused, mirrored image of the obverse in place of the reverse. Though the AH1333 date appears twice, the obverse design is absent, and consequently it is not known whether this error was struck in 1916 or 1917. According to Wikipedia:

Brockage errors are caused when an already minted coin sticks to the coin die and impresses onto another coin that hasn’t been struck yet, pressing a mirror image of the other coin into the blank coin. Brockages are relatively rare among modern coins of industrialised countries where mints exercise a strict production control and somewhat less rare among the modern coins of some developing countries which operate their own mint; in good condition, coins with clear brockage are a collector’s item and can sell for substantial amounts of money.

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What makes this particular error so interesting is that when this error was discovered, it got enough attention to be featured on the front page of La Bourse Egyptienne (December 7, 1929 issue). The coin is illustrated, with a caption describing the “great interest” numismatists have given this coin where “the reverse is written in reverse.”



Printed in Palestine: The Second World War Emergency Notes of Syria, Lebanon and Djibouti Printed by the Government Printer Palestine

Raphael Dabbah, Numismatic Studies, Jerusalem, 2013, ISBN 9789659065028. Hardcover, full color, 336 pages, limited print of 125 books, generally not available for sale.


This book is the second of two monographs by IBNS member Raphael Dabbah. In 2005, Dabbah published the book Currency Notes of the Palestine Currency Board, a work that is considered by many to be the definitive research on Palestine bank notes. One of the intriguing topics in that book was the emergency notes of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Djibouti, all of which were designed and engraved by Emil Pikovsky Zincography in Jerusalem during World War II. The topic was briefly touched upon as the book was devoted primarily to the Palestine issues.

Subsequently, Dabbah dedicated over five years to conduct an intensive, challenging, and comprehensive study in which hundreds of documents were uncovered and consulted. The fruit of this labor is Printed in Palestine, an independent comprehensive study that is also a natural continuation of the first volume.

The book is divided into four chapters. As virtually all of the bank notes described and discussed in the book were issued by the French, it only makes sense that the first chapter presents a detailed historic context of the French Empire during the World War II era.

The second chapter presents the history of the Pikovsky Zincography, including its owners, other work such as passports, stocks and bonds, and other documents.

A secret printing of emergency bank notes is also discussed, before stepping into the third chapter, which delves into the French Levant history and monetary background, followed by a section covering the Syrian and Lebanese bank notes prepared by Pikovsky, together with an impressive parade of illustrations that include circulating notes, specimens, proofs, and other material.

The fourth and last chapter presents in similar style the history of the French Coast of the Somalis (Djibouti), followed by details of the notes printed by Pikovsky.

Despite the great scarcity of adequate documentation related to the subject, information was collected successfully from archives, bank note collections and collectors, making it a unique and ground breaking study. The book runs to 336 pages and includes color illustrations of all known notes, identified by date and prefix, as well as numerous proofs and die proofs of unissued designs, sketches and much more. Many of the designs are published for the first time and some are illustrations of the only recorded examples known in existence today.

The book is a refreshing addition to the global numismatic library, and I encourage any serious scholar or collector of that region to study this book as it is filled with previously unknown but important material.


Retrograde Dates and Denominations

As stated in this blog in the past (see here and here), there is a number of Arab coins that have errors as part of the die used to create the coin. This is due to an error in design or engraving. A particularly fascinating form is when part of the legend appears in retrograde.

The coins of Muscat & Oman, which were also briefly discussed in this blog, contain a few varieties of retrograde Hijra dates. Specifically, some of the many varieties of the 1/4 Anna coin dated AH1315, have the date in retrograde, with one variety where the characters are also in reverse order. Both varieties are illustrated below.

Retrograde date with characters in correct order:

Retrograde date with characters in reverse order:

Another example that is worthy of mentioning is the Egypt 5 Piastres of AH 1277, regnal year 4. In this case, the character “4” designating the regnal year is the one that was retrograde (actually, upside down but with a retrograde effect). Both examples of a normal and a retrograde 4 are illustrated below.

Example of normal 4:

Example of retrograde 4:

More Wartime Rarities from Lebanon

Along with the 1/2 Piastre, 1 Piastre, and 2 1/2 Piastres coins issued by Lebanon during World War II, there exists a 5 Piastre denomination. Very little is known about it and no public sales known from recent years. The coin is listed in Gadoury’s Monnaies et Jetons des Colonies Françaises, Schoen’s Welt Muenzkatalog, and the Standard Catalog of World Coins, among other publications.

In Gadoury’s book, it just says “very few” for quantity minted, while Schoen states “1 ex. known”. All catalogs refrain from stating a value due to the lack of available information.

This coin series has no date, but was minted 1941-1945. Also reported are a 1 Piastre coin struck in aluminum, and a 2 1/2 Piastres struck in aluminum-bronze. No other information is known at this time and anyone with further details is encouraged to share them with us.


lebanon_5p_obverse lebanon_5p_reverse


Essai Coins from Lebanon

Lebanon, while under the French Protectorate, had its coins minted by the French authorities. As such, the practice to mint ESSAI coins was common. These are essentially pattern or trial coins, which look identical to the business strike but have the word ESSAI on the obverse or reverse. While in later years, ESSAI coins were purposefully minted for coin collectors, the early ones remain scarce if not rare and very desirable.

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A Galvano from Syria

A recent addition to our collection…

Syria, large blue plaster galvano for reverse of nickel 1 pound, 1968, value in diamond within rectangle, upon circular scrolling foliate design, inscription above, date below, set on a black lacquer base, 220 mm. (cf. KM.98), in good condition, extremely rare
The only known example of a Syrian galvano.