The Many Forms of the Iraq 100 Fils 1955

Without a doubt, the unissued Iraqi 100 Fils 1955 is one of the rarest coins in the Iraqi series. An unissued coin, with very few that actually escaped into the collector market (reportedly 1,000,000 pieces were mint but some experts “guesstimate” about 40 pieces to be in private hands today). The coin, even though dated 1955, carries the same characteristics as its 1953 counterpart. Contrastingly, the 20 and 50 Fils coins of 1955 are entirely different and carry a new design featuring two palm branches under the denomination.

As it turns out, there are also two additional varieties of this elusive coin, besides the one described above. The first of these is the proof strike of the above-mentioned coins. A difficult coin to find, with an unknown but certainly low mintage. The second, however, is something that only became known to me a few months ago when I received my copy of Mr. Ahmad Ghazi Al-Samariee’s book:

The coin appears to be a 100 Fils 1955, but with the palm branches under the denomination. I have never seen one for sale, and nor have I heard of one in private hands. Anyone with more information is encouraged to share their knowledge. Pictures are also most welcome. (July 2014 update: despite diligently trying to find more information, not a single other reference to this coin was found, including discussions with the Royal Mint. Therefore, I personally question the existence of the actual coin/pattern outside of the digital world.)

All three varieties are illustrated below.

Another Mystery from Kuwait

Another lesser known coin is the 5 Dinars of the “Emirate of Kuwait” dated 1961, of which reportedly 1,000 pieces were struck in 0.916 gold. Not very much is known about it, and no recent (if any) public sales records involving such a piece. It was probably never issued, and it is speculated that most of the mintage has been melted while a mere handful of specimens made it to private hands. In the “Guidebook and Catalogue of British Commonwealth Coins (3rd. Edition1, 1971), they report the coin’s “values” at £60 for an XF, £65 in UNC, and £80 in BU, which is odd considering the unavailability of public sales records. Any further information would be appreciated.

Controversies with Conservation

Conservation of banknotes refers to any form of restoration, pressing, alteration, or modification that is performed for the purpose of improving the overall appearance of a banknote or enhancing the integrity of the paper. Conservation of banknotes is frequently frowned upon and is a controversial subject. This tendency is understandable in many cases — some banknotes are restored for the sole purpose of deceiving others, while others are restored unprofessionally, resulting in further damage to rare pieces. I am of the view that these decisions should be handled case-by-case.

For example, I have purchased very rare pieces which were already repaired, albeit very crudely. In such cases, I believe that there is no reason I shouldn’t undo the crudely done repair and redo it with the help of a professional conservator. Other pieces that found their way to my collection are damaged examples of moderately rare banknotes. A piece in VG could cost a small fraction of what a VF would cost, sometimes making the purchase of a VF prohibitively expensive. In such cases, I see no harm in restoring some of the attractiveness of an undamaged note.

One thing remains unchanged in spite of all of the above: any restoration or alteration performed on a banknote must always be disclosed without any exceptions. Any deviations from that are considered to be unethical.

Below is an example of a Palestine 1 Pound dated 1927, the most difficult of all 1 Pound notes. An original VF example could cost over $4.000. This one was purchased at a fraction of this price, and with minimal restoration work it now looks like a F, possibly a low-end VF. My intent was not to make it look “new” but rather make it “easy on the eyes”.

Privy Marks

Many people have heard of coins having “privy marks” or “no privy marks”, but not everyone knows what this designation refers to. Well, traditionally a privy mark is a small mark or differentiation in the design of a coin for the purpose of identifying the mint where the coin was struck. This practice was particularly popular at French mints. In the context of Arab coins, this is seen with several countries’ issues when they were under French rule, such as Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, etc.   Sometimes, the same coin exists with or without privy marks, or with variations. For instance, the Syria 5 Piastre coins of 1926 exist with no privy marks, as well as with privy marks around the English date “1926”. Illustrated below is a piece with privy marks. In 1933, interestingly enough, the coins were struck with the privy marks around the Arabic date “1933”. An example of this is also illustrated below.

Coins of the Palestine Mandate: 1927-1947

A good introduction to the coins of the Palestine mandate can be found in this eBay guide as well as this page on Chiefa coins or Dr. Howard Berlin’s web page. A very popular series amongst most collectors, and a very challenging one to complete in high grades. While I already have this entire series in circulated condition, I am trying to complete a second set, this time in UNC / BU condition. Some dates/denominations are readily available in high grade, but others are extremely rare with just a handful of examples known.

Take a look at my set here –

Postal Money Orders

Another unusual item from Jordan is the postal money orders. Not much is known about these other than that they were likely used in Jordan in the 1950s through the 1970s. The smallest denomination printed was 50 Fils and the largest was 1 Dinar, with everything in between at 50 Fils increments. As the Jordanian Dinar consists of 1000 Fils, this means that 20 denominations exist. Further supports this the fact that each denomination has a distinct prefix letter, starting with the 50 Fils with an A, 100 Fils with a B, 150 Fils with a C, and so on all the way until the 1 Dinar with a V. The letters I and O were skipped and not used for the prefixes due to the fact that they are confusingly similar to the numbers 1 and 0, respectively. The same exception is frequently observed with banknotes.

Some of the denominations, such as the 150 Fils and the 1 Dinar, are not very hard to find, while others are rare indeed. In my collection, I am still missing the 650 Fils and am eagerly seeking to improve a couple of the pieces due to their current shape. There are several varieties that exist: font style variations both in Arabic and English, perforation differences, etc. but this is still to be researched in more detail.

When used, the sender of the money order would retain the counterfoil, which would be postmarked, while the remaining portion would be mailed to the recipient and redeemed.

Kingdom of Syria Gold Coin

Arguably the rarest coin of modern Syria is the gold Dinar of the Kingdom of Syria (KM 67). The obverse features a coat of arms with the inscription دينار المملكة السورية which translates to “Dinar of the Kingdom of Syria”, with the date 1920 at the bottom. The reverse features a Tughra style inscription that is hard to read but appears to have the name of the ruler Faisal bin Al-Hussein. The Kingdom officially existed for a few months, from March 8, 1920 to July 25, 1920. Faisal’s stay in Syria was cut short when he was expelled, initially to Britain, and eventually returning to Iraq as King in 1921. The crudely struck coin weighs 6.7 grams and has a diameter of 21 mm. Reportedly, fewer than 20 specimens exist and the coin was never officially issued.

Below is a set of concept designs considered for this elusive rarity, followed by an illustration of the actual coin.

Proof vs. Mint Coins

This is not a new subject by any means, but it at least a few times a month I see people incorrectly using the terms “Proof”, “Mint”, “Uncirculated” so today I will try to explain these terms.

Uncirculated simply refers to a coin that has never been used in commerce and does not exhibit any signs of wear. In other words, an uncirculated (or “unc”) coin is a new coin that is in the same condition that it was when it was first minted.

Contrastingly, the terms Proof and Mint, do not refer to condition of the coin. In a way, these terms refer to the process used to produce the coin. A proof coin is created using specially polished dies and specially polished planchets (blanks). As explained by John Lynn on his web site:

By treating the die in a special way, the coins it produces have a different appearance.  Modern technology allows the high points on the coin design to be acid treated (on the die).  The background (field) design of the coin die is polished, resulting in a mirror-like look on the coin it strikes. This gives the finished coin a frosted look (frosting) on the raise parts of the design, with a mirror like finish on the background. This contrasting finish is often called “cameo”.

Mint coins, on the other hand, use regular unpolished dies and normal planchets. Proofs are usually made for testing and demonstration purposes, as well as for sale to collectors, while mint coins are generally produced for circulation.

Following are image of a Jordanian 100 Fils 1955 (mint and proof), as well as a Jordanian gold commemorative 50 Dinars 1977 (mint and proof). Jordanian proof coins of 1955 are extremely rare and have an estimated mintage of 10 pieces, while 500,000 pieces were struck of the mint coins for use in circulation. The 50 Dinars was issued along with two other silver coins of 2½ and 3 Dinars (both exist in proof and mint, see them here) to commemorate the World Wildlife Fund. 287 proofs and 829 mint coins were made.

Jordanian Travellers Cheques

Most numismatists interested in Jordan collect coins and/or banknotes, but few get into other areas such as Travellers Cheques. While not exactly banknotes, they are of interest to me nonetheless. I have not seen any Jordanian banks apart from the Arab Bank issue these cheques, but they very well may exist. Readers are encouraged to share any information that they may have on this topic. The Arab Bank appears to have issued these in British Pounds as well as US Dollars, and other currencies might have been printed.

Illustrated are a variety of these cheques:

  1. $5, $10, $20, and $50 issued in 1960.
  2. $5, $10, $20, and $50 issued in 1963 and shortly followed by a $100 in 1967.
  3. $100 issued in 1974.
  4. £2, £5, £10, and £20 issued in 1961
  5. £2, £5, £10, and £20 issued in 1963 and shortly followed by a £50 in 1967.