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.


Iraq Kingdom 20 Fils of 1932

One of the key coins in the Iraq Kingdom series is the 20 Fils of 1933, which is also dated 1252 Hijra. The correct date is 1352, but a small quantity was made with error dies and is now highly sought after. As scarce as it is, this coin is even rarer when collectors factor in grade, as this coin is very seldom available in anything better than VF.

Below is an example of a the 20 Fils, one with the correct Hijra date and the other with the error variety:

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The NGC census shows 6 examples graded with the error date. The breakdown is as follows:

  • F – 2 examples;
  • VF – 2 examples;
  • AU53 – 1 example; and
  • AU58 – 1 example, which is currently in our collection.

Incidentally, we handled most if not all of the above examples. PCGS lists none in their population report.


Early Coins of Muscat & Oman

Recently, I spent some time studying the early coins of Muscat and Oman. At first glance, they seem to be rather confusing, and they can be, so I decided to put together this brief overview to simplify a possibly daunting and intimidating group of coins.

The first coins were issued in 1311 Hijra (~ 1891 A.D.) under the reign of Faisal bin Turki. The denominations were 1/12 Anna, also known as Ghazi, and 1/4 Anna, also known as Paisa. The initial issue of 1311 was only minted that year and replaced by a second and entirely different issue between 1312 and 1318. The first issue is illustrated below:

01_a 01_b

02_a 02_b

The second issue brought with it a very wide variety of designs and fonts and styles, all derived from the same basic features. The issue is known for being crude and with many minor and some major varieties, accounting for the large range of catalog numbers associated with this issue in the Standard Catalog of World Coins. In order to simplify which coins (referenced by KM #) exist for which date, see the chart below:


In the rightmost column:

  1. KM# 5 is 1312 over 1311
  2. KM# 7 is 1313 over 1311
  3. var is an unlisted variety with a retrograde 3
  4. KM# 16 is 1318 over 1315

Reading the dates on these coins can be a challenge if one’s first language is not Arabic. In fact, some of the numbers, particularly the 4 and the 6, are different from today’s commonly used Arabic. A very useful site for reading and converting dates of many calendars is the Creounity Time Machine which I highly recommend you bookmark and use as a  handy reference tool. I borrowed and slightly adapted a chart from their site which can be used to read the Arabic numerals on these coins:


Additionally, an example of each date is illustrated and identified below which could be used as a cheat sheet.

After Faisal’s death, Taymoor bin Faisal did not mint any new coins. Instead, he countermarked existing coinage with “S T”, which likely stands for Sultan Taymoor (KM # 19.1 and 19.2). An example of this is illustrated below. Said bin Taymoor followed suit and countermarked existing coinage with “S S”, which likely stands for Sultan Said. The countermark exists in circlar and square shapes (KM # 20.1, 20.2, 21.1 and 21.2).


In 1359 Hijra (around 1939 A.D.), regular coinage was finally struck for Muscat and Oman, but this is perhaps the subject of another post.

The Elusive Hejaz 1/2 Qirsh AH 1334 Regnal Year 8

The Hejaz 1/2 Qirsh Regnal AH 1334, Regnal Year 8 (KM-26) is an exceptionally rare coin that is missing in most collections. A contributing factor to this is the fact that these coins were short-lived, and most known specimens were overstruck to produce the transitional coinage of what became today’s Saudi Arabia (then the Kingdom of Hejaz and Sultanate of Nejd) 1/4 Qirsh of AH 1343 (KM-1).  The latter coin is also a scarce one as it was transitional and eventually replaced by the 1/4 Qirsh of AH 1344 (KM-4) from the regular series. The early Saudi coins are an interesting series to collect in general with many different types.

The Banknotes of Hejaz

One of the many mysterious corners of Arab numismatics is the banknotes of Hejaz and circumstances surrounding their production. These unissued notes were only “discovered” in the early 1950s after the sale of King Farouk of Egypt’s collections. Few sets reportedly survive today and most collectors don’t even seriously consider trying to locate a set that is available for sale.

A very good article on this subject was written a while back by Peter Symes, and is available at his web site here: http://www.pjsymes.com.au/articles/Hedjaz.htm

I strongly recommend those interested to read this article.