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:

I strongly recommend those interested to read this article.

Eid Mubarak

خالص التهاني وأطيب الأمنيات بحلول عيد الأضحى المبارك. أعاده الله عليكم وعلينا بالخير واليمن والبركات

To those celebrating Eid Al-Adha, please accept my wishes for a happy and peaceful Eid, with many happy returns. I am not aware of any Arab coins or banknotes that directly commemorate Eid Al-Adha, but I am aware of a 1000 Rial coin issued by Iran in commemoration of this occasion. The coin was issued in 2010 and is easy to obtain. If anybody is aware of any coins or banknotes from the Arab world that commemorate this, please do share!

Qatar & Dubai Banknotes Sell for Record Price

Last Wednesday, October 17, 2012, a presentation album with a complete set of Qatar and Dubai banknotes sold at a Bonhams auction for a record £180,000 (approximately $290,000), eclipsing the original estimate of £25,000 (approximately $80,000). The set consists of a 1 Riyal, 5 Riyals, 10 Riyals, 25 Riyals, 50 Riyals, and 100 Riyals, all bearing the same serial number 000009, all of which are in uncirculated condition.

The notes are quite difficult to find in uncirculated condition, but the 25 and 50 Riyals are difficult even in low grades. This is because very few of the notes were not redeemed after demonetization. According to The History of the Banknotes of the Qatar and Dubai Currency Board, only 1,565 of the 25 Riyal banknote were still outstanding as of 1997. Compared to 550,038 1 Riyal banknotes outstanding, one quickly sees the relative scarcity.

Qatar & Dubai notes are tough to find, but in my opinion these peak prices are not justified as even 1,565 potential complete sets in the collector market is a substantial number compared to some true Arab rarities such as Palestine 50 and 100 Pound notes, among others, of which only a handful of notes survive today. Of course, a premium should be added for the grade and the fact that all notes come in a presentation album and carry the same single-digit first-prefix serial number, but the winning bid is still over-the-top.

PMG 2012 Registry Awards

I was away on an extended vacation for the past 3 weeks. Upon returning, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that PMG has chosen my humble collection of Iraqi Currency Board banknotes to win their “Best World Set” award. The announcement was posted on October 5, 2012 here but I only saw it today since I was on the road. In my opinion, the Ghazi 5 and 10 Dinar pieces are the most impressive pieces though the judging panel found the 1 Dinar of Faisal I to be more appealing.

At any rate, I am very glad and thankful to PMG for this nice honor. For those interested in seeing the set, which is still a work in progress, you can click here. I am also attaching a couple of images directly to this blog for everyone’s enjoyment.

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.