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.

Notorious Blunders

On more than one occasion, and in more than one country, a coin was minted in production quantity after passing all QC measures, only to be returned to the drawing board due to mistakes in the wording. Today, I will present three examples of this.

The first takes us back to 1949, when Jordan first issued coins. The Jordanian Dinar consisted of 1000 Fils and the coins included 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 Fils. The interesting part is that the coin designer, W. M. Gardner, must have thought that the singular was “Fil” while the plural was “Fils”. In fact, that was not the case and the correct Arabic singular was “Fils”. The coin, nonetheless, was made as a “Fil” and fixed some time later.

The second is a Saudi 25 Halala coin dating back to sometime around 1972 (1392 on the Hijra calendar). In Arabic, the word for “twenty five” changes form depending on its placement in the sentence and the gender of what it describes. Mistakenly, the wrong form of the word was used by writing خمسة وعشرون instead of خمس وعشرون. This was later corrected, naturally.

The third is an Iraqi 500 Fils coin dating back to 1982. Again, the wrong form of the word “Fils” was used and had to be corrected later upon discovery. The initial, incorrect form was “فلسا” and it was changed to “فلس”.

Millionth Notes

A couple of days ago, I posted a few examples of some first notes printed. One of the comments I received was about millionth notes. In Jordan, all banknotes are printed with a six digit serial number. For each prefix, a million notes are printed. So how is this tackled with the 6-digit limitation? Well, upon reaching the highest 6-digit number, which is 999999, a note with serial number 100000 is printed, after which a 6th zero is appended by hand to the right and thus making it a million. This is not unique to Jordanian banknotes and has been known for other countries as well. Below are a few illustrations, the first is a note numbered 999999 while the remaining three are number 1000000. Note the rightmost zero and how it shows slight variations in size, shape, and position.

Iraqi 5 and 10 Dinars of 1990

These coins are amongst the few examples of unissued coins in the Arab world that were nevertheless widely forged.

The story behind this odd pair is interesting, yet incomplete. The Iraqi government was making an attempt to locally produce coins, after having minted their previous issues abroad (mainly by the British Royal Mint). Around the late 1980s or early in 1990, a decision was made to locally produce two high denomination circulating coins of 5 and 10 Dinars. The coins which were reportedly struck by the Iraqi company that produced military decorations and medals. The designs used are unlike previously issued types, and the overall quality is rather crude, especially when compared to previously issued coins. An unknown but small quantity of these coins made its way to the market. Both denominations are difficult to find, and some convincing forgeries exist. More information on these coins can be found on this page, which is part of my friend Waad’s informative and well-illustrated web site on Iraqi numismatics.

The United Kingdom of Libya Banknotes: 1951 or 1955?

Many references erroneously list the earliest series of Libyan banknotes to be the “United Kingdom of Libya” issue, carrying the date 1951.

The earliest banknotes issued by the Kingdom of Libya are in fact those bearing the likeness of King Idris. The reason behind this confusion is because this issue is dated January 1, 1952 which is the latest date that Libya was to become independent as per the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution of November 21, 1949. This date was printed on the banknotes before the law authorizing the banknotes’ use had passed.

In reality, the law authorizing the use of Libyan banknotes was passed on October 24, 1951. This in turn was the date that was displayed on the next series of banknotes. This next issue is known as the “United Kingdom of Libya” banknotes because its notes bear the titles المملكة الليبية المتحدة and its English translation “United Kingdom of Libya”. This series was actually issued in 1955, unlike the common belief that it was issued in 1951. The 1/2 Pound, 5 Pounds, and 10 Pounds of this issue are particularly difficult to find, especially the latter two. Below are illustrations of this desirable issue.

Symes, Peter. “Reference Site for Islamic Banknotes: Libya.” The Banknotes of Libya. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2012. <http://www.islamicbanknotes.com/libya.htm&gt;.

A Mystery from Kuwait

This gold coin is supposedly a pattern, of which reportedly 1,000 pieces were struck and distributed as presentation pieces. Dated 1960 (corresponding to 1379 Hijra), and featuring the likeness of Abdullah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah. Very little else is known about it besides the fact that it weighs 7.790 grams. I would be very interested in learning more if anyone has additional information.

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First Banknotes Printed

Since my primary area of specialty is Jordan, it is only fitting that my first blog post topic relates to that. Many collectors are intrigued by banknotes with special serial numbers: low numbers, repeating fancy numbers, numbers of special significance such as birth dates, and so on. Such banknotes can be exceptionally difficult to find.

I am interested in a particular kind of special numbers, namely the first banknote printed. Not every banknote with a serial number 000001 is a “first printed”; one has to also factor in the prefix seen next to the number itself. With every new issue, prefixes in Jordanian (and several other Arab countries’) banknotes usually start with أأ which translates to AA because أ is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. The next prefix would be أب, followed by أج (translating to AB and AC, respectively) and so on.

Below are some examples of “first printed” Jordanian banknotes from my collection.