A new area: Arab-Byzantine coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by svessien, Jun 28, 2020.

  1. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Fals 1.jpg

    While performing my usual bottomfeeder auction routine, I came across this coin. I even had to outbid another bidder to get it, for the budget-breaking prize of £8.

    I appreciate this coin very much. I find it both intriguing, ugly and beautiful at the same time, a kind of attraction that I usually reserve for art, music, women and climbing routes.

    I don’t know much about these coins, though, and haven’t found a really good online resource for them yet. From what I have found on google, this is my ID so far:

    Brockage of a pre-reform Arab-Byzantine follis, imitating Constans II, 7th century AD, Ummayad Caliphate.AE Fals.
    Three figures standing facing (Emepror and his two Princes) / Large M surrounded by degraded inscriptions. Gamma below.
    Weight: 5,32g Diameter: 23mm Condition: Very Fine

    These coins are the earliest coins of the first Islamic Caliphate - after conquering the Byzantine Middle East, they issued coins in the corrupted style of Byzantine folli (especially of Constans II). These circulated for about a few decades, until the end of the 7th century.

    Does anyone here collect these? I’m in the market for a book on Islamic coins now, and was considering this one:

    «London: Spink & Son, 2015. vii, 285 pages, very thoroughly illustrated throughout in full color, decorative laminated boards, octavo, NEW. This first volume covers coins from approximately the 7th-10th centuries AD as well as prices for coins in very fine condition, and as such is a valuable update to the literature on Islamic coins. It also includes suggestions on further reading.» (vcoins)

    Any input from you would be great here, if it’s an Islamic-Byzantine coin from your collection, thoughts and knowledge about them, or a book recommendation. :)
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
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  3. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    That is a remarkable coin.

    I've never seen an Arab/Byzantine fals with three figures on the obverse.

    There's a Greek gamma on the reverse, but I cannot make out anything to the right of the "M".

    This link might help:

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  4. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    You’re right, @robinjojo I’ll put the Gamma into the description. And thank you for the link! I register my world coins on numista, but I didn’t know they had ancient coins too.
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  5. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Check the link in my previous post. It seems that your coin came from Cyprus, during the period it was occupied by the Arabs.
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  6. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    This is an interesting subject, but there's hundreds or thousands of different coin types to be found. I think once you are used to it, it's not so difficult to distinguish between variants, and there are MANY variants. It's useful to have some basic Greek and Arabic, just easy basics.

    The Spink book has excellent illustrations, but it's a very large overview and you won't find much difference in types, just genereal of coins. It gives a rough idea, but you will not find that particular type you are looking for. As for prices, these are for the better than usual condition coins of average types. It's about medieval islamic coins, until about 1500 AD. If you are a serious collector of islamic coins, you can't go without it. And you need the Stephen Album online catalogue for details. (I'm sure you are aware of Zeno).

    In the last decade, there were some publications about this type of coins: the islamic imitations of Byzantine coins. You may find these partly on Academia.
  7. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    These are pretty interesting. Do not have an example in our collection and wouldn't even know where to begin but I do find them to be pretty cool.
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  8. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    That’s quite helpful, thank you. I was aware of Stephen Albums catalog, but not that it was free online. Thanks!
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I find it interesting after defeating the Byzantines at the Battle of the Yarmuk River that the Arabs would strike coins resembling that of their defeated enemies. Indeed, the same thing happened with Arab-Sassanian coins.

    In fact, it was not until 691 that coins featuring the kalima were struck, under the Umayyad caliphate. During the interim, Byzantine coins continued to circulate, as well as the Arab-Byzantine issues in the East and Arab-Sassanian coins in Persia.

    I don't own an example of any of these coins yet but I'm thinking of picking up some. Nice find @svessien !
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
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  10. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    Last edited: Jun 28, 2020
  11. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I'm more into Arab-Sasanian than Arab-Byzantine, but I have picked up a couple of Arab-Byzantine fals along the way. Here is one of the more common types, from Emesa (Homs) in Syria, with the mint name on reverse in both Greek and Arabic:
    This coin, of the "Standing Caliph" series, has a distinctive portrait of... well, presumably the Caliph on obverse, and on the reverse the cross on the original prototype has transformed into... something that's not exactly a cross:
    Standing Caliph.jpg
    The Spink book, as already mentioned, is a nice overview but doesn't list a lot of varieties. I use Album's checklist frequently, it lists many varieties but is unillustrated, and of course ignores many smaller variations. (You have to cut something to fit in the vast field of Islamic coinage from over a thousand years, covering a huge swath of the planet, into one volume of usable length.) There is an old book by John Walker about Arab-Byzantine coins, that I see frequently in lists of references, but it's decades out of print and used copies are unaffordable. Good luck in this new sub-collection!
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  12. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    Just to give you an idea of the vast range of types exist under the Arab/Byzantine banner, here is an Arab imitation of the follis of Byzantine Emperor Justin II and his wife, the Empress Sophia. This is an acquisition from Roma, last year.

    Arab-Byzantine Umayyad Caliphate Fal, c 660-680 AD Roma purchase.jpg
  13. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Parthicus and Robinjojo, thanks to both of you.
    I like all the coins you have shown here, and would like to get more types.
    Yours is a very nice example, @robinjojo. Beautiful coin. Parthicus is always good at finding interesting types of all obscure kinds, immediately putting a drain on my wallet (you think I can do without a standing caliph now? Forget it. )
    I guess the hard part here will be to learn enough Arabic to be able to identify sub-groups beyond the main type. Tried to use the Album catalog that Pellinore provided now for my Artuquid coin, to find out if it’s Album 1830.4 or 1830.6. He states that «These two types can easily be distinguished, even when date missing, as #1830.4 cites the Ayyubid overlord al-‘Adil Abu Bakr, #1830.6 cites al-Kamil Muhammad.»
    Yeah. If you can read, that is.
    But this is what really makes numismatics worthwhile: Learning new history, new languages, interpreting symbols, and so on. I’ve never been good at it, but I’m quite experienced in doing things I’m not good at.
    Here’s my only other Arab-Byzantine coin. I need to do a cleaning job on it before trying to ID it:

    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020
  14. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    The Arab-Byzantine coinage went through several stages over some six decades leading up to the purely Islamic coinage of 'Abd al-Malik. You will find a good representation at zeno.ru: https://www.zeno.ru/showgallery.php?cat=2341

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  15. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I do not 'collect' Islamic coins but have a few that overlap Byzantine as those shown here. My problem here is I see no brockage. I appreciate the types posted by Parthicus and robinjojo but would not have recognized the OP coin as anything but a clipped down Byzantine. Are you saying the coin was restruck on a flan clipped down before striking or just a coin cut down to match a weight standard?
  16. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    To me it looks like the flan has been clipped after striking, as there is no metal exceeding the edges or cracks after a strike. The edges are sharp, but have the same patina as the rest of the flan.

    The description was taken from this coin on vcoins yesterday:


    The link worked yesterday, but not today. Maybe they realized they were wrong.

    Here is another:
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  17. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    It is quite common for Arab pseudo-Byzantine coins to be struck over cut portions of earlier Byzantine coins.
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