Egyptian coinage 1805-1952

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by acanthite, Jun 10, 2010.

  1. acanthite

    acanthite ALIIS DIVES

    The following is a condensed version, without much of the graphics and a shortened text, of an exhibit I put on at the latest Long Beach Coin expo. I present it in two posts. First post covers the period of weakening dominance by the Ottoman Empire, the second is the rise of Egypt as an independent kingdom.

    In the early 1800’s, Egypt was an underdeveloped possession of the weakening Ottoman Empire. This changed rapidly with the arrival of Muhammad Ali Pasha, an Albanian general in the Ottoman armed forces. He was sent to Cairo in 1801 to bring order to a restive population, the result of agitation caused by the occupation and subsequent exit of Napoleon’s armies a few years earlier. The general did more than bring order to the Ottoman possession. Within a few years he declared himself viceroy of Egypt, subservient only in theory to the sultan in Constantinople. The latter, seeing clearly his inability to dislodge the general from Cairo, begrudgingly recognized Muhammad Ali Pasha as ‘governor’ in 1805. Among the many important changes the energetic general brought to the Nile Valley during his eventful reign was a reform of Egyptian coinage.

    Up until the years of coinage reform, Egypt produced hammered coinage, identical to the process being used in all Ottoman mints. Silver coins were prone to debasement, and the resulting coin was often crude in appearance. Starting in 1828, milled planchets began entering into the production line, and hammered coinage was phased out completely by 1845, along with the use of the billon composition.
    One change Muhammad Ali Pasha did not make was to bring new designs to the coinage. He retained the traditional obverse, that of the Ottoman Sultan’s toughra or imperial cipher. In this sense he continued to pay lip service to the Ottoman masters in Constantinople. The reverse also remained the same, an elegantly engraved declaration of where the coin was minted and when. The following is a diagram of the typical coin format up to 1884 AD.
    Some example coins:

    20 para, AH 1255 year 19, silver.

    10 para, AH 1277, year 9, copper.

    10 qirsh, AH 1277 year 4, 0.833 fine silver

    In 1884, the British, who had been increasingly in control of Egyptian affairs (and to whom Egypt was greatly in debt for loans) mandated currency reform. The Cairo mint, which had been in operation for centuries, was closed. Copper-nickel composition was introduced for most of the fractional qirsh denominations, and the denomination ‘para’ was discarded. All coins from this point on were minted overseas, specifically at the mints of Brussels, Budapest, Berlin, Bombay, and several mints in Great Britain. The design and placement of text on the fractionals changes, but for 1 qirsh and up, the format remains the same as the earlier issues. Some examples:

    1/20 qirsh, AH 1293 year 33-H (Heaton mint), copper.

    2/10 qirsh (or 1/5 qirsh), AH 1293 year 27, copper-nickel.

    1 qirsh, AH 1327 year 2-H, silver, 0.0375 oz ASW

    5 qirsh, AH 1327 year 4-H, silver, 0.1875 oz ASW

    20 qirsh (equivalent to US silver dollar or European crown)
    AH 1293 year 10-W, silver, 0.7499 oz ASW

    At this point, WW I happens, see next post.
    Theodosius likes this.
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  3. acanthite

    acanthite ALIIS DIVES

    The advent of World War I brought about many changes in Egypt. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire released Egypt from any subservience, real or imagined. The British, now firmly in control of Cairo, installed another dynastic successor (Hussein Kamel), and he was declared Sultan in 1914 (AH 1333). Egypt’s coinage, which was still being produced at mints in Europe and India, was modified yet again. Fractional qirshes were renamed millemes, and the qirsh and its multiples were renamed piastres. All coins now bore the name of Hussein Kamel with no mention of the Ottoman sultan. As significant was the inclusion of the denomination in latin characters, and the date in both the Hijri and Christian year. Most fractional issues are holed. Some examples:

    1 milleme, AH 1335-H (1917 AD), copper-nickel

    10 piastres, AH 1335 (1917 AD), silver, 0.3749 oz ASW

    The next momentous change in Egypt occurred in 1922. In this year, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was sworn in as President of the Republic of Turkey. Likewise, nationalism was brewing in Cairo, and the decision was made to abolish the Sultanate and declare Egypt a sovereign kingdom. Fu’ad I, who was sultan at the time, was reinstated as king. He had the distinction of having his profile featured on the obverse of all denominations. The bust of a person had not appeared on an Egyptian coin for almost 1500 years. Some examples:

    1/2 milleme, 1932-H (AH 1351), copper

    2 1/2 millemes, 1933 (AH 1352), copper nickel - only octagonal issue

    10 piastres, 1933 (AH 1352), silver, 0.3749 oz ASW

    King Farouk was the great-great grandson of Muhammad Ali Pasha and last member of the dynasty to hold sway over the Nile Valley, coming to power in 1936. His neglectful reign brought to an end the days of despotic rule in Egypt. He was exiled in 1952. During his rule were introduced hexagonal and scallop-edged coins. Another development was a complex security edge used for the silver 20 piastre coin (crown equivalent).

    1/2 milleme, 1938 (AH 1357), copper

    2 piastres, 1944 (AH 1363), 0.500 silver, only hexagonal issue

    20 piastres (crown), 1939 (AH 1358), silver, 0.7499 oz ASW

    Theodosius likes this.
  4. Mukremin

    Mukremin Junior Member

    interesting, very nice post. I also have some egypt(ottoman) coins from that era.
  5. rdwarrior

    rdwarrior Junior Member

    I also have many of these coins, Great post!!. Really clears up some of the mystery around the different types of denominations and styles. and the meaning of some of those squiggly lines.:thumb:
  6. cladking

    cladking Coin Collector

    He also had a rather spectacular view.

    His summer palace is in the center of this photo;
  7. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  8. De Orc

    De Orc Well-Known Member

    Wonderful write up :smile I am visiting Luxor in Egypt in October and had hoped to find a coin shop but have checked with a friend and they do not appear to have one (Bit of a let down) but who knows might find something in the market place :kewl:
  9. ikandiggit

    ikandiggit Currency Error Collector

    Excellent post! I have a small back of Egyptian coins that I need to identify and this is going to help immensely.
  10. Nate Olson

    Nate Olson Member

    I cannot identify this coin, but I believe it to be from the Ottoman empire (akce or para maybe?) Can anyone help? I would like to decipher some of this writing. IMG_1676 (3).JPG IMG_1677 (3).JPG
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