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.