Sasanian drachm with possible 1920s provenance

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Parthicus, Jun 18, 2022.

  1. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Hormazd IV Narmashir 3.jpg
    Sasanian Kingdom. AR drachm. Hormazd IV (579- 590 AD), Royal Year 3. Narmashir mint. Obverse: Bust of king right, Pahlavi inscription before "AHRMZD" (Hormazd), behind head APZWN (May [his glory] increase). Reverse: Zoroastrian fire-altar with two attendants, star and crescent at top, to right mintmark NAL (Narmashir), to left date 3. Gobl 201. This coin: Bought from eBay seller, 2022; apparently deaccessioned from National Museum of Wales, part of a hoard found in Kirkuk in 1922/3.

    (Historical section contains some reused text. Just mentioning that to avoid charges of (self-)plagiarism.)

    Hormazd IV was the son of Khusro I Anushirvan and took the throne on his father's death in 579 AD; his mother was the daughter of a foreign khagan, though whether it was the Turkish or Khazar khagan seems to be in dispute. Hormazd clashed often with the nobles and the Zoroastrian religious leaders, and is said to have ordered the executions of over 13,000 of his noble and religious opponents. He fought a series of minor battles against the Byzantines in the 580s, but the main military highlights of his rule came from the east. In 588 he sent a force under general Vahram Chobin to repel the Turkish forces that had conquered Balkh. Vahram was spectacularly successful, driving back the Turks and acquiring new territory, killing the Turkish khagan and capturing his son, and seizing a huge quantity of gold and other plunder. Unfortunately, the glory of Vahram made Hormazd jealous of his subordinate, and in 589 he had Vahram humiliated and removed from office. Vahram began to raise a rebellion, which inspired a palace plot to depose, blind and kill Hormazd and place his son Khusro on the throne. The rather opportunistic Vahram now declared himself the avenger of Hormazd and marched against Khusro, which did not end well for Vahram.

    This is a decent portrait for Hormazd IV (he tends to look very "fish-eyed"), and I did not have this mint for him (the small city of Narmashir in Kirman Province, Iran). But what made this even more interesting was the provenance that came with the coin. The seller included this photocopied letter:
    accession document.jpg
    It would appear from this letter that a hoard of several hundred late Sasanian drachms was unearthed by British soldiers digging barracks near Kirkuk, Iraq in 1922/3 (British troops were in the region as part of the post-World War I breakup of the Ottoman Empire), and that 10 of these coins were later donated (probably in 1946) to the National Museum of Wales by a Dr. William Dunlop (perhaps one of the soldiers who found the hoard?). Unfortunately, the eBay seller who who sold this coin didn't know when or why this coin was later deaccessioned, and so far my (admittedly very cursory) Internet searching hasn't turned up much. I did find a couple of other late Sasanian drachms listed on the National Museum of Wales site with the same backstory (hoard found at Kirkuk, 1922/3) but there is no photo of the hoard, or even a list of the various coins, that I could find. So, absent further evidence such as a museum or auction catalogue listing I can't directly prove that this coin was part of the hoard, but it does seem pretty reasonable to me. Anyway, an interesting coin with potentially an even more interesting backstory. Please post your coins of Hormazd IV (with or without fish-eye), or coins with interesting provenances, or whatever else is relevant.
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    It's not to often sellers will include such paperwork. I often wonder how many coins I have bought and has such items, only for it to go in the garbage, with their thinking I don't want it.

    My nothing special fish eye.

    Ohrmazd (Hormizd) IV (579-590 A.D.)
    AR Drachm
    O: Facing bust, head right, wearing crown with tassel to left and surmounted by crescent with vertical lines; single-dotted border, crescent with star at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock.
    R: Fire altar with two attendants, wearing tall headgear, inside single-dotted border; no marks outside border.
    GW (Gurgan) mint, dated regnal year 9 = 587/8 CE.
    Göbl, Sasanian Numismatics, Hormizd IV, crown type I, reverse type 1
  4. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    Interesting. I wonder if your coin might instead be one of the "some hundreds" from the same hoard that were not donated? It makes sense that Dr. Dunlop would have kept the 'thank you' letter with the remaining coins in his possession but it would be very odd for a copy of the original thank-you letter from the museum to the donor to accompany objects deaccessioned at a later date.
  5. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    That actually makes a lot of sense. This would imply that my coin went from the original (hundreds of coins) hoard to Dr. Dunlop's possession, and eventually (thorough some unknown number of steps) to the eBay seller from whom I bought it, all while fortuitously remaining connected to the copy of the museum letter that explained its origin. An interesting idea, and there are some possible avenues to try and check out, but at this point I'm starting to feel that if I spend any more time on researching this, somebody should pay me for it ;) and since I don't see anyone who would, well, maybe a few mysteries will remain unsolved.
    dltsrq and paschka like this.
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