Author Topic: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins  (Read 6660 times)

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Online Figleaf

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A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« on: January 12, 2013, 05:33:15 PM »
The first coins of Africa came from what is now Cyrenaica. The city of Cyrene. Cyrenaica was part of the Persian empire, but Dorian colonists from Thera (Santorini) established a thriving trading post, that quickly grew into a wealthy city. The leader of the colonist, Battus, established a dynasty that would rule the city until about 435BC. Two centuries before, they issued gold and silver coins. The gold coins are described as a "double flower pattern" with two incuse depressions on the reverse. Their assignment to Cyrene is disputed, which may be the reason I couldn't find a picture. The double flower may look like the one on a later coin of Cyrene attached.

There is no such dispute over the first silver coins, staters and fractions of staters. Many show the leaves, seeds, buds or fruit of the silphium or - most often - the plant itself (the double floer pattern), probably a major reason for the wealth of Cyrene. Other coins show Greek gods and nymphs, interspersed with horse and lion heads. The second attachment is a hemidrachm, about 510-480 BC, diademed, bearded head of Zeus Ammon with ram's horn.

Around 435, the Battids were overthrown and Cyrene became a republic. They continued to issue a large variety of gold and silver coins. From about 400, the coins show the name of the monetarius.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2013, 06:32:11 PM »
From 311 BC, Cyrene and other Greek settlements in what is now Libya became parts of the Macedonian empire under Alexander the Great. On his death, those settlements were awarded to the Ptolemaic dynasty. From about 305 BC, the coins became Ptolemaic, but with a twist. The ruler was duly pictured on the obverse, but on the reverse, we find Libya, the personification of the area, often with a cornucopia, to underscore the wealth of Libya (first attachment.)

Ptolemaic coinage was regularly interrupted by revolts against Egyptian rule. One of the longest rebellions was that of Magas, stepson of Ptolemy I. More often than not, the rebels would produce imitations of republican or ptolemaic coins. The second attachment shows a bronze obol from Magas' reign, 276 - 250 B.C.; obverse diademed bust of Ptolemy; reverse ΠΤΟΛΕΜ ΒΑΣΙΛ, eagle left, with wings open, ΜΑΓ monogram left.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 13, 2013, 01:44:26 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2013, 08:44:01 PM »
When the Ptolemaic dynasty faded away, the Romans took over. Eventually, the area was merged with Crete to one province, making Cyrene a Roman provincial mint, following the patterns of other Roman provincial mints. By this time, other mints had emerged: Lepcis Magna (Lebda), Sabrata and Oea (Tripoli). These coins are half Phoenician, half Roman in style and cruder than the Cyrene issues. Also, the new mint concentrated on producing copper coins. The first and second attachment is a copper coin of Lepcis Magna:

Obv: Laureate bust of Augustus. DIVOSAVGV STVS
Rev: Dionysos standing holding a kantharos right, drapery and thyrsos left. Panther behind.

The final Roman provincial issue are Cyrene drachmes and hemidrachms with Zeus Ammon for Trajan in 100AD. Cyrene declined until it was the ruined city we see today. For centuries, no coins were to be struck in Libya.

The third attachment shows a hemidrachm of Cyrene with Zeus-Ammon combined with the laureate head of Trajan. Compare this coin with the one shown in the initial post.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2013, 09:46:51 PM »
The Byzantine empire did not operate a mint in what is now Libya.

Islamisation started around 640. After the fall of Egypt, Cyrenaica became part of the caliphate, while the western part (Syrtica) was a separate vassal state. This invited an invasion from the Fatimids, coming from Tunis. Eventually, the Fatimids settled in Egypt. They were succeeded by the Ayubbid dynasty in 1171.

One transitional coin is known from this time is known to have been struck in Libya: a small bronze, imitating a Byzantine coin of emperor Heraclius, but with the latin character legend "in the name of god Musa commander of Africa ordered this coin made at Tripoli". Later, some Fatimid coins were struck at the Tripoli mint.

In 1229, Abu Zakariya, governor of the Almohad province of Ifriqiya (now Tunisia) claimed sovereignty. He conquered the coastal area of Libya and established a Hafsid mint in Atrabulus (Tripoli).

The attachment shows a Fatimid half dirham 380 AH, minted at Atrabulus in the name of al-'Aziz (975-996)

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2013, 10:24:34 PM »
After a long struggle, Libya became an Ottoman province, with Tarabelus (Tripoli) as its capital. Coins were the same as those of the Istanbul mint, except for the mint name, Tarabelus. They could circulate everywhere in the Ottoman empire and all Ottoman coins could circulate in Libya. The first Ottoman sultan to mint coins in Tripoli was Selim II (1566-1574). In 1648, the name of the mint on the coins was changed to Tarabelus Gharb (Tripoli West), to distinguish it from the Tripoli now in Lebanon.

In 1836, the Tripoli mint was closed.

The first attachment shows an akce, 974 AH of Selim II with the mint name Tarabelus. The second is a kurush dated 1203/10 AH Tarabelus Gharb, issued during the reign of sultan Selim III. The first coin is hammered, the second machine-struck.

Peter

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2013, 10:50:09 PM »
After 1911, Libya was parcelled out to Italy (1911-1943), France and Britain (1943-1951). None of the colonizing powers struck coins, but they did issue paper money for (areas in) Libya, denominated in homeland currency.

In 1951, Libya gained independence for the first time since it succumbed to Alexander the Great. Its head of state, king Idris, figures on the 1952 (frozen date) series. Following constitutional changes in 1963, he is replaced by a crowned coat of arms on the 1965 AD, 1385 AH series. In 1969, he was dethroned by a revolution. Both series are heavily inspired by contemporary Egyptian coins.

The portrait coin is a 5 mils, the coin with the arms is 100 mils.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2013, 11:50:14 PM »
The leader of the coup, 27 year old captain Muammar Gaddafi, wanted radical change. His first coins show little of it. The first series, dated 1395/1975, simply replaced the royal arms with an eagle that clearly takes a cue from a similar beasty on the coins issued under Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt and leading light of (now colonel) Gadaffi. The name of the country is changed, together with the wreath used in Idris' reign. The technical specifications of the coins remain the same. That would change...

The attachment shows a 50 mils.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2013, 12:29:22 AM »
In the years that followed, Gaddafi developed his own political-religious system, reflected in his "green book". One of the consequences was another name change. Libya became the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Within the country, this led to a dictatorship of Gaddafi and his cronies. Outside, Gaddafi broke with Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat and started a disastrous war with Egypt. His actions also isolated him from the Maghreb countries.

Gaddafi did manage to improve relations with the Soviet Union, Uganda's Idi Amin, the Central African Republic's Jean Bédel Bokassa and Gabon's Omar Bongo.

The 1399/1979 coinage does not just reflect the new name of the country. The mil was replaced by the dirham and the pound by the dinar of 1000 dirham. The rest of the Egyptian influence was largely undone by replacing the eagle with a tribal horseman.

You are looking at a 5 dirham, the equivalent of 5 mil.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2013, 01:33:14 AM »
Gaddafi's behaviour became increasingly erratic and since het controlled Libya politically, the country suffered. Several deadly incidents severed ties with the US and the UK. Gaddafi started to export terrorism and erstwhile friends were deposed. Ties with the Soviet Union were mainly cold war posturing. Oil tumbled to $10/barrel. It came to US military attacks and international sanctions and boycotts before, in 1999, Gaddafi and the price of oil changed course.

Gaddafi turned inward, rejecting pan-Arab nationalism and terrorism and paying large amounts of money for popular projects, but still capable of over-the-top reactions. The Libyan economy (including the oil sector) was privatised. Meanwhile, his political control remained in place, giving rise to growing frustrations.

The current series of coins was lengthened with a 1/4 dinar in 2001 (this may be an independence commemorative) and a bi-metallic half dinar in 2004. A new series was issued in 2009 with denominations of 50 and 100 dirhams, 1/4 dinar and 1/2 dinar. It is not clear how it differs from the 1979-2004 series.

The illustration is a quarter dinar issued in 2001 (1369 is equivalent to 1950).

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2013, 01:39:20 AM »
Libya's coin history ends in 2009, but the country has moved on. Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011. For the first time in its history, Libyans can form political parties and vote. Extremism is not rooted out, though and what the country's future will be is anybody's guess.

From reply 5 on, the coins are mine. The others are not (unfortunately). Please add to this thread if you can. Also, keep in mind that my level of reading Arabic is below Plant, chapter 3. Comments are welcome.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline andyg

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2013, 01:47:13 AM »
2009 vs the earlier types.
always willing to trade modern UK coins for modern coins from elsewhere....

translateltd

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2013, 02:03:46 AM »

The illustration is a quarter dinar issued in 2001 (1369 is equivalent to 1950).


Not quite: AH 1369 is 1950, but this isn't an AH date.  It counts solar (not lunar) years since the death of Mohammed in AD 632, so the date is current (i.e. 1369 = 2001).

If I read the Arabic at the top of the coin correctly (this isn't always a given) it says 1369 since the death of the Prophet.   Likewise 1377 on the 2009-dated coins illustrated.

Online Figleaf

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2013, 11:38:18 AM »
Thank you, gentlemen.

I am not an expert in Libyan coinage, but a quick study of the coins of any country is not difficult to make. Here are my sources.
  • Joe Cribb et al., The Coin Atlas, ISBN 0316848212, for the structure of the thread and key words to Google.
  • Wikipedia lemmas on History of Libya, Cyrene, Sylphium (plant), Magas, several Arab dynasties, the Ottoman empire and Gaddafi for getting background facts right.
  • A specialised page on Cyrenaica: http://www.snible.org/coins/hn/cyrenaica.html
  • Google picture finder and a large number of pictorial sites.
  • Numismaster, for the latest issues.
  • My own collection.
You can do it too.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

translateltd

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Re: A short and incomplete overview of Libyan coins
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2013, 07:12:11 PM »

  • Numismaster, for the latest issues.


I know our colleagues at SCWC originally misunderstood the dates on the latest issues and mistook them for 20th-century coins (hence the absence of Libya from one of the C21 volumes), but I had hoped that had been rectified.

Great idea to pick a location and do a potted history like this - well done.