Ottoman gold to silver

Started by KennyisaG, July 18, 2014, 09:58:16 PM

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Unlike the Western 16:1 gold ratio, the value of gold against the kurus (piastre) fluctuated within some 5 year spans, in 1690 it was set at 11:1, 1740 it was 15:1, and 1766 at 13:1. I'm trying to understand the value of the gold coins zer-i mahbub; surre, adli, hayriye, and rumi altin; and cedid mahmudiye.

What are the values of these coins relative to the kurus? The Venetian dukat commonly circulated in the Ottoman Empire and values were set against the kurus, what were the values of the gold Ottoman coins versus the dukat?

One reference by P. Sugar rates the zincirli at 400 akce of 3.3g, and another by V. Aksan values the zeri mahbub at 25 kurus, a very unlikely value.
Numista Team Member: SmartOneKg


Not sure where you got the "Western 16:1 ratio". That's more like an East Asian ratio.

The relation of the price of gold and silver is worthy of a thick study. I heard that one exists. In Portuguese. I started on something quite a while ago, but information was scarce and unreliable. Here's the gist of it.

Gold and silver became scarce after the collapse of the Roman empire, until quantities of silver started coming out of the Harz and Melle. Since there was only Arab gold in circulation, there is no gold/silver ratio to speak of. It was only after 1492 that gold and silver started to appear in Europe in quantity. The gold/silver ratio moved by supply and demand between 1:8 and 1:14. The long range sea voyages brought Asia in the picture. In China and Japan, gold was a commodity, not money. Silver was a store of value (sycee) but not money either. The price of both metals were set by imperial decree. In general, the price of gold was set too low in relation to silver, so West European merchant-adventurers got filthy rich by arbitration: shipping silver to Asia and taking gold back.

This narrowed the price range to between 1:9 and 1:11 in Europe. In Asia, the emperors and what have you got wise and changed the relative price of gold to stop the massive gold outflow. They overdid it, though and only managed to revert the gold and silver flow for a while. (BTW, the end of the gold trade drove the British to the opium trade) In the end, just when the world was settling at a ratio of 1:11, a series of gold rushes sent the relative price of gold down, at one point reaching 1:4, before recovering, as Europe (in particular Germany, the largest European economy) went off the silver standard.

So what did it all mean for Turkey? In principle, I don't know. In practice, your numbers sound familiar. It sounds like the Ottomans were trying to follow the European markets. In other countries, gold and silver coins did not have a fixed rate and they weren't used by the same people. Rulers would set a tariff, but that was for convenience only. You would change metal by way of a money changer, who would offer daily rates and weigh coins. Looking at your numbers, that may have been the way things moved in the Ottoman empire also.

This system changed after the Napoleonic wars, as the world got richer and more people could afford gold coins. Countries moved from the silver standard to a double (gold and silver) standard to the gold standard. Coin weight and fineness became more reliable. This period was quite short. By 1848, gold was in principle a store of value and a hedge against inflation, rather than money. It was overtaken by banknotes. What remained in the Ottoman empire were "prestige coins", basically play coins for the sultan.

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