Author Topic: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins  (Read 343 times)

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Offline Trankebar

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Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« on: November 23, 2020, 06:52:45 PM »
Greetings ...

My Krause Mishler 1800-1900 is an old 3rd edition - so I would like to know if the newer editions has been updated , to include the Ethiopian Besa and the 4 Mahaleki ?

I lived in Ethiopia a while , and in Harar I helped an old gentleman , who had some interesting coins - he had them from his late grandpa , who told him they were the coins of the Emperor Menelik II - according to him, they were valid currency in Harar from the mid 1890's until Emperor Haille Selassie's coins arrived in the 1920´s - it was some copper Besas and silver Mahalekis - later I found the silver Mahaleki as KM 1 1892/1893 in KM but not the
Besa - through times I acquired some of both, as well as a 4 Mahaleki - which is also not in my edition of KM .
I later found Professor Wolfgang Hahn's description of the Mahaleki and Besa in his 2013  article : Numismatisches zum 100. Todestag des Kaisers Menelik II von Aethiopien ( 1889 - 1913 ) , which I have in my library.

Later I also saw a set of trial strikes of a 1 Mahaleki + a 2 Mahaleki both without denomination for sale online - it has been up for sale 3 times at auctions - the last time is here at Heritage with an evaluation 8000-10000 $ :

https://www.coinarchives.com/w/lotviewer.php?LotID=4528747&AucID=4833&Lot=30115&Val=9af64eaf46e3b6ff90de70b45aa0cd16

Does anyone have more information about the Besa and the 4 Mahaleki ( which has indeed the denomination 4 on it )

I have some photos ... but don't know how to upload - the attachment does not show up in preview ??

« Last Edit: November 23, 2020, 07:51:51 PM by Trankebar »

Offline Trankebar

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2020, 07:00:02 PM »
Hurra   - it worked  :D

The 4 Mahaleki is silver , diameter 21 mm , weight 5.22 gram

Please notice that the 1 Mahaleki clearly has the denomination 1 on it - and the 4 Mahaleki clearly has the denomination 4 on it - on the first photo of them.

Offline Trankebar

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2020, 07:05:37 PM »
Forgot to mention that I could not find info about the 4 Mahaleki in my Gill  ....  ???

Offline Afrasi

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2020, 12:20:48 PM »
I am no expert, but just a simple collector, but I try to answer:

About the Besa I cannot say more tham is said by Wolfgang Hahn in the article mentioned by you.

The "patterns" of the Mahaleki without "1" shown by Heritage Auctions are spourious, because they are clearly from different dies.

The piece of 4 Mahaleki (read by NGC and Heritage Auctions as 2 Mahaleki) is of bad style and very spurious. It was most probably made outside Ethiopia in modern times. If you did read Hahn's article you know about the poor minting machine. Nearly all regular Mahalekis have massive die cracks. The earlier pieces have one and the later pieces at least two. These machines were not able to produce such a coin.

Good news: Mr. Hahn is working on a book about modern Ethiopian coinage. Let's hope he will be able to finish it! :-)

Offline Trankebar

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2020, 09:49:34 PM »
Thank you for replying, Afrasi – for a moment I thought nobody would respond ..
I just found out there was an old thread about Harar coins here on the forum, even mentioning the Besa  – I should of course have posted there , so all info was in 1 thread … you are welcome to move it there if you want, and if it is possible ..

I fully understand your point of view , the machinery was indeed crude – but the quality of the finished coin very much depends on the dies – one of my former acquaintances, was the medailleur of the Royal Danish Mint in Copenhagen , whose initials got minted on the Danish coins - he explained me all about minting , both in modern times and in old ( I was his MD ) - alas that was in old days , nowadays the minting of Danish coins has moved abroad . If you have a low quality die – there are 2 ways you can get a die crack – either the die is flawed with a die crack from start , in which case all the coins minted will have the crack minted on them– but it is more common, that the stress of minting creates the die crack after a while – in both cases the crack often deepens and perhaps grows bigger – and more cracks can occur.
If the die is not flawed from the start , the first portion of coins can be perfect until the crack occurred.
If you only mint a smaller number of coins – all the coins can be of perfect quality – and you even can be lucky with minting a larger number of coins with low quality dies – they don’t always break. And it is possible to make coins like the patterns with crude machinery, if you have the dies for it - though the very best quality ( especially for large coins and medals ) will be with good machinery and multiple precision striking of the same planchet, while you heat and cool the same planchet/blank in between to remove metal stress in the planchet ..

I have 2 specimens of the 1 Mahaleki KM 1 – both have the same crack (  you can also see the die crack on the photo in post 1 ), but the most worn of them shows a very distinct and deep die crack  - their weight are 1.34 gram for the best specimen ( which is shown on the photo in post 1 )  and 1.45 gram for the most worn. KM lists the KM 1 as having the weight 1.04 gram in my edition.
I have seen other specimens of KM 1 at auctions – one at Baldwin Auction had the weight 1.45 gram and showed no visible die crack – see photo.

Concerning the 4 Mahaleki and the 2 Mahaleki at CNG/Heritage – they are somewhat different.

The 1 Mahaleki with denomination , KM 1 , diameter 15 mm, weight 1.04 – 1.45 gram
The ”1” Mahaleki pattern without denomination, diameter 15 mm , weight 1.33 gram
The ”2” Mahaleki pattern without denomination, diameter 18 mm , weight 2.55 gram
The 4 Mahaleki with denomination, unlisted , diameter 21 mm , weight 5.22 gram

The weight of the patterns are listed in the Baldwin auction 91 .

So the 4 Mahaleki is not the same weight or size as the ”2” Mahaleki pattern at CNG/Heritage - and has not been read as 2 by them ...

I guess NGC called the 2 patterns ”1” and ”2” Mahaleki due to the silver weight being similar to a 1 Mahaleki and a theoretical 2 Mahaleki.

I do however see the similarities of both patterns and the 4 Mahaleki , both on the letters and on the cross on top of the crown of all 3 ... leaning to the right…. it is a bit spurious , I guess they came from the same mint ..... or modern maker ...

About the 4 Mahaleki , the seller I bought it from, had got it from South Africa , saying that he got it from a person , who had inherited it from a relative , who was a South African soldier , who did service in Somalia/Ethiopia during the liberation of Ethiopia from the Italian occupation in the
1940´s, and brought this coin back with him  – if this is true it talks against it being a modern replica/fantasy – but it is easy to spin a tale, and I only bought once from this seller – so I do not know anything about his moral or integrity ….

Anyway , again thank you for giving your point of view  :)  I hope one day Wolfgang Hahn ( or somebody else ) might dig up some info about the patterns and the 4 Mahaleki , whether they are genuine or not … and I will look forward to his new catalog/book (I also collect Axum/Ethiopia and have some few specimens of the tiny Harar coins )…..  unfortunately I am stuck so far concerning this 4 Mahaleki coin … genuine or fantasy … hmmm

Photo of the Baldwin specimen of KM 1 – apparently without visible die crack , no photo shown due to copyright :

Lot 3363 at

https://media.baldwin.co.uk/auctions/Baldwins%20Auction/BA%20catalogues/Baldwins%20auction%2091%20-%20catalogue.pdf
« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 04:05:46 PM by Trankebar »

Offline Afrasi

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2020, 10:09:21 AM »
The die crack is clearly visible on reverse near six o'clock.

Offline Trankebar

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2020, 04:29:07 AM »
You are right, Afrasi  :)
I only looked at the very long die crack at 11:30 on the reverse ... my mistake !!
So on the 1 Mahaleki KM 1 the first die crack was close to 6 o'clock on the reverse - then came the second die crack at 11:30 on the reverse , and on my other 1 Mahaleki there is also a third ( and long ) die crack at 3:30 o'clock on the reverse - the original die was slowly breaking up during minting ...  bad quality of the die indeed.

Anyway , patterns are often proto types , which do not need to resemble the finished and approved coin in design - it is however interesting, that the numismatic experts at Baldwin's auction 2014, NGC grading , Triton CNG auctions January 2018 and Heritage auctions 2020 all accepted the patterns as genuine - however that could be due to an avalanche effect - when one expert says good for them , others might follow on and do the same ...

see lot 3364, 3365 ... and the one Mahaleki KM 1 in post 5 is lot 3363 at Baldwin auction 91 , 2014 :

https://media.baldwin.co.uk/auctions/Baldwins%20Auction/BA%20catalogues/Baldwins%20auction%2091%20-%20catalogue.pdf


lot 980 and 981 at Triton CNG :

https://issuu.com/cngcoins/docs/cng_tritonxxi_main/232


Offline Trankebar

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Re: Ethiopia - Harar - the Emperor´s coins
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2020, 03:10:37 PM »
Oh dear - big problem  :o
I just sat with my old textbook and dictionary in Amharic/Geez from my time in Ethiopia !!

When you make a pattern for a trial strike , you normally do your very best when making the die and double check for errors, because it is going to be presented for approval - but on the 2 patterns there is a grave spelling error !!!!!!!

The dating 1885 is correct on the genuine 1 Mahaleki (KM1) and the unlisted 4 Mahaleki - it is spelled 18 100 80 5 - which means 18 times 100 + 85 = 1885 .
( the numerals are on top of the reverse and have vinculums above and under the numerals ) ..
However on the 2 patterns it is spelled 18  Ha (letter not numeral) 80 5 , gibberish like that would normally NOT occur on a genuine pattern for a trial strike !! Also apparently no provenience before 2014 ??

All I can say is "Ha, Ha, Ha" (pun intended)  ;D ......  Afrasi is most likely correct - probably modern remakes .. and since the 4 Mahaleki seems to be related to the patterns in design ( though it at least have a correct date ) , it might very well be modern as well ...


« Last Edit: December 05, 2020, 04:12:15 PM by Trankebar »