Author Topic: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho  (Read 12101 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« on: May 31, 2010, 02:17:13 AM »
The extravagant wealth at the time of the Great Mughals is also reflected in their coinage. The Mughal emperors of India have the reputation that they struck the largest gold coin of the world, viz.: a huge coin of almost 12 kilos gold with a diameter of 210 mm, with the value of 1000 tola (tola is a weight unit of 11.98 gm., a one mohur weighs 10.95 gm.).



Jahangir (AH 1014-1037/AD 1605-1627), gold mohur of 1000 Tola (11,935. 8 gm., dia. 210 mm) struck at Dar al-Khilafat Agra (Seat of the Caliphate, Agra) in the year AH1022/regnal year 8 (1613/14).

On 9 November 1987 this gigantic coin was offered for sale by the auction house Habsburg, Feldman S.A, Geneva, together with an equally unique piece of a 100 mohur, with a weight of almost 1,100 grams and a diameter of  96 mm. For this auction a special catalogue was printed exclusively for these two gigantic coins. The bids for 1000 tola piece ran up to 16 millions Dutch guilders (€ 7,260,500, =), but the limit (according to some, approx. US$ 20 million) was not met and the owner (according to some reports, the Nizam of Hyderabad) withdrew the piece and the huge coin unfortunately disappeared again into a Swiss locker where it has been stored long before World War II.



Shah Jahan (AH 1037-1068/AD 1628-1658), gold coin of 100 Mohur (1,094, 5 gm, dia. 96 mm.) struck at Dar al-Sultanat Lahore (Seat of the Sultanate, Lahore) in the year AH 1048/regnal year 12 (1639).

These beautiful and extremely rare gigantic coins, with very refined calligraphy and workmanship, are the numismatic top pieces from the period of the Great Mughals. They did not serve as currency, of course, although they have a denomination, but as gold ingots similar to the gold bars stored nowadays in the lockers of the central banks. They were struck in multiples of the current weight of the mohur or rupee, or on the weight of the tola, and stored in the imperial treasure, where they were piled up by denomination. It is known from several sources that such huge coins were manufactured.

Dozens of references are known, showing that rulers, ambassadors of friendly nations and other dignitaries, were honoured with such huge gold pieces, at the occasion of their visit to the court of the Great Mughal. For instance, on 19 Farwardin, regnal year 8 (1613) Jahangir wrote in his diary: I have presented a gold mohur of 1000 tolas, which is called a Kaubab-i-talai (rising star), to Yadgar-Ali, the ambassador of the ruler of Iran.

Until the above giagantic gold coins surfaced in 1987, only some five mohur-pieces of Akbar (KM #116.1) and Jahangir (KM#188.1) were known, as well as a lead cast of a 200 mohur piece of Shah Jahan (until then the largest gold coin in the world). A silver coin of 200 rupees of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir was also known.


Shah Jahan (AH 1037-1068/AD 1628-1658), gypsum cast of the gold 200 mohur, struck at drone al-Khilafat Shahjanabad (seat of the Kalifaat, Delhi) in the year AH 1064 (1653/54).

It is documented that Captain Peter Pigon received such a 200 mohur coin from the emperor. He made a very detailed description. It was 136 mm in diameter, he wrote. He also mentioned that he had already prepared an exact model in lead of it. Nowadays several lead and gypsums casts are known. The  oldest documented lead copy is in the Hunterian collection in Glasgow since 1783. The original of the 200 mohur still existed in 1792, but ever since its whereabouts are unknown and it is very likely that it has been melted in the course of time for other purposes.


Illustration of the 200 rupee coin; G.J. Kher in Monarchae Mogolo-Indica vel Mogolis Magni Aurenk Szeb Numisma, etc., Leipzig 1725, published only eighteen years after Aurangzeb's death.



Aurangzeb Alamgir (AH1068-1118/AD 1658-1707), silver 200 rupee (2,275 gm, dia. 118 mm.) struck at Dar al-Khalifat Shahjahanabad (Seat of the Caliphate, Delhi) in the year AH 1083/regnal year 15 (1672).

In 1712 this coin was already present in the Ducal Coin cabinet at Gotha (Germany), until it was sold in 1930,  presumably to the Nawab of Bahawalpur. By the end of last century it surfaced again in London. I had the pleasure to personally inspect it and keep it in my hands, however, the price of around 60.000 pounds was a bit to much for an average collector.

Unfortunately on its way back to India and due to some carelessness with the luggage, the bag which contained the 200 rupee coin got stolen at Frankfurt Airport.

Whether this numismatic and historically extremely interesting piece, which remained safe and well for such a long time in the Coin cabinet at Gotha, still exists is now very much the question.

It had been known that the Mughal rulers had very precious coins struck, but except for 5 mohur pieces, none of the unique examples, as shown above, are represented in any public collection and we therefore must be content with photographs and in some cases, with lead or gypsum casts.

Oesho.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2010, 03:03:21 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Prosit

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Re: Gigantic coins
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2010, 02:18:30 AM »
So these are from you private collection right?   ;)

Dale

Offline Abhay

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2010, 03:57:38 AM »
A little correction here - 1 Tola = 11.664 Grams.

Oesho, a really interesting and UNIQUE article. You have to agree that everything about Mughal Period was Royal, be it their Jewellery, Coins, Monuments, Art etc.

Abhay

(tola is a weight unit of 11.98 gm., a one mohur weighs 10.95 gm.).

Oesho.
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2010, 09:19:31 AM »
I read this a long time ago and may have remembered it wrongly, but I believe the Mughal was the only person who could inherit. This enabled the Mughal to be extremely generous, as there was no guarantee that sons would inherit from fathers and indeed, largesse was expected. It was expected that as the Mughal travelled, silver would be distributed to onlookers. Actually, the silver was hollow silver almonds (never seen those). It makes sense that higher placed people would get more lavish gifts. Nevertheless, such gifts as these look extravagant to me but, as engipress put it, "royal".

Of course I had never even heard of one of these, let alone seen one. Holding one, as Oesho did, must have been extraordinary. A curse on the thieves who could destroy an artifact like this.

Peter
« Last Edit: May 31, 2010, 09:31:31 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

akona20

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2010, 09:25:22 AM »
The more I read and see the more I am enjoying my new field of collecting and learning.

Offline asm

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2010, 12:04:41 PM »
I had seen a picture of one such coin with a dealer in Hyderabad who told me that that was the picture of a coin which was gifted by Aurengzeb to the forefathers of the Nizams for the help he was provided during a difficult campaign in the Deccan when he was surrounded and it would otherwise have been difficult for him to escape.

Amit
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Offline Oesho

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2010, 01:25:04 PM »
Quote
A little correction here - 1 Tola = 11.664 Grams.
Dear Abhay, You are correct that since 1833 the Tola was fixed by the British East India Company at 180 Troy grains = 11.66 g., which remained so after.
However before 1833 the weight of the Tola differed from time and place.
During the period of the Sultans of Dehli, it was equal to 170.3 grains. The same was the weight of their gold and silver coins, but they were never called Tola; they were known as Tankah. During the Mughal period the Tola was higher in weight, about 185 grains = 11.98 g.
This is also correctly reflected by the weight of the 1000 Tola piece of Jahangir, which weighs exactly 11,935.8 g. /1000 = 11.935 g. Which is about the correct for the weight of the contemporary Tola.

That the piece is a mohur of one thousand Tola, is engraved on the top and left margin on the reverse, where you may be able to read: zi faiz-i-didan-i-muhr-i-hazar tolach ash / Hazar bar bibalad zi-zauq nur-i-nazar (Through the bounty of seeing his [or the sight of his] 1000 tolah muhar [stamped coin], the light of vision increases thousand-fold in ecstasy.) 
« Last Edit: May 31, 2010, 01:30:36 PM by Oesho »

Offline Abhay

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2010, 02:37:12 PM »
Thanks a lot, Oesho, for the correction.
I think, in the earlier period, when the coins were hand made and struck, some grains here and there really didn't matter, as it would have been impossible to accurately cut the blank for the coin to the exact standard weight. Maybe, this is the reason that you find some variataion in the weight of the Mughal and Indian Princely States Mohurs.

Abhay
INVESTING IN YESTERDAY

Offline Oesho

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2010, 03:06:31 PM »
Gold smiths and Saraffs were usually extremely accurate in regard of weight and fineness of the precious metal used for coinage, but to their own advantage. Coins had a theoretic weight, but very often they were found to be slightly underweight, this minimal difference is known as the remedy of the weight. As long the weight of the coin was within the accepted tolerance, there used to be no problem.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2010, 03:16:30 PM »
The same thing happened in European mints, of course. An added plot was that mint masters would sometimes (often?) sell their production to business friends, so that they could find and re-melt any heavy coins, while passing on the lighter coins.

However, I often got the impression that in India, coins went by weight, especially in large payments. This would also explain the lack of edge protection and the circles and circular legends, defining the size of the coin, so prominent on European coins. If so, why make coins lighter?

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

Offline Overlord

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2010, 04:52:17 PM »
How do you strike a nearly 12 kg coin and get a clear, reasonably uniform impression? Multiple strikes, elephant  ???

Offline asm

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2010, 04:17:05 AM »
How do you strike a nearly 12 kg coin and get a clear, reasonably uniform impression? Multiple strikes, elephant  ???
I do not know how they did it but, if they could bulid the Taj with stones hauled from Rajasthan and the Qutub Minar long before that, they would have had some engineering excellence - I guess.

Amit
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Offline Figleaf

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2010, 08:32:32 AM »
Good question. I don't know what technique was used to strike them.

The best available European technique at the time would have been a reinforced screw press. The screw press would break if the coin or medal was to large and thick: rather than the dies being driven into the metal, the two pieces of metal would tear wedges in the wooden construction. The screw press would be reinforced with heavy beams to give it more resistance against the die and flan. Though this would increase the potential weight of the flan, it could not be increased forever. In addition, large flans would have to be struck repeatedly for a good impression, risking a double impression.

My guess is that this technique was not good enough to strike a 12 kilogram coin. I have speculated before that Indians used heated dies. If so, that would have helped considerably, but I am still not sure that it can be done with such a heavy coin. Another possibility is that these pieces were not struck, but cast. This would explain other remarkable characteristics of these coins: perfectly centered, flan of exactly the right size and weight, even impression at border and centre. Therefore, this is my preferred theory for the moment.

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

Offline Overlord

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2010, 05:00:49 AM »
Another possibility is that these pieces were not struck, but cast. This would explain other remarkable characteristics of these coins: perfectly centered, flan of exactly the right size and weight, even impression at border and centre. Therefore, this is my preferred theory for the moment.

Peter
Oh, so all I need to do is to take them out of my Swiss locker and do a ping test.  :D

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Gigantic coins, written and illustrated by Oesho
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2010, 03:42:30 PM »
Sure! Or speak to Rent-an-Elephant and try out that theory :). I am sure there's enough gold in the vaults of the RBI for a good test run. Or maybe there are other theories on this interesting question?

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