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A silver coin from Mughal emperor Jahangir’s famed Zodiac collection will go to auction in Sydney shortly.
It is the stellar piece in a set of coins from India listed by Noble Numismatics, Australia’s best-known valuers and auctioneers who deal in coins, medals, stamps, banknotes and related material.
Jim Noble of Noble Numismatics told Indian Link, “We are hoping to get bidders in India for this beautiful and extremely rare item.”
Representing the Zodiac sign of Gemini, the coin shows the figures of the twins on the obverse side, and a Farsi inscription on the reverse side.
The coin was struck at the imperial mint at Ahmedabad.
The catalogue lists an estimated price of $5000, and it will be interesting to see what number it finally claims at auction.
“I sold a gold coin from the very same collection a few years ago,” Noble revealed. “It went for $63,000.” (In 2016, the Scorpio gold coin from the same collection claimed $450,000 in a New York auction.)
The Zodiac collection of gold and silver coins issued by Jahangir during his reign (1605 – 1627) are prized collectors’ items for two specific reasons: one, it was unprecedented for Muslim rulers to strike figural type coins, given portraits are taboo in orthodox Islam; and two, because of this reason, many of the coins were recalled and melted by Jahangir’s son and successor Shahjahan to placate the court’s orthodox members.
And yet Jahangir, a well-known aesthete and art lover, struck coins with his father Emperor Akbar’s likeness on them, as well as his own.
About his Zodiac collection, he wrote in his memoir Tizk-i-Jahangiri, “Previously, the reverse of the coin carried the name of the mint and the year of the reign. It occurred to me that in place of the month we could feature the figure of the constellation of that month.”
The manuscript also contains the designs for each of the Zodiacal coins in gold as well as silver.
The ornate coins were not issued as currency, instead presented at the Emperor’s leisure to visitors. Each recipient was gifted a coin relating to their own sign of the Zodiac. As commemorative coins, they were usually mounted on necklaces.
Some coins from the Zodiac collection can be seen today at the National Museum in New Delhi.
Other catalogue items
The collection of coins up for auction at Noble Numismatics seems to be a decent representation of the early history of Indian coinage.
The oldest coins are punch-marked coins from the Mauryan Empire, roughly 321 BCE – 185 BCE. Named after their process of production (in which a narrow cylinder punches an impression on to a heated blank coin), this ancient kind of coin was popular in India between 6th and 2nd centuries BC.
Also on offer are coins from the Sultanates 1206-1526, predating the Mughals (Slave or Mamluk dynasty, the Khilji dynasty, the Tughlaq dynasty, the Sayyid dynasty, and the Lodhi dynasty.) Under their watch, the money economy grew considerably. Iltutmish, Muhammad Shah II, Mohammed Bin Tughluq and Sher Shah are some of the more easily identifiable names in the Sydney collection.
Of the Mughal rulers, you’ll find coins here from the times of Akbar, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb, Muhammad Murad Baksh and Farrukhsiyar, and other silver rupees from Jahangir.
Next in line chronologically, are coins from the East India Company issues, from the Bombay, Madras and Bengal Presidencies of the late 1700s and early 1800s. Some of these bear the likeness of King William IV and Queen Victoria.
The Noble collection also contains coins from the Native States such as Awadh, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Mewar, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Baroda, Indore, Jaipur and Travancore. These coins – tankas, jitals, shashganis, mohurs, takkas, annas, paisas, koris (Kutch), chuckrams and kasus (Travancore), and rupees and half-rupees – are all listed with estimated prices up to $200. They are collected today for use as ceremonial coins in religious rituals.
In another category of coins, check out the ‘tokens’ from British India. These are literally canteen tokens that workers in the factories had to use to buy their meals. There are tokens here from the tea gardens (of Kerala, Assam and the Northeast), coffee companies, mints, ammunition factories, gold mines, dockyards, railways and banks. Of special interest are the tokens of the spinning and weaving mills that clothed the United Kingdom post Industrial Revolution – Khatau, Morarjee, Apollo, Kohinoor and Laxmi Cotton.
Tokens from Bengal famine relief, and those used by Company sipahis, might just tug at your heart strings.
Perhaps the Republic of India coinage from the 1950s might be more to your liking: a proof set of seven coins from the Bombay Mint, including pice, half anna, anna, two annas, quarter, half and one rupee, is estimated at $1,500.
The online auction by Noble Numismatics will be held 30 Aug – 2 Sept.
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