Friday, January 10, 2014

A Mystery Coin - false packaging?

Patients in my old clinic practice used to bring me things.  Now that I work ER it happens less often.  I guess when you unexpectedly put your thumb into a table saw it is hard to arrange a thoughtful gift to bring along.  Bringing the thumb is sufficient.  But folks who knew of my interests in travel and history did give me some interesting things in years past.

One item came in a small box with this notation:


And here it is:

Heads and tails are irrelevant in a coin from a culture that does not approve of showing human forms.  But a bit of research did turn up a little information.

First of all it is not a "Krush".  It is a type of coin called a Para.  100 Para make 2 1/2 Kurush, to use the proper spelling. It has essentially no intrinsic value being a base metal coin.  Clues as to its date can be found on the bottom edge of the coin shown in the upper picture.  The I (two squiggles) V indicate a Hijri date of 1327.  Now, I did not know much about the Islamic calender beyond the obvious, that it dates from AD 622 when the Prophet (PBUH for my Muslim readers) went from Mecca to Medina. Hijri years are just a little different than Gregorian ones, they last either 354 or 355 days.  The conversion of this date to our more familiar system would make it 1909.  But.....that is actually just the first year that this sultan, Mehmed V reigned*.  On the opposite side we find a tiny arabic number 5, indicating that this coin was from five years later.  

The top picture has as central features two things that resemble a wrench and a small square.  This is Arabic for 20.

So, what we have is actually a 20 Para coin from 1914.  Now that was an eventful year for the Ottomans.  A renegade German admiral sailed his squadron into Constantinople and gave his ships to the Sultan.  This and the general cascade of bad decisions being made across Europe that fateful year landed the Turks disastrously in the thick of World War I.
*If you want to call it that.  Mehmed seems to have been a figurehead.  He spent his first 30 years of life confined in the harems, nine of it in solitary confinement, thereby eliminating the only good thing about being locked up in a harem.  And having to make that unpleasant sounding trip at age nine to the ceremonial Circumcision Room of Topkapi palace....

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