By Richard Giedroyc
The terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State or ISIS is doing some numismatic saber rattling, suggesting the group is about to issue specie coins for circulation in gold and silver.
At the same time Facebook and other Internet websites are taking down pages on which the ancient coins for sale appear to be offered by ISIS or its representatives. Coin collecting is already under fire as several countries try to protect their archaeological sites from being plundered for profit. ISIS presence in the coin market is not welcome for that reason.
The June 12 Daily Mail British newspaper said ISIS is selling “off the rare and unique artifacts they have seized and stolen as they carve a path of destruction through the Middle East. Among the goods being offered on the pages recently taken down were golden statues, scrolls written in both Hebrew and Aramaic, clay tablets, and ancient coins, all believed to be taken from Syria.”
The June 24 issue of the newspaper The Independent reported, “ISIS, thought to be one of the richest terrorist groups in history, makes its money from black market oil sales, aggressive taxation, robbery, extortion, wealthy donors, human trafficking, and looting the properties and ancient monuments it has seized.”
Anti-ISIS activist Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi recently posted images of 1- and 5-dinar coins on his Twitter account he said are being issued by ISIS. Raqqawi wrote, “ISIS say soon they will deal with the new coins.”
ISIS first announced in November 2014 its intentions to issue its own currency in the form of precious metal coins modeled after the dinar coinage of the Caliphate of Uthman in AD 634. The dinar denomination is still used in many countries today, but none are issued in gold or silver for circulation.
ISIS reasoned the coins should be issued as specie to “emancipate itself from the satanic global economic system.”
That is going to be challenging to achieve. The value of gold and silver composition coins would change alongside the continual fluctuations of the spot price of these metals. Since ISIS is not recognized as a government there is no place to establish an exchange rate for the coins against other currencies.
In November last year ISIS said it would issue seven coins, a gold dinar valued at $139, a gold 5 dinar valued at $694, three silver dirham denominations it valued between $1 and $9 each, and two copper composition minor denomination coins of minimal value.
The recently unveiled coin images were initially provided by ISIS supporters. The unveiling was likely meant to coincide with the first anniversary of the group. The coins appear to be embossed with an Arabic legend translating to “The Islamic state—a caliphate based on the doctrine of the Prophet.” The other side of the 5-dinar coin depicts a world map, while seven stalks of wheat that reference a Koran verse appear on the 1 dinar.
Among the many questions are where ISIS would have the coins made, how would they be distributed, how would these coins replace the existing currencies of the countries now being occupied by ISIS, and why wouldn’t the general public hoard rather than spend the coins.
The source of the gold, silver, and copper required to strike the coins is also in question since neither Iraq nor Syria mine any of these metals. According to The Independent article, “Experts believe any precious metals the group possesses have been purchased, stole, or looted in other forms and melted down.”
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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