By Bob Reis
After World War I, the countries now known as Sudan and South Sudan were called “Anglo-Egyptian Sudan” and were presented to the world as a single administrative entity by the British military occupation government of Egypt, itself masquerading as a paternalistic “protectorate.” The reality was more complicated.
British dominance in Egypt actually began in 1882 and continued until 1956. During most of those decades the British were formally pretending that the Egyptians were autonomous but nobody was fooled. Technically, Egypt became an independent kingdom in 1922 but British troops remained on the ground and British “advisors” remained in chairs in government offices. They ran the army, too. All this time we’ve been collecting Egyptian royal coins, and they were just products of a puppet show.
Back to “Ango-Egyptian” Sudan. There has been this issue of northern and southern Sudan since the pharaohs of 4,000 years ago. The people looked different. The northerners preyed upon the southerners, sent expeditions to get products and slaves. The southerners resisted but not effectively enough to stop the raids from happening. It’s an interesting conundrum: why or how the southerners did not manage to unify sufficiently or to acquire the necessary technology to effectively resist in the long run. By the same token we could ask why the northerners, Egyptians, etc. continued over four millennia to find the idea of slave raids and unequal trade relations attractively lucrative and emotionally satisfying.
That, more or less, was what the British were administering. They didn’t really solve any problems but they did clarify some issues. In their time they suppressed but did not eliminate slavery, and they did some development work: roads, railroads, schools, hospitals, etc., mostly in the north, where there was already a literate bureaucratic tradition based on Ottoman modes and a deeply Arabized and Islamized culture. To the south they sent Christian missionaries, who established field hospitals and schools where they taught the British curriculum, which was Christian and English. One more layer of separation.
Actually, the southern zone conferenced with, though it was not technically governed by, the British East Africa administration, the regional authority that later evolved into Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. There was a plan by some to formally incorporate the south in the East Africa Protectorate, but that came to naught. There were separate northern and southern administrations. Passports were required for travel between the zones.
One might wish to inquire what they used for money during the first half of the 20th century. I failed to find specific answers in writing, but the complete absence of any numismatic artifacts of the period produces for me the assumption, using the Occam’s razor technique, that the north used Egyptian money and the south used East African money. Those supposed arrangements could be further assumed to be extant in the towns and for official business. Ground level transactions in the countryside probably continued to be conducted substantially by barter.
During World War II, political necessity demanded the development of plans for British departure from Egypt after the conclusion of hostilities. People in northern Sudan had no interest in being part of an independent Egypt, so structures began to be created for an eventual independent country.
Part of the British plan included the development of political structures by two major religious movements. The descendants of the followers of the 19th century Mahdi produced the Umma (Nation) Party, and another sect, the Khatmiyyah, grew a political wing called the Democratic Unionist Party. These religiously based parties are the dominant political parties of Sudan from independence until today. Them and the army, from which have emerged several coups.
In 1943 preparations for formal independence began in the north, with the idea of the south joining with future Kenya and Uganda. In 1946 however, the proposed split was abandoned in favor of a north-south condominium. Why? Don’t know. Possibly because what would become Kenya was becoming troublesome, as were many British colonies, possessions, protectorates, whatever you want to call them. World War II was supposed to be about liberation, everyone was thinking. So, they thought, what about us?
British colonialists at that time tended to not trust “the natives.”
The arrangements for independent Sudan essentially gave everything to the north and nothing to the south. A pre-independence parliament, heavily dominated by northerners, convened in 1954. In 1955 army units mutinied in the south, quickly repressed. At the end of that year independence was declared, recognized by Britain and Egypt a few days later. There was supposed to be a federal system but that didn’t happen. The result was a civil war that continued until 1972, abated for a decade, then resumed.
What we saw, if we were watching Sudan in those decades, was various northern factions vying for power punctuated by military coups. An unfortunate series of economic events did not help to stabilize the situation. We out here in the rest of the world participated in those economic situations: the world has been getting better for the haves and worse for the have-nots for more than 50 years now. Sudan, despite that bit of oil they have, has always been a have-not nation. Even the haves, you know, not so much.
And it has not been just a north-south problem. The northern part is made up of several regionally based ethnic groups, most of them picked on and/or neglected by the ethnic group that runs the central government. Thus, for more than a decade, there was war in the west in the region called Darfur. We all saw that happen. In 2006, Colin Powell said there was genocide going on but we weren’t going to do anything about it. We don’t hear about Darfur much these days, but the conflict is still going on. The same guy, Omar Al Bashir, is still in power in Sudan. He was a general and led a coup. He’s been judged an international criminal, but it doesn’t matter. He still sells oil and buys weapons.
And the war with the south, that started in 1955 and continued, with a decade break, until 2011. It ended with a referendum on secession. There was a charismatic leader there who seemed to have a shot at establishing a unity government, but he died in an auto accident just before formal independence. That kind of thing has happened before: apparently good leader dies in accident or “something” before new country gets going. It could make one wonder. The aftermath has been kind of horrific. Ethnic civil war with widespread atrocities and famine. Where are they getting the money from? Sudan, the northern remnant, is probably supplying weapons to both sides.
Let’s talk about the coins. The first series began in 1956 and continued until 1969. They were Royal Mint products, I believe, though perhaps I’m mistaken. I don’t have the Royal Mint report for 1957 on hand, and I could find no direct statements online in the time I decided was available. Khartoum Mint was striking coins as early as 1968. Planchets and artistic/manufacturing characteristics would seem to indicate that the Khartoum operation was based and/or supplied on the methods and machinery of the Cairo mint. The first series of coins seem struck to more exacting standards, hence my guess.
Khartoum mint does not seem to have a website.
Anyway, the guy on the camel in the first Sudan coins is said to be a postman. The last coins of that type were dated 1971. In that period there were two military coups, but you can’t tell from the coins. The type was retired in 1972, replaced by the national emblem: a secretary bird. Design variations of that type in several denominations (milliemes, girsh (piastres) and pounds, basically the Egyptian currency system) continued into the 1980s. A brief online search for the supposedly scarce 10-girsh variety KM-59.4 1983 found no examples. I think that if you look at your minor coins of these decades you’ll find other minor varieties in writing, beading, ribbon rendering and so forth. A certain level of handwork seems to be present.
A few larger copper-nickel crowns of the 1970s, struck as part of the FAO series, were probably struck at the Royal Mint. Silver and gold wildlife coins of 1976 were definitely made at the Royal Mint.
Oddly, one collector chat thread I found had a picture of what appears to be a local counterfeit of a 1970 10 girsh struck in copper from handmade dies. The existence of such a thing is an indication of the level of poverty of the country, that someone would see an opportunity in fake nickels.
As official governmental religiosity increased from the late 1980s, images of animals began to disappear, replaced by buildings mostly.
Circulation coins were not struck for every year. I think it would be not so easy to assemble a complete date collection. Data is sparse. There is apparently no publicly available data from the Khartoum mint or the central bank. There may be unlisted dates; I’m pretty sure there are unlisted die varieties. More research is hereby requested.
Commemorative coins of gold and silver of the 1970s through 1990s are mostly rather hard to find, except for the wildlife coins of 1976. Some of those coins were apparently struck at private Italian mints, which were servicing several African nations in those years.
A rather severe inflation brought about a currency reform in 1994, 10 old pounds made one new “dinar.” A relatively small set of coins was produced. There are no varieties that I could find, but the set is relatively easily available.
Continuing inflation was “addressed” with another currency reform in 2005. The dinar was abolished and the pound was reintroduced. Again, a small number of types have been produced in relatively large quantities. These coins seem to be available.
The war in Darfur produced some fantasy coins. This modern phenomenon of coins issued by countries that aren’t really countries is interesting. Some of the issues – I’m thinking of Kurdistan – seem to have something of a fundraising element to them. I don’t know who made the Darfur “coins” or why, but one of them came to me with signs of circulation. I have no idea what that means.
Regarding South Sudan, there was an early paper money issue followed by some follow-up issues that are readily available on eBay today. There are some coins, too, but no indication that they actually circulate.
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More Collecting Resources
• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .
• Order the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, General Issues to learn about circulating paper money from 14th century China to the mid 20th century.