Coins, seals, weights and stamps

How to get started?

Greek and Roman coins have been the subject of study since many centuries (at least going back to the 16th century), but the interest of Western scholarship in coins from the Middle East and Central Asia stems from much later. Amongst other things, coins can provide information on trade networks based on where they are excavated. Coins are also an important source for understanding power relations in a certain time or place and establishing when certain figures reigned, because power figures (caliphs, sultans, etc.) would mint coins carrying their name or other reference to their rule and often these coins can be dated. Some Islamic coins bear images, but this is not so common, usually the information comes in the form of words, rather than visuals. Numismatics gained a lot of momentum in recent years, since the interest in material sources as a source for historical research (rather than solely literary sources) started to increase, but a lot of work remains to be done in this field. Weights, stamps and seals did not get the same attention as coins so far but amongst others, Paul Balog has done some pioneering work in this field. Because coins have for a long time been treated as collectors items and have been preserved as such, many coins in museums and private collections have no clear provenance, which makes it harder to use them as historical sources. Coins found in excavations which are properly documented are a very valuable source for historical research.

A good place to start learning about Islamic numismatics would be: Bates, Michael L. “Islamic Numismatics.” Middle East Studies Association Bulletin 12, no. 3 (1978): 2–18.

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Introductions and general works

Museum catalogs and designated journals

Collection and excavation coins from the east

A selection of excavation coins and hoards from the Levant

Additional resources

Numismatics Digital library

A bibliography of Islamic coins by Michael Bates, 2010

Numismatic Bibliography by Michael Bates, 2020 Bates numismatic bibliography 20200430

A bibliography of world coins by Jim Farr

Chester Beatty Library Islamic seals Database 

Seal Database from the Presidential Institute of Manuscripts in Turkey

Scholars of the field- pages

Michael Bates

Arianna D’Ottone Rambach

Stefan Heidemann

Luke Treadwell

Weights, stamps and seals

Amitai-Preiss, Nitzan, 2015. “What Happened in 155/771-72? The Testimony of Lead Seals”, in: Daniella Talmon-Heller and Katia Cytryn-Silverman (eds.), Material Evidence and Narrative Sources, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 71-86.

Balog, Paul, 1976. Umayyad, ʿĀbbasid and Ṭūlūnid Glass Weights and Vessel Stamps, Numismatic Studies 13, New York: the American Numismatic Society.

Ibrahim, Tawfiq, 2017. “ The Seals of the Umayyad Conquest & the Formation of Al- Andalus (711-756).” [in Spanish]

Morton, Alexander H., 1991. “Ḥisba and Glass Stamps in Eighth- and Early Ninth-Century Egypt”, in: Yūsuf Rāģib (ed.), Documents de L’Islam médiéval: Nouvelles perspectives de recherché, Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 19-42.

Porter, Venetia, 2011. Arabic and Persian Seals and Amulets in the British Museum, London: The British Museum Research Publication.

Databases/ collections/ images


Link to further numismatics resources on the FLAME webpage:

Firestone’s coin collection database:

Zeno- Oriental Coins Database:

Coins of al-Andalus in the Tonegawa Collection

Historical articles

Heidemann, Stefan (2010), “The Evolving Representation of the Early Islamic Empire and its Religion on Coin Imagery”, in: A. Neuwirth, N. Sinai and M. Marx, eds, The Qurʾān in Context, Leiden: Brill, 149–197.

Heidemann, Stefan (2011), “The Representation of the Early Islamic Empire and Its Religion on Coin Imagery”, in: Albrecht Fuess and Jan-Peter Hartung, eds, Court Cultures in the Muslim World: Seventh to Nineteenth Centuries, London: Routledge, 30–53.

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