Grasping history Jan/ Feb 2018

Extremely rare Dirham of Orhan Ghazi

724 - 761 H. / 1324 - 1360 / Bursa (Brusa)
Reverse: Name of Orhan and his father 'Uthman. The four first caliphs
Obverse: Shahada. The first four caliphs.

Orhan Ghazi was an Ottoman Bey who ruled one of the Turkish principalities (Beyliks) on the edge of the late Byzantine Empire in Anatolia, which had arisen in the wake of the collapse of the Rum-Seljuk Empire. He laid the foundations for the soon to be dominant position of the future Ottoman sultanate by the conquest of Byzantine areas in Northwest Anatolia and some Turkish Beyliks. A clever policy of alliances and various reforms within its empire strengthened the position of the rising Ottoman Empire. The new self-confidence was also expressed in its own coinage.


This was based initially on the model of the Ilkhans (Mongolian dynasty in Persia), which had dominated the region until then politically. Shortly thereafter (under Orhan's son Murad I.) its own, typical Ottoman character emerged. The presented, extremely rare copy mimics a Dirham of the Ilkhans. The obverse of the coin follows the familiar pattern of Islamic coinage, naming the creed (Shahada) and, on the four outer sides, the names of the first four caliphs. On the back, a quatrefoil is also framed by the names of the four caliphs, which can be understood as a clear confession in the sense of the Sunnah.

Inside the quatrefoil, Orhan self-confidently mentions his own name and that of his father Osman, after whom the dynasty is named. At the same time, the former Byzantine town of Bursa (Brusa), conquered by the Ottomans under Orhan, is referred to as mint, which has quickly become a stronghold of Ottoman power.

Another Dirham of Orhan lists "Ali" four times on the reverse instead of the four caliphs, what could be taken as evidence for the thesis of the influence of the Shi'a in the Early Ottoman Empire (Ehlert 02-Bur-32-1b). The interpretation of the dual mentioning of the four righteous caliphs on the obverse and reverse of the coin presented here as a clearly Sunni confession stands in contradiction to this. An uninterpreted word is repeated also on another comparable sample (Damali 2-BU-G6b). The repetition of words may also be related to the lack of writing mastery of die-cutters. Corrupted or faulty inscriptions are not uncommon in the early Ottoman coinage. Some die-cutters facilitated the production of the die by simplifications that sometimes resulted in the degeneration of the writing to pure ornaments. This was especially possible on the reverse, whereas for the obverse with the Shahada more emphasis was put on a correct typeface and basically greater care was taken. It is also conceivable that the production of obverse and reverse dies was in the hands of different die-cutters, the obverse being left to those of literacy.

From Premium Auction 26 of Solidus Numismatik of 17 February 2018, lot 374.