The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
Spring 2000AD / 1420AH Vol. 2.1
Recognizing Modern Gold Plating of Seljuq Dinars
By Alexander Akin ,
Late dinars of the Great Seljuqs, particularly those of Sanjar from his eastern mints, are notoriously debased. After the turn of the sixth century AH, they often contain so little gold that for practical purposes they might as well be described as silver or even billon fiduciary dinars. A number of unscrupulous dealers in Pakistan and elsewhere have recently found it profitable to clean and plate these coins and resell them as good gold. This month I had an opportunity to sort through a large group of late Seljuq dinars, every one of which had received this treatment. Fortunately, some common characteristics make these altered coins disctinctive. I describe them below to aid fellow collectors and students in the recognition of replated coins should they be encountered individually, rather than as part of a group where treatment is more obvious.
The most definitive clue on the coins I recently examined was a thin line, sometimes barely visible, where a wire had been tied around the coin to hang it in plating solution. Along the line where the wire or string was in contact with the coin, little or no gold adhered to its surface during the plating process. This thin silver line usually begins at a notch or narrow point on the coin, because such a place provides a better anchor for holding the coin securely and ensuring that it does not slip from its wire loop. On the scan below, an unplated line can be seen extending to the left from a notch that formed in the original crude striking of the dinar.
The even and unnaturally shiny coloration of replated dinars is generally obvious at first glance, so in most cases some steps have been taken to hide this feature. A reddish substance, perhaps some sort of cosmetic, can be seen smeared across the surface of the illustrated coin. The background thus appears "patinated" in contrast to the bright yellow raised features, resulting in a more antique general appearance. However, this "patination" is generally uniform in color and can be scraped off easily with a fingernail.
On some pieces, traces of grease from fingerprints left on the coin just before the plating process resisted the adhesion of gold molecules. The result is a negative "fingerprint" showing white lines and ridges outlined in gold. Unfortunately. this feature does not scan well, so I have not been able to provide an illustration.
In general, dinars of Sanjar from mints other than Nishapur that appear to be struck in fine gold should be viewed as suspect unless thorough investigation has proven their gold content. Some collectors may not mind buying a plated coin if its inscriptions and ornaments are attractive or useful for study, but these dinars should be bought and sold as silver coins, and when offering an example for sale an ethical dealer will note the plating if aware of it.
For comments or questions, please contact the author.
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