as-Sikka السكة
The Online Journal of The Islamic Coins Group 
as-Sikka is a peer reviewed publication
ISSN 1496-4414 

Summer 2001AD / 1422AH        Vol. 3.1


Contemporary Counterfeits, A Document Of History
The Counterfeit  Dirhams of Morocco 1283-1291H
Marc Pelletier

Twenty five years ago , at the time that I was collecting coins in Morocco , contemporary counterfeits seemed to me nothing more than a curiosity. Lately, their trading value in catalogues is sometimes near or above the value their genuine counterparts (1) . It is only in the last year that I have discovered how much those little pieces document, through their very existence, the period when they appeared. This, in my opinion, much more than true coins(2).

As you know, contemporary counterfeits were produced in the same years as true coins. They were mostly well made, but with a more base metal. These pieces were use to pay for good in the same period as the official coins. How can we explain the sudden advent in Morocco of contemporary counterfeits in a very short period? The following story of these pieces (silvering hammered copper and brass pieces), dated 1283-91 H / 1866-74 AD, should shed some light on this question. That approach is interesting because it can be applied to others periods and no doubt to others countries .

In 1276 H / 1859 AD, Spain was at war with Morocco. Spanish invaded northern Morocco and took control of Tetouan, near Mediterranean sea . At the end of this war, some month later , a peace treaty between the parties stipulated that Morocco would pay Spain twenty million douros, in exchange, Spain would evacuate from the territory of Morocco and leave Tetouan. Two month later, Morocco paid 25% of this sum to Spain , but the monetary resources were drained at this time. Two years later , as a result of borrowing two million douros from Great Britain, Morocco was able to pay another 25% of his debt, and the Spanish accepted to evacuate Tetouan.


Morocco was then completely ruined financially and it took twenty five years to pay the remaining debt to Spain and Great Britain. For this, the States was obliged for many years to sacrifice 75% of its income and to double the taxes on it's people.

In 1283 H / 1866 AD , the sultan , driven more by religious doctrine or his own glory than financial prudence, had the idea of changing the weigh of the dirham from 1.954g. to 2.931g. ( legal weigh ) . This was a bad decision because of the poor state of the economic and because the weigh of the dirham was then of 14% higher than the weigh of 5 francs and 5 pesetas. During the same period of time, from 1283-85 H , Morocco was infested by a Locust invasion, and many suffered some disease and starvation.

Between 1283 and 1291 H counterfeit coins started appearing. These "dirhams" were counterfeited by silvering hammered copper and brass pieces. Copper was produced in the "Sous" region, in the southern part of Morocco, while brass came from Europe, Tanger ( Morocco ) and also Algeria . At the same time many dirhams were melted for silver or hoarded.

It is possible to conclude then, that war , economic ruin, poverty, and the devaluation of the monetary system were the causes that precipitated contemporary counterfeiting. The surviving counterfeit coins are silent messengers that tell a piece of Morocco's history.

1284d.jpg (116848 bytes)
Coins of 1284 H :
At left: Silver dirham , 1284 H, mint of Fes , 2.8g.
At right: Brass contemporary counterfeit , 1284 H , Fes , 2.38g.

1289b.jpg (55420 bytes)
A Brass contemporary counterfeit , 1289 H, Fes , 3.0g.
"Contemporary counterfeit of 1289 H, Fes, attest to the existence of
dirham form this year, though non have been  recorded to date " ( Eustache 1984 )


1291d.jpg (94227 bytes)
At left: Silver dirham , 1291 H, Fes , 2.4g.
At right: Brass contemporary counterfeit , 1291 H, Fes , 2.96g.



(1) : " Liste prix fixe # 42 " , A . Poinsignon , Strasbourg 1977
(2) : " Corpus des Monnaies Alawites " , Daniel Eustache , Banque du Maroc , Rabat 1984


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