The term "Islamic coins", in practice, is another way of referring to the coinage of the Near and Middle East after the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Rightly speaking, an Islamic coin is one designed following the traditions of Islam, that is, with inscriptions in Arabic script and no images. Nevertheless, there have been lots of coinages by Muslim rulers with images and inscriptions in other languages, and lots of coinages by non-Muslims (Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Confucians, for example) that have Arabic inscriptions and no images. Most collectors and scholars of Islamic coinage ignore the Islamic coinage of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. In sum, there's a difference between the theoretical and the practical.
The Islamic coin department of the ANS has a long and distinguished history. There were some scattered early donations, but it really got started with Edward T. Newell's 1917 donation of his collection of 5,210 Islamic coins, along with his simultaneous purchase for the ANS of then-curator Howland Wood's collection of 6,214. In that same year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art put its collection of Asian coins acquired by W. W. Durkee on permanent deposit in the ANS. Together, these made the "Oriental" department the largest in the Society. Newell and Wood continued to add to the collection in the years that followed. Newell and Wood were both quite expert in Islamic coins.
In 1937 George C. Miles, the founder of the study of Islamic numismatics in the United States, joined the Society's staff as a temporary researcher. He wrote his Princeton Ph.D. thesis, The Numismatic History of Rayy, in this period. After the war he returned to the ANS as Curator of Oriental Coins, and later rose to be Chief Curator and Executive Director of the Society while writing eight books and hundreds of articles that remain standard references for the field. In 1974 he was succeeded by Dr. Michael L. Bates, who is now Curator Emeritus.
The collection today has about 60,000 coins and other objects. It includes all coins and money from North Africa and the Middle East, as far as Afghanistan and Central Asia, from the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries to the present day.
Inquiries about the Islamic collection should be directed to David Yoon.
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