Money Talks | How to Read Arabic on Coins

with Jere L. Bacharach

May 12, 2018 | 1:00 – 4:00 pm
$30 for members/$50 for nonmembers

Most medieval users of Islamic coinage could not read the inscriptions on the coins they handled, yet they were still able to identify important changes in those coins. Participants in this Money Talks presentation will learn to do likewise, through their hands-on involvement with images and coins, tracking historic examples of change.  The session will begin by teaching everyone how to read in Arabic “bism Allah” (In the name of God).  We will then differentiate pre-Islamic Byzantine gold and Sasanian silver from the first Muslim coins before the all-epigraphic coins were minted.  The next case will focus on the appearance of copper coins struck in 7th-to- 8 th century Egypt by both non-Muslim and Muslim rulers.  The third example looks at Baghdad and examines why in the 750s the Abbasid caliph ordered that his tax collectors be paid in Abbasid silver coinage or silver coins struck by the preceding Umayyad dynasty in only one mint during the governorship of three named individuals—none of whose names, incidentally, appeared on the coins.  The first step will be to distinguish Abbasid coins from Umayyad ones without knowing Arabic – a fact a recent Egyptian speaker at a conference in Cairo missed!   In order to identify the named Umayyad silver coins, participants will play the role of an Abbasid tax collector and will learn how to pick out the acceptable coinage without knowing a word of Arabic.

The event will start at 1:00 with lunch, the talk will begin at 2:00, followed by Q & A. Space is limited. Please RSVP to Emma Pratte at or 212-571-4470, ext. 117. 

Jere L. Bacharach, Professor Emeritus of Middle East history at the University of Washington, Seattle, has been a member of the ANS since 1966.  He has served as an ANS Trustee, with just a brief interruption, since 1993.  Bacharach was a co-winner of the Royal Numismatic Society’s Samir Shamma Book Prize in 2007 for his book Islamic History through Coins. Twice he was a Samir Shamma Fellow in Islamic numismatics and epigraphy at Oxford University. He is also the co-author of the electronic database of 6,500 Islamic numismatic items at

Money Talks: Numismatic Conversations is supported by an ANS endowment fund generously given in honor of Dr. Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli and Mrs. Elvira Clain-Stefanelli.