Gadhaiya Paisa

What I Know vs. What I'd Like to Know - A look at some mysterious coins

Usually we go to a web page to learn about a coin from an author whose understanding is greater than our own. This page may be an exception. Your author claims no expertise on the subject presented here and invites corrections and comments that will increase not only your understanding but mine. Usually we go to books and learn all there is to know about rare coins but here we will look at very common coins that are a bit harder to understand with any degree of detail. Books covering these coins are less than easily found or easily understood.

Coins of the Sassanian Empire like the drachm of Peroz (A) are not our subject here. Sassanian coins were issued from many mints scattered over their vast empire. When Peroz was captured by the Huns (Hephthalites) a great ransom was paid; when Peroz was finally defeated in 484 A.D. the Huns plundered the Empire. As a result a great number of Sassanian coins came to the possession of Huns who apparently appreciated the advantages of coined money, associated the Sassanian style coins with 'good money' and produced their own copies of the type. There are a number different copies that look very much like the Sassanian originals but most of them are somewhat rare. Our example (B) is a Hephthalite copy of a Balkh mint coin of Hormazd IV countermarked three times. I'd like to have a page featuring a full explanation of these coins but my knowledge would not support even a short page. While Hormazd IV reigned 579-590 A.D., this copy probably dates later, possibly to the 8th century.

What I know:
The coins in this photo vary greatly in diameter and thickness but weigh within relatively close tolerances: A=4.03g, B=3.21g, C=3.82g, D=3.99g, E=3.96g, F=3.92g, G=3.93g, H= 4.39g, I=3.96g. Fineness of the metal does diminish with some of the later issues but there in nothing approaching the decline seen in the late Roman coinage.
What I'd like to know:
Coins C through I are ordered here to the best of my current understanding after reading Living Without Silver by John Deyell, Oxford, India, 1999. I would like confirmation of the order, approximate dates and mints used for their production.

Our remaining examples are attributed to Gujarat in Western India. This region was wealthy and the center of trade with both land routes and harbors. The economic needs of the region resulted in production of millions of silver coins based on what had then become very stylized versions of the old Sassanian model. The combination of a type that sells for very little money and the lack of easily identified or dated varieties hardly makes these coins attractive to most coin dealers. The common attitude is that they are all alike and not worth collecting. Another problem is that many students of this region have concentrated on the technical and economic numismatic factors like weight standards and fineness rather than details of types or design. Below, each coin will be discussed but little information can be given with any certainty.

What I know:
I have selected these examples as being different from each other (not as random as it might seem). The goal was to show the progression from the Sassanian original to the end of the style c.1300 A.D. So far, this page does not include any of the related coins using similar obverse design with different reverses.
What I'd like to know:
What other characteristics found on these coins should I add to this selection to show more accurately the range of variations significant within the series? For example, I know I need a very late, mostly copper example.

Coins C and D are attributed to the Chavadas of Gujarat c.760-940 A.D. These are not easily found well struck. Coin C has a good portrait with well defined nose and definite ear with ear ring. The altar on the reverse maintains the significant parts from the Sassanian prototype but strikes me as starting to look more like a goblet full of grapes than a fire altar. The attendants are present but now shown as stick figures. In truth, by the time of Peroz, the Sassanian attendants were extremely stylized and not easily recognized as humans. Coin D is a stp further down the way. The ear is still attached (a sign of an earlier coin) but there is no ear ring. The winged helmet decorations are still present (not all Sassanian crowns included wings but the prototype of this copy did). The altar here is weakly struck making it hard to say whether the lack of details is significant but the attendants now have bodies made of a cross hashed line. The arms are seen gesturing to the center if you apply a little imagination to the L shaped elements originating from the shoulder dots.

I see coin E as transitional from the end of the Chavadas period or start of the Chaulukyas c.940 A.D. The ear is still a bit ear shaped but no longer touches the head which has become considerably more stylized in every detail. Most interesting to me is the fine row of dots between the ear and the head. The altar now has sides more like parentheses than the goblet described earlier. There is still a triangular pile of dots at the top (the fire) but a star becomes a regular feature of the base and can be very handy on many coins by assisting the decision as to which side is up (star is on the base so that is down). The attendants could be described as missing but the slanting lines could be considered the arms if you want to force a meaning on what otherwise appears to be a pile of dots.

Coins F through I make up what are usually called 'Gadhaiya Paisa' and are the ones commonly seen in the trade. Compared to those in the row above they tend to be well struck on thick flans but the dies are too large to fit on the flans. Whether I have them in proper chronological order or not is mostly a matter of luck. Characteristics mentioned as significant in references on the coins are not easily seen and separated (at least by me). A lot of the problem is the fact that relatively few of the coins have flans large enough to show the whole design so it is not possible, for example, to comment on the ear shape on coin H. Coin G does show a sun (7 dots left of the altar flame) and moon (crescent to the right) which appears on some coins centered to the top. Coin I, in addition to becoming more crude in execution, shows a considerable decrease in silver content so should be the latest of this group. By the time it was issued the economy was starting to suffer from a decrease in silver. The coin weight was maintained but the alloy was adjusted. On the other hand, I has better facial details in lips and chin so I doubt that it is anywhere near the end of the series. Coin dealers who select nice looking coins to sell (can't blame them for that) make it appear that the good silver, well made ones like G are more common that the ugly, crude ones that I lack to complete my series. That probably is not the whole truth. The entire bottom row shows the ear reversed into a hook shape resembling the Devanagari letter Sri which might indicate a Royal title but I'll not go so far as to suggest that we should read this mark as a legend.

This page was posted to introduce a series of coins that are commonly available and commonly ignored. Most collectors who even consider owning one are satisfied with owning exactly one and ignore the considerable variety and multitude of questions they raise. I have a lot to learn about these coins. If you know more about them than I do, I would enjoy hearing from you. dougsmit (at] comcast {dot} net

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(c) 2011 Doug Smith