World Coins

Rare Egyptian silver coin in Steve Album auction

A rare silver piastre of rebel leader Ali Bey highlights Stephen Album Rare Coins’ May 23 to 25 auction. Though graded Genuine, Very Fine Details, by PCGS, the coin is believed to be the finest known of its kind.

Images courtesy of Stephen Album Rare Coins.

Ali Bey Al-Kabir was originally a Mamluk soldier who would end up rebelling against the Ottoman rulers and bringing independence to Egypt in 1768. 

His coinage history is less prominent, if a recent auction highlight is a case study.

Stephen Album Rare Coins offers a circa 1769 to 1771 silver piastre of the rebel leader in its May 23 to 25 auction, the firm’s 34th sale. 

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Though only graded Genuine Very Fine Details by Professional Coin Grading Service, the piastre in the auction is believed to be the finest known example, according to the firm. 

Born in the region of Abkhazia in Georgia, Ali Bey was kidnapped and brought to Cairo in 1743, where he was sold into slavery. He was recruited into the Mamluk force, in which he gradually rose in rank and influence, winning the top office of sheikh al-balad (chief of the country) in 1760. He rose to prominence in 1768 when he rebelled against his Ottoman rulers making Egypt independent. 

The insubordination of his most trusted general, Abu al-Dhahab, led to Ali Bey’s exile, then death outside the walls of Cairo. 

The last auction record for this example was in June 2007 when Spink sold the coin as part of the Ken Bovenkamp Collection (the price realized is unavailable).

The auction firm calls this coin “a key specimen for any Egypt collection,” while noting that the coin has “a couple of minuscule scratches in obverse field, barely noticeable without a magnifier,” and explains that “in our opinion this could grade [Extremely Fine] for this crudely produced type.”

The coin has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. 

For more information about the sale and other highlights, visit the firm’s website

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