Here is a spread of early 20th century silver piastre trade coins from the colony of French Indo-China. Prices for these silver trade dollars, and others like them, have steadily risen over the past 10 years - particularly for problem free specimens in good condition.
In 1865 U.S. journalist Horace Greeley popularized the rallying cry "Go west, young man". The phrase was originally meant to encourage the enterprising and ambitious to strike out for fortune in the rugged expanses of the Western United States. And yet, if you travel far enough west, you inevitably find yourself in the exotic and mysterious Far East.
In the 19th century, China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia were not only sources of exotic philosophies and bizarre plants and animals, but also luxury goods of all descriptions. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the unfamiliar, yet beguiling, cultures of the Far East fascinated the West. Antique silver trade dollars - large coins minted to promote commerce in the region - perfectly exemplified this Western obsession with all things East Asian.
During the mid 19th century European trade with the Far East grew dramatically. Europe imported massive quantities of Chinese silk, porcelain and tea, along with many other East Asian luxury goods. However, the merchants of the Far East - and China in particular - would only accept silver bullion in exchange for their wares.
As the 19th century progressed and the European powers established colonial territories in East Asia, the need for standardized silver trade coins to facilitate commerce became acute. As a result, the greatest empires and nations of the age - France, Great Britain, Japan and the U.S. - all minted impressively heavy silver trade dollars for exclusive use in the distant Far East trade.
Although I use the phrase "silver trade dollars" as a catchall term in this guide, calling these coins silver trade crowns would be more technically accurate. A "crown" in coin collecting traditionally referred to an old British 5 shilling silver coin. However, the term has also been adopted by the collecting community to refer to any silver coin that is similarly large in size.
Foreign silver crowns are avidly sought by coin collectors due to their imposing dimensions and captivating designs. Silver trade dollars of the Far East are no exception to this rule. With diameters generally varying between 38 and 39 millimeters (1.5 to 1.54 inches), they are similar in size to the venerable U.S. silver dollar.
In addition, these East Asian trade coins were struck from high purity, 900 fine (90%) silver. They were among the largest, most splendid coins ever intended for general circulation. Nothing impresses a potential trade partner like a massive hunk of almost pure silver.
Tragically, these historic silver trade dollars were usually treated as common bullion. Although originally minted by the tens of millions, over the decades vast quantities have been damaged, excessively worn or melted down. Consequently, these artistically crafted treasures of a bygone era are not nearly as plentiful as official mintage figures would indicate, particularly for examples in better condition.
One of the most beautiful and iconic of these silver trade dollars is the French Indo-China piastre. Over a period of about 30 years in the late 19 century, France accumulated several territories that it eventually consolidated into French Indo-China. The present-day countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were all part of this colony. At the time, the French Empire was second only to the British Empire in terms of prestige.
In order to facilitate trade in French Indo-China, France introduced a new currency unit called the piastre de commerce. The piastre was minted to a standard of 24.49 grams (0.7875 troy ounces) of pure silver. The series ran from 1885 to 1928 and featured the personification of Liberty seated on the front.
The figure of seated Liberty on the coin looks uncannily like the Statue of Liberty in New York City's harbor. This isn't just a coincidence. France gave the famous landmark to the United States in 1886 as a gift for its (belated) 100th anniversary. The reverse has a simple, yet elegant, wreath surrounded by a legend with the coin's weight and fineness.
In 1895 the weight of the French Indo-China piastre was slightly reduced to 24.30 grams (0.7812 troy ounces) of fine silver. However, the purity and design of the coin was left unaltered. The French Indo-China piastre was minted primarily in Paris, but coins dated 1921 and 1922 were struck in Birmingham, Osaka or Hanoi.
French Indo-China Silver Piastre Coins For Sale
Another silver trade dollar that is extremely popular with collectors today is the British trade dollar. In the early 1890s, the British began looking for a new currency to promote commerce with China, as well as Britain's expansive East Asian possessions. As a result, the British trade dollar was minted from 1895 to 1935. This coveted coin saw heavy circulation in Burma, British Malaya, British Borneo, Singapore and Hong Kong.
This attractive silver trade dollar shows Britannia - the personification of the mighty British Empire - standing proudly with her trident and shield on the obverse while the reverse displays the denomination in both the Chinese and Malay languages. The British trade dollar contained 24.26 grams (0.7800 troy ounces) of fine silver and was minted in both Bombay (present day Mumbai) and Calcutta (present day Kolkata).
British Silver Trade Dollars For Sale
The Japanese also felt the need to maintain their commercial interests by striking a silver trade dollar. In 1897 Japan pulled over 20 million of its silver one yen coins from circulation and countermarked them with the Japanese word "gin" or silver. These demonetized coins were then exported as bullion pieces to the Imperial Japanese possessions of Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. The "gin" countermark denoting these as special trade pieces was stamped on the reverse of the coins, to either the left of the denomination (indicating the Osaka mint) or the right (indicating the Tokyo mint).
The Japanese silver one yen coin contained 24.26 grams (0.7800 troy ounces) of fine silver and was struck from 1874 to 1897. It featured an Asian-style dragon on the obverse and the stately Japanese imperial crest, along with a wreath and the denomination on the reverse. These remarkable Japanese silver trade dollars were a far cry from the feudal-style, "samurai money" the Tokugawa shogunate had struck just a few decades before.
Japanese Countermarked Silver One Yen Coins For Sale
Not to be outdone by its trade rivals, the United States also minted an East Asian silver trade dollar that is extremely popular with collectors today. But this silver trade coin had a story behind it.
In the early 1870s the United States had two problems. First, it needed to find a way to off-load massive quantities of silver that had been discovered in Nevada's famous Comstock Lode. Second, the U.S. was worried about the competitiveness of its existing silver dollar in the Far East trade versus the preeminent coin of Chinese commerce at the time, the silver Mexican 8 reales. Foreign silver coins other than the Mexican 8 reales - like the U.S. dollar - were often significantly discounted in transactions.
As a way to address both problems at once, the U.S. authorized the striking of a special, slightly heavier version of the silver dollar. This resulted in the U.S. trade dollar, a coin struck from 1873 to 1885 that was intended to circulate solely in China and the Far East. The U.S. trade dollar showed Liberty seated on the front and an eagle with wings spread on the back of the coin. The coin was struck in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Carson City (in Nevada) to a standard of 24.49 grams (0.7874 troy ounces) of pure silver.
U.S. Silver Trade Dollars For Sale
An ambitious connoisseur could assemble a very impressive traditional collection of these large, enticing silver coins by date and mint. Alternatively, one could assemble a good "short set" by acquiring a single example of each type of trade crown - a French Indo-China piastre de commerce, a British trade dollar, a "gin" countermarked Japanese yen and a U.S. trade dollar.
Another fine set would be a French Indo-China piastre from every decade of its production run - one from the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1910s and finally the 1920s. This type of abbreviated set would work well with the British trade dollar as well.
Yet another variant would be collecting every different date of a U.S. trade dollar struck at a particular mint. A San Francisco U.S. trade dollar set would consist of six common-date coins and be eminently achievable. On the other hand, a Carson City set - although the same number of coins - would be substantially more challenging and expensive to assemble due to their lower mintages and high collector demand.
When purchasing silver trade dollars it is important to acquire coins in Very Fine (VF) or better condition. Coins in VF condition will retain most details on figures and devices, although the exact grading varies by the coin series. One potential exception to this rule is key date coins, where a lower grade may be acceptable.
For example, the 1878 Carson City U.S. trade dollar only had a mintage of 97,000 pieces. But according to U.S. mint records, 44,148 trade dollars were melted in that year. Almost all of these were undoubtedly 1878 issues from the Carson City mint. So it is likely that net issuance was only around 50,000 specimens, with many of those subsequently destroyed or heavily damaged. Therefore, unless your budget is unlimited, acquiring an 1878 Carson City trade dollar below VF condition may not only be acceptable, but your only realistic option.
The other primary consideration when choosing silver trade dollars is ensuring the coins are problem free. It is imperative to avoid pieces that are scratched, holed or damaged in any way. It is also wise to bypass coins that have been harshly cleaned at some point in their lives. A well-worn coin that is brilliantly lustrous is suspect and highly likely to have been cleaned. Instead, look for examples with original surfaces even if it means the coin is toned, dark or slightly tarnished.
Some trade pieces have chopmarks. These are Chinese characters stamped onto the coin by private Chinese banks or moneychangers to guarantee their silver content. In years past, chopmarked coins were considered damaged and thus traded at a discount to non-chopmarked examples.
However, this outdated opinion may be changing as the market for these attractive coins matures and becomes more sophisticated. At a minimum, chopmarks on a silver trade crown prove that the coin in question definitely circulated in the Far East - and more specifically the Chinese market.
With their impressive size, precious metal content and historical significance, silver trade dollars are highly desirable investments. In fact, as of early 2018, prices for these stunning coins have risen by almost 50% in just the last few years alone!
In spite of these rising prices, good examples of common date French Indo-China piastre and British silver trade dollars are still available in the $50 to $250 range. Countermarked Japanese one yen pieces run slightly more, with pricing starting at around $100. U.S. trade dollars are the most expensive of the group with common date varieties in reasonable condition trading for over $200.
Scarce or key dates of any of the series can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars, depending on condition. Key dates of the U.S. trade dollar in particular are difficult to find and correspondingly expensive. However, even an abridged set of these celebrated Far East silver trade coins would constitute a magnificent and compelling tangible asset.
It has been more than 150 years since Horace Greely's famous pronouncement to "Go west, young man". With the rise of China in the modern age, Horace Greeley's illustrious advice to seek fortune on the edges of the globe has stood the test of time. And there are few finer ways of honoring the spirit of that astute motto than by investing in the silver trade dollars of East Asia.
Here is a luscious spread of 999 fine Yeager's Poured Silver bars with sizes ranging from 0.5 troy ounces to 5 troy ounces. The meticulous attention to detail on these hand-cast silver bars is truly breathtaking, underscoring their superb quality. These were purchased as a 1000 gram YPS grab bag in March of 2017.
I was checking the tangible asset allocation of my investment portfolio the other day when I discovered something alarming. I was underweight silver bullion. A situation like this can sometimes creep up on me because I regularly buy art and antiques for investment purposes. But this investing strategy also requires me to "balance" my tangibles portfolio with occasional bullion purchases.
"Easy enough to fix", I thought to myself. I'll just fire up my computer and head over to one of the major bullion dealer websites like Kitco, Apmex or JM Bullion. They all offer competitive pricing on a wide range of silver products, including government issued coins, private mint rounds and bullion bars.
But I'm always looking to get the most for my investment dollar. To be specific, I'm usually searching for an investment characteristic known as optionality. Optionality is any aspect of an investment that costs little money upfront, but can return big rewards later. Most assets that deliver huge, multi-decade returns, including real estate and stocks, operate on the principal of optionality.
That is when I stumbled upon the website of Yeager's Poured Silver. Yeager's Poured Silver, also known by the acronym YPS, is a company that has been making and selling hand-poured silver bullion bars since 2012. Now, I love vintage poured silver bars, but I have been undecided about the investment merits of new poured silver bars.
At least, I was undecided until I researched Yeager's Poured Silver. David Yeager, the founder and owner of the business, has spent years perfecting the art of hand-casting some of the most beautiful silver bars I have ever seen. He sells a variety of traditional 999 fine silver bars ranging in size from a diminutive 0.5 troy ounce "nugget" to a substantial 1 kilogram specimen. However, he also offers imaginative 3D art bars cast in the shape of skulls, pyramids and lion heads, among other things. He even offers Halloween, Christmas and other holiday themed poured silver bars.
Yeager's Poured Silver Bars For Sale
Although he charges fairly high premiums over the spot price of silver, YPS bars aren't simply bullion. They are art. Or, to be more precise, they ride the fine line between bullion and art in much the same way that government issued bullion coins like Chinese Silver Pandas, Canadian Maple Leaves or American Silver Eagles have both precious metal value and collector's value simultaneously.
Because of the high premiums Yeager's Poured Silver bars typically command over spot, the item that really caught my eye was the 1000 gram YPS grab bag of silver bars. As the name implies, this is a full kilogram (32.15 troy ounces) of YPS silver bars of varying sizes and types. They are all chosen from excess inventory, so the buyer cannot request any specific kind of silver bar. The upside of the 1000 gram YPS grab bag, however, is that the cost per ounce is significantly lower than if you were to order items individually.
When I placed my order, the 1000 gram YPS grab bag was selling for $634 while silver was trading at $17.26 a troy ounce. This means the YPS grab bag contained approximately $555 worth of fine silver. The difference between the purchase price of $634 and the bullion value of $555 constituted the premium I paid above spot. In this case the premium was about $79 or 14.3%.
Yeager's Poured Silver Skulls & Pyramids For Sale
In contrast, you can currently buy 100 troy ounce silver bars for about 75 to 85 cents over spot. This translates into a premium of between 4% and 5%. So generic silver bars in large sizes are certainly the cheaper option if all you want is raw silver for the lowest possible price.
But those cheap silver bars have some drawbacks. For one, they are much, much larger than the 1/2 to 10 troy ounce poured bars you'll get in a YPS grab bag. Those 100 troy ounce behemoths are also likely to be generic bars from lesser known refineries. And, finally, large silver bars are likely to be struck or extruded rather than poured.
This last point is important because poured silver bars have a tendency to hold their premiums on the secondary market better than other kinds of silver bars. You simply can't expect to sell modern struck or extruded silver bar for more than spot. Yes, there are certain niche situations where they might command a premium over spot, like a severe physical silver shortage. But these circumstances are unlikely; you certainly can't count on them.
But if you want to buy silver at a premium, you also need to be able to sell it at a premium in order to come out ahead. And that, in my opinion, is the biggest reason to buy a YPS grab bag over generic silver bars - the expected future premium upon resale.
Yeager's Poured Silver consistently sells for a healthy premium no matter where you look. It sells at a premium on the YPS website. It also sells at a premium on the eBay secondary market. YPS poured silver bars are miniature works of art and are priced as such.
Yeager's Poured Silver Cubes For Sale
More importantly, I strongly suspect YPS poured silver bars will always command meaningful premiums over spot. But here is the really interesting thing. The premium I paid on my YPS grab bag over comparable silver bars - if you can call generic 100 troy ounce silver bars comparable - was really quite modest.
In fact, my breakeven point versus generic silver is only around 10%. If YPS silver bars sell for less than 10% over spot in the future, then I will make less money than I could have by purchasing generic silver bullion. But this potential relative underperformance is actually very limited.
However, if YPS silver bars sell for a premium higher than 10% in the future, then all that upside belongs to me. And that potential upside is uncapped. YPS silver bars could eventually end up like vintage Engelhard or Johnson Matthey poured silver bars are today, with premiums ranging from 20% to 60% over spot, or even more. YPS poured silver bars represent a classic example of optionality in investing.
Below is a list of the items I received in my 1000 gram YPS grab bag. I placed the order in March of 2017 and the total weight delivered was 32.1829 troy ounces (1001 grams):
- 3 - 100 gram bars
- 2 - 100 gram cubes
- 1 - 5 troy ounce "YPS" bar
- 1 - 3 troy ounce "Slim" bar
- 1 - 3 troy ounce wedge
- 1 - 2 troy ounce cube
- 1 - 1 troy ounce cube
- 1 - 50 gram "Plata Muerta" (Dead Silver) round
- 1 - 0.5 troy ounce "Nugget" bar
And I'm happy to say that the 1000 gram YPS grab bag I received completely exceeded my rather lofty expectations. Even though you can't stipulate the inclusion of any specific bar in a grab bag, I did give a general preference for traditionally-shaped bars and cubes.
Much to my delight, David Yeager went out of his way to accommodate my wishes. This is in spite of the fact that he was under no obligation to do so whatsoever. The choice of silver bars in any YPS grab bag is completely at his discretion.
Yeager's Poured Silver 3D Art Bars For Sale
I was not only extremely pleased with the type of poured silver bars I received, but also with the quality of the bars. It was obvious that they were all hand-fabricated with incredible attention to detail, including serialization (numbering) on several different bars. They all had beautiful, bright finishes while still maintaining that classic, rugged look that poured silver is famous for. These are all little touches that set YPS poured silver bars apart from the boring struck and extruded bars that are so common in the bullion market today. Yeager's Poured Silver is premium silver.
If you are interested in either bullion or coin collecting, I think a strong case can be made for investing in some poured silver bars from YPS. Unfortunately, as of the spring of 2018, it appears that Yeager's Poured Silver no longer sells 1000 gram grab bags. However, he still offers 10 troy ounce grab bags of his classic bars, cubes and rounds. And if that isn't what you're looking for, you can always go with the 10 troy ounce 3D art bar grab bag. Either way, you can't go wrong with Yeager's Poured Silver; it is some of the best premium silver available today.
Pictured is a fine example of a high-end, early to mid 20th century antique cigarette case. The body of this piece is crafted from blued steel, giving it a characteristic, gunmetal gray finish. Although not sterling silver, this antique cigarette case has other attributes typically found on expensive specimens, like a fine, natural blue sapphire cabochon mounted in the thumb-push, an applied, solid gold monogram and decorative gold trim.
Made in China is a term that we encounter nearly every day - and that is rarely a good thing. That Blu-ray player you bought for $40 at Wal-Mart that doesn't work quite right? It was made in China. The two-week old toaster that almost burned down your house when it shorted out in a brilliant pyrotechnic display? Also made in China. The no-name vacuum cleaner that went on a savage rampage and tried to eat your cat, Mr. FluffyBottom? Undoubtedly made in China.
Today Chinese goods are synonymous with poor quality, mass produced junk. And this debris has invaded our lives, overwhelming us with inferior, low quality household items of every description. In many ways the phrase "made in China" is a metaphor for the increasingly debased nature of the post-modern experience. And yet there are alternatives to a life crammed full of crudely manufactured consumer trash - for example, a tasteful collection of fine antique silver cigarette cases or cigar cases.
Solid silver antique cigarette cases and cigar cases, along with vintage cigarette holders, are one of the sleeper hits of the objet d'art world. Long underappreciated, this genre of the popular tobacciana field is starting to see renewed collector interest. Once the province of gilded age gentlemen's clubs and aristocratic smoking rooms, vintage tobacco paraphernalia and advertising are increasingly appreciated by modern connoisseurs. Especially popular from the late 19th century until the mid 20th century, antique silver cigarette cases and cigar cases were indispensable accessories for the high-class smoker. In addition to being irrefutably stylish, they also served the very practical function of keeping fragile cigarettes or cigars dry and undamaged during poor weather.
Affordable Antique Silver Cigarette Cases For Sale
Just because you aren't a tobacco user, doesn't mean you can't admire and collect these overlooked vintage gems. While certainly in demand from current-day smokers, elegant antique silver cigarette cases are sometimes repurposed by corporate professionals to tastefully hold business cards. Men and women with a luxury retro aesthetic also find that they make great billfolds, wallets or credit card holders, too.
Master silversmiths employed a dizzying array of stunning decorative techniques in the production of these cosmopolitan luxury items. Beautifully engraved or chased designs were perennial favorites. High contrast niello was a painstakingly exacting technique commonly used on Russian and Siamese cases. Colorful enameling and dazzling engine turning were both staples of the language of early 20th century design. Gilding, popular across every age and country, was employed to impart a classy, tasteful appearance. Some fine cigarette and cigar cases were crafted with solid gold applied motifs or initials, giving a look of understated elegance. A few of the more sumptuous examples were even mounted with sparkling cabochon cut sapphires, rubies or other glittering gemstones.
Antique Silver Cigarette Cases with Applied Gold Decorations For Sale
Antique cases of the 19th century were dominated by ornate Victorian tastes, with copious use of chased and engraved floral designs. By the turn of the 20th century, Art Nouveau, with its naturalistic, flowing aesthetic, had come into vogue. A common hallmark of Art Nouveau cigarette cases was the portrayal of languorous, sinuous women - either partially or fully nude. Starting in the 1920s, Art Deco came to the fore, extensively employing engine-turned and enameled geometric motifs on silver cigarette cases. The 1940s and 1950s were characterized by the streamlined, minimalist look of Mid-Century design. During this period silver cigarette cases and cigar cases had either subtle or no embellishment whatsoever, leaving large expanses of unadorned silver as the artistic focal point.
Tremendously beautiful silver cigarette cases and cigar cases were made throughout Europe and the United States. The firm of Asprey & Co., a storied London-based luxury goods retailer and holder of a royal warrant, was one of the leading British manufacturers of cases. In the United States, Tiffany and Gorham were renowned for producing exceedingly high quality work. Silver cigarette cases made by the French jeweler Cartier were synonymous with extravagant luxury.
Asprey, Cartier, Gorham & Tiffany Antique Silver Cigarette Cases For Sale
However, perhaps the most outrageously sumptuous cases were produced in Czarist Russia. Russian silversmiths, including the esteemed Faberge workshop, often employed niello, precious stones and applied gold motifs when making these miniature masterpieces. Keep in mind that the aforementioned silversmiths are just a few outstanding manufacturers among many; other silversmiths not mentioned here also produced truly excellent work.
When investing in silver cigarette cases or cigar cases it is important to avoid damaged examples. Accordingly, steer clear of cases with significant dents, chipped enamel, or loose or broken hinges. Minor dents or scratches are acceptable; they are expected on silver items that are almost a century old. Monograms generally have little impact on value unless they are artfully incorporated into the design of the piece. In these (admittedly uncommon) instances a monogram can boost the case's value. Inscriptions can be desirable if they reference historical events, people or add interest to the item.
Antique Silver Cigar Cases For Sale
Conversely, a full set of silver hallmarks aid in identification and are highly desirable. Ever popular British pieces will almost always be fully hallmarked while continental European cases can be more hit or miss in this regard. American examples are usually stamped "sterling" in addition to having a maker's mark. Good quality cases in heavier silver generally start at only around $100. Cases by notable makers are always of a consistently high quality and generally run into the several hundreds of dollars. Exceedingly fine, jewel encrusted examples can command more than $1,000. Exceptional Russian cases from the Czarist period can easily fetch thousands of dollars.
A discriminatingly assembled collection of quality silver cigarette cases and cigar cases is not only likely to steadily appreciate in value, but is also a joy to own. Few things would be as subtly impressive as offering your friend a Cuban cigar from your pre-revolution, Czarist Russian silver cigar case. One can just imagine his expression as he glimpses the magnificent case - silver shimmers with delicate yet bold niello scrollwork, solid gold initials glint elegantly and the royal blue of a precious sapphire cabochon glitters seductively from the thumb-catch.
Russian Antique Silver Cigarette Cases For Sale
Made in China is a reality that we must live with in many aspects of our lives today. But that doesn't mean we have to resign ourselves to being surrounded exclusively by cheap Chinese junk. A small collection of fine, antique silver cigarette cases and cigar cases may be the perfect way to set yourself apart in a world inundated by undesirable clutter.
This is a bold example of a Mughal silver rupee exhibiting fine calligraphy. It was struck in 1042 AH (1632 AD) at the apogee of the Mughal Empire, during the reign of Shah Jahan, in the Indian city of Burhanpur.
The acclaimed American writer William Faulkner once wrote that "The past is never dead. It's not even past." This maxim is just as true for nation states and religions as it is for individuals. And the great Indian subcontinent is no exception. The region unapologetically drips with history, reveling in its millennia old, eclectic culture. Indians live and breathe the milieu of history regardless of their religion, race or language. This unique Indian perspective on history is perhaps best encapsulated in the splendid silver rupees of the Mughal Empire.
The Islamic Mughal emperors were lords of India from the early 16th century to the mid 18th century. Among their greatest achievements was their silver rupee coinage - one of the most beautiful series of coins the world has ever seen. Hand-struck in stunningly high relief, these thick, heavy silver coins possess dazzling eye appeal. Delicate florets, refined beaded borders and ornate quatrefoil decorations seamlessly blend with exquisite, flowing Arabic calligraphy on these masterpieces of Indian art. While the Mughal court was heavily influenced by the glamorous aesthetic of their Persian neighbors, Mughal silver rupees reflected the confidence of a uniquely native Islamic Indian culture.
Weighing around 11 grams each, silver rupees were among the largest silver coins minted in the world during the 16th century, exceeded only by contemporary European thalers. During this time, much of Europe was still struggling with a miserable monetary system of small, debased silver and crude copper coinage. Indian silver rupees, in contrast, were minted from almost pure silver. Indeed, the Mughals needed to strike a high face value silver currency to satisfy their empire's extensive commercial trade. Indian cotton and silk fabrics, in particular, were renowned in Europe for their fine quality and workmanship. Western demand for Indian goods was so high that Englishman Sir Thomas Roe, like many European economists at the time, lamented that "Europe bleedeth (gold and silver money) to enrich Asia."
Square Mughal Silver Rupees For Sale
Predictably, the Mughal Empire was unbelievably, fabulously rich. The Mughal Emperors' wealth far exceeded that of any of their illustrious contemporaries, including the English Queen Elizabeth I, the French Sun King Louis XIV and the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. During the early 17th century the Mughal royal treasury reportedly contained 7 tons (6,350 kilograms) of gold, 1,116 tons (1,012,418 kilograms) of silver, 80 pounds (36 kilograms) of rough diamonds, 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of rubies, 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of emeralds imported from the legendary mines of Columbia and 600 pounds (272 kilograms) of natural pearls. It is no accident that the English word "mogul" - meaning someone of great power and wealth - is actually a corruption of the name "Mughal".
Before the Mughal Empire was founded, medieval India was dominated by a collection of small independent Islamic kingdoms called sultanates. These Islamic Sultanates were founded by Muslim invaders who brutally conquered much of India in the 13th and 14 centuries. In 1526 a Central Asian warlord named Babur swept south from the mountains of Afghanistan and crushed the Delhi Sultanate's army on the Ganges Plain at the First Battle of Panipat. With this decisive victory Babur founded the great Mughal Empire - one of the mightiest kingdoms India has ever seen.
Mughal Silver Rupees of Akbar For Sale
Akbar (reigned 1556-1605) was the first truly great ruler of the Mughal Empire. He expanded his domains to include the entire northern part of the subcontinent and parts of Afghanistan. Although a Muslim, Akbar was sensitive to the cultural and religious proclivities of his Hindu subjects. His abolition of the hated jizya - the tax on unbelievers commanded in the Koran - won the loyalty of many of his Hindu subjects. During Akbar's reign the economy prospered, with both domestic and international trade growing quickly.
Jahangir (reigned 1605-1627) continued the liberal religious policies of his father, Akbar. However, Jahangir was both an alcoholic and an opium addict. His capable chief wife, Nur Jahan, effectively controlled the empire in his place while he was incapacitated by his addictions. Nur Jahan wielded so much power that she even minted silver rupees in her own name, a privilege usually reserved for the reigning monarch. In spite of Jahangir's slide into decadence, the Mughal Empire still expanded both territorially and economically under his reign.
Mughal Silver Rupees of Jahangir & Nur Jahan For Sale
Under the exalted Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-1658) the prosperous Mughal Empire reached its cultural zenith. He ordered the construction of many buildings of unsurpassed beauty, including such architectural gems as the imposing Red Fort, the otherworldly Shalimar Gardens and the renowned Taj Mahal. The Mughal Empire was so wealthy under Shah Jahan's reign that he commissioned the legendary Peacock Throne, a lavish royal perch constructed from 2,535 pounds (1,150 kilograms) of pure gold and encrusted with 507 pounds (230 kilograms) of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, garnets and pearls. The Peacock Throne was so extravagant that it reputedly cost twice as much as the peerless Taj Mahal to build.
Mughal Silver Rupees of Shah Jahan For Sale
Aurangzeb (reigned 1658-1707) was a strict, zealous Muslim who reversed many of the accommodative religious policies that the tolerant emperor Akbar had introduced. This was a fatal political move in a kingdom primarily populated by Hindus. While dissension grew and his empire slowly rotted from within, Aurangzeb unceasingly waged aggressive wars of territorial expansion. By his death in 1707, the empire had reached its greatest geographical extent, stretching from Afghanistan in the northwest to Bangladesh in the northeast to almost the tip of the Deccan peninsula in the south. But although glorious in size and military might, the Mughal Empire was now an overextended kingdom on the verge of internal collapse.
Muhammad Shah (reigned 1719-1748) governed an empire in terminal crisis. Widespread internal revolts beset the once great kingdom and the upstart native Indian Maratha dynasty conquered huge swaths of Mughal territory. Mughal royal governors began to declare their independence during this time, ushering into existence the Indian princely states of Hyderabad, Awadh and Bengal. The empire de facto collapsed after the Persian king Nader Shah defeated the sizable Mughal army and sacked the imperial capital of Delhi in 1739. Among the countless treasures the Persians looted during this humiliating defeat was the famed Peacock Throne. The last pitiful vestiges of the Mughal Empire were finally, mercifully dissolved by the British after the unsuccessful native Indian Sepoy Rebellion of 1857.
Mughal Silver Rupees of Aurangzeb For Sale
When investing in Mughal silver rupees it is important to only buy pieces in Very Fine (VF) or better condition. This will ensure that most of the details on these eye-catching works of art are intact. In addition to avoiding heavily worn specimens, damaged, weakly struck or otherwise ugly coins are also undesirable. It is very common to find Mughal silver rupees that have small punch marks called banker's or merchant's marks. These were test marks punched into the coin by merchants or moneychangers to verify the quality of the silver. Banker's marks usually do not affect the value of a Mughal rupee much, although a pristine, non-marked coin may command a small premium. Most Mughal rupees were struck in conventional round shapes, but it isn't uncommon to find curiously-shaped, highly attractive square varieties. Ultimately, as with most coins, good eye appeal - however it manifests itself - is the best trait to pursue.
Although Mughal silver rupees are dated in Arabic (using the Hijri calendar system), very few collectors choose to collect by date. Instead, ruler, type and mint are the more common collecting criteria. While the remnants of the Mughal Empire struck rupees into the 19th century, it is only advisable to purchase examples from the reign of Muhammad Shah or earlier. Later rulers presided over an empire in name only, so they are of much less interest to serious connoisseurs. A possible exception to this guideline is if you want to assemble a complete set of coins by emperor, in which case you would need the later emperors as well. Fractional unit coins of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and tiny 1/16 rupees are occasionally found, but investors should stick to the larger 1/2 rupee and one rupee units for maximum return potential.
Mughal Silver Rupees of Muhammad Shah For Sale
Mughal silver rupees represent absolutely amazing value in the tangible asset space. Prices of these exotic, centuries old Indian coins - as with many hand-struck, pre-modern coins - have increased substantially over the past 20 years. It used to be possible to acquire fine examples for perhaps $15 to $30 each - laughably inexpensive given their unparalleled beauty and romantic history. Now they are merely humorously inexpensive, with prices starting around $35 for common specimens in average condition to a little over $100 for the same coin in jaw-dropping, mint-state preservation. Rare varieties easily run into the several hundred dollar range. A compelling collection of investment-grade Mughal silver rupees could easily be assembled for less than a few thousand dollars. While the Mughal Empire may no longer exist, it is still possible to hold its glorious history in the palm of your hand.