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.