Abaqa Abu Sa’id Bahadur Ancient Coins Batu Khan chinese coins CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series ex-numis Expert Columns Featured News Genghis Khan Hulagu Khan Ilkhan Dynasty Islamic coinage Jani Beg jital Kublai Khan lion Mike Markowitz Mongol coins Mongolian Coins News Newsletter Popular Recent Articles & Video Stephen Album Rare Coins Yuan Dynasty

CoinWeek Ancient Coin Series: Coinage of the Mongols



By Mike Markowitz ….
The couriers of the Khan galloped over fifty levels of longitude, and it was stated that a virgin carrying a sack of gold might journey unhurt from one border of the nomad empire to the different.
— Harold Lamb, Genghis Khan[1]: The Emperor of All Males, p. 112

The Rise of The Mongols

ABOUT THE YEAR 1162 a person named Temujin was born right into a nomadic tribe dwelling in the rugged northern highlands of Mongolia. A rival group murdered his father, the tribe scattered, and Temujin was introduced up in poverty by his mom, Hoelun. In 1206, he united the Mongol tribes, receiving the title “Genghis Khan” which means “universal ruler.” For the subsequent 20 years, he led the Mongols to overcome a lot of Eurasia. When he died in 1227, the Mongol empire coated 24 million sq. kilometers (9.25 million sq. miles). His grandson Kublai turned emperor of China in 1271, founding the Yuan Dynasty, which lasted till 1368.

As nomads, the Mongols had little use for cash. They measured wealth in horses, sheep and cattle. They valued well-made weapons, bridles and saddles. However once they got here to rule the refined city economies of central Asia, Iran, and China they needed to undertake varieties of foreign money that have been acquainted and acceptable to those populations.

Cash of the Mongol empire subsequently fall into two classes.

Cash to be used in Muslim areas comply with the well-established sample of Islamic coinage: gold, silver and copper denominations with Arabic inscriptions and geometric ornament.

Cash issued for East Asian elements of the empire look Chinese language – primarily forged bronze with a sq. gap in the middle.

However there are exceptions to those patterns, many of nice rarity and historic curiosity. All kinds of languages and writing methods seem on the cash of Mongol rulers, and whereas there have been no portraits there are occasional pictorial designs.

Genghis Khan

mongoljitalMongols. Nice Khans. Chingiz (Genghis). AH 602-624 / AD 1206-1227. Æ Jital (22mm, four.17 g, 6h). Qunduz mint.

In 1219 Genghis Khan, infuriated by the homicide of his envoys, invaded the Khwarezmian Empire, a Turkic Islamic dynasty that dominated a lot of Iran and central Asia. The good cities of Samarkand, Bokhara and Urganj have been sacked, their populations brutally massacred[2]. With the devastation and depopulation of the area, you may think that there can be no use for coinage, however Central Asian cities appear to have the ability to spring again out of the mud. Many of the surviving cash in the identify of Genghis come from mints in Afghanistan, reminiscent of Kunduz and Ghazna (there have been silver mines in the area).

The gold and silver points bear the Khan’s identify on one aspect[3], and an Arabic inscription with the identify and titles of the Muslim caliph, a powerless figurehead beneath the thumb of warlords in distant Baghdad, on the different.

The Mongols themselves principally worshipped the sky and the earth; their faith is usually described as “Shamanistic.” Some have been Nestorian Christians, some later adopted Taoism or Buddhism[4]. So the look of a caliph’s identify as “Commander of the Faithful” (amir al-mu’minin) on Mongol coinage was no acknowledgement of his authority.

Kolbas notes that:
Chingiz Khan neither needed nor acquired approval from the present caliph, and his objective was definitely to not additional the trigger of Islam… The Mongols on this preliminary interval in all probability understood his place to include religious attributes, and to be the arbitrator of justice for the specific code underneath which the conquered individuals lived (40).

The one silver coin sort bearing the identify of “The Just, The Great, Genghis Khan” in Arabic was a dirhem of about three grams, first issued round 1221.

In 1258, when Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis, captured Baghdad, he had the caliph, al-Musta’sim Billah, rolled up in a carpet and trampled to demise by horses[5].

Fragmentation of the Empire


Genghis Khan died in August 1227. There are not any cash in the identify of his eldest son Jochi, who died in February of that yr.

Ogedei, his third son, succeeded him as Nice Khan, however in impact the empire was partitioned.

Batu, son of Jochi, led the “Golden Horde”, which managed the Russian steppes. Chagatay, the second son, dominated a lot of central Asia. Tolui, the fourth son, dominated the Mongol homeland. When Ogedei died in 1241, his spouse Töregene (or Torakina) turned regent for about 5 years as Nice Khatun (khatun is the female type of khan).

A exceptional collection of cash have been struck throughout Töregene’s reign, primarily in the Caucasus, Northern Iran and Anatolia. They depict an archer on horseback drawing his bow. On some examples he seems to be capturing at a goose, on others an eagle or a star.

The inscriptions omit her identify.

The Golden Horde

Batu Khan died in 1256, and his brother Berke took over the Golden Horde. The coinage of this era was minted at Saray on the decrease Volga river. These small, crudely-struck silver items weighing lower than a gram bear Batu’s tamgha[6] or clan image–a double-ended trident (reminiscent of Zeus’ thunderbolt or Indra’s vajra)–on each side.

Berke transformed to Islam, and later cash of the Golden Horde usually bear Arabic spiritual inscriptions.


Jani Beg, Khan of the Golden Horde from 1342 to 1357 positioned the picture of a lion (wanting like a moderately scruffy canine) on some of his cash.

Suffering from civil wars and factional conflicts, the Golden Horde ultimately fragmented into rival khanates that have been regularly absorbed by the Ottoman and Russian empires.

The Ilkhans

Hulagu (dominated 1256 – 1265), son of Tolui and grandson of Genghis, based the Ilkhan dynasty, which dominated Iran and far of the surrounding area for a century (1256 – 1357, though for the previous couple of many years Ilkhan rulers have been puppets of native warlords).

Throughout this century, hundreds of totally different coin varieties have been issued, many of excessive technical and inventive high quality. Ilkhan die-cutters excelled in designing elaborate geometric borders and richly ornamented inscriptions.

Hulagu was succeeded by his son, Abaqa (dominated 1265 – 1282). Abaqa’s cash are sometimes bilingual, with a spiritual inscription in Arabic on one aspect and the ruler’s identify and titles in Uighur (a Turkic language with its personal alphabet) on the different.

Abaqa might have transformed to Nestorian Christianity. Some of his cash, minted in Christian areas like Georgia and Armenia, bear a cross with the Arabic inscription “In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God.”

The seventh Ilkhan, Ghazan “the Great” (dominated 1295–1304), transformed to Islam when he took the throne. A cultured man of many pursuits, Ghazan spoke Chinese language, Arabic, Mongol and probably Latin.

Abu Sa’id Bahadur, the ninth Ilkhan (dominated 1316-1335), got here to the throne as a toddler. His good-looking silver cash, issued in a number of denominations, are comparatively widespread and reasonably priced. He died alongside together with his sons in a plague which will have been an early stage of the Black Dying that later ravaged Europe (1346 – 53). The dynasty by no means recovered.

Into China: The Yuan Dynasty

yuanchashDa De (prime) and Zhi Zheng (backside) money cash of the Yuan Dynasty (1297-1368)

Kublai (or Qubilai) was the fourth son of Tolui and thus a grandson of Genghis. He turned Nice Khan in 1260 following the demise of his brother Mongke. He defeated his youthful brother Ariq Böke in a civil struggle, made peace with Korea (which ferociously resisted a collection of Mongol invasions between 1231 and 1270) and launched unsuccessful assaults on Japan (1274, 1281).

The earliest Mongol cash could also be very uncommon forged silver items (about 2.5 grams) with a sq. gap in the middle and 4 Chinese language characters on one aspect (Ta Chao Tong Bao) which means “Great Dynasty Currency”. Examples have been discovered at Karakorum, the capital of the Nice Khans in Mongolia. Some specialists attribute these to Genghis Khan (earlier than 1227); others argue that they have been produced underneath Kublai (ca. 1260 – 1280). About 250 examples are recognized. In a 2012 public sale one bought for US$1,350 (Stephen Album Uncommon Cash Public sale 14, Lot 851).

The complicated Chinese language written characters have been unsuitable for writing the Mongol language, and Kublai commissioned a Tibetan monk and courtroom official named Drogön Chögyal Phagpa to design a common alphabet of 36 letters[7] that could possibly be used for all the languages of the empire. This intricate, angular script seems on many cash of the Yuan dynasty, both alone or together with Chinese language characters.

Mongol rulers of China experimented with bigger denomination forged bronze points (three and even 10 money) and ultimately got here to depend on paper cash, inflicting cycles of inflation that contributed to the fall of the dynasty in 1368.

Accumulating the Mongols

Many collectors want to personal a coin of the well-known Genghis Khan. Even the humble copper jitals can promote for a number of hundred US dollars in excessive grade, and the gold and silver points command excessive public sale costs, particularly if the Khan’s identify is clearly legible.

For collectors on a extra modest price range, we’d observe that Genghis Khan’s portrait seems on trendy banknotes of Mongolia.

The one complete trendy catalog of the coinage of the Mongol Khans is Nyamaa (2005) a privately-published, bilingual English/Mongolian version (the English is a bit tough). Apparently it’s out of print, however copies may be discovered for $85-100.

The usual references on the cash of the Ilkhans are costly: Diler (2006), and Album (2001). Plant (2000) is the important “must-have” e-book for anybody all for Islamic coinage.

For Chinese language cash of the Yuan Dynasty, Hartill (2005) is an effective reference for newcomers.



[1] Transliteration of Mongol names is an countless supply of confusion. “Chinggis” is closest to the Mongolian pronunciation, however “Genghis” and “Jenghiz” are widespread spellings in English.

[2] The Mongols have been often cautious to spare “artisans” who had helpful expertise, and resettle them, nevertheless.

[3] As with many Islamic cash, the distinction between “obverse” and “reverse” appears to depend upon the whim of the cataloguer.

[4] Many trendy Mongols (53%) follow a type of Buddhism strongly influenced by Tibet (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongolia)

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Musta%27sim

[6] The tamgha was initially a particular cattle model utilized by every Mongol clan. In a non-literate society it functioned as a logo of id, showing on banners, cash and different objects.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%27Phags-pa_script


Album, Stephen. Iran After the Mongol Invasion. Vol. 9. Sylloge of Islamic Cash in the Ashmolean. Oxford (2001)

Blair, Sheila S. “The Coins of the Later Ilkhanids: Mint Organization, Regionalization, and Urbanism”, American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 27 (1982)

Dawson, Christopher. Mission to Asia: Narratives and Letter of the Franciscan Missionaries in Mongolia and China in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.
New York (1955)

Diler, Ömer. Ilkhans: Coinage of the Persian Mongols. Istanbul (2006)

Hartill, David. Forged Chinese language Cash. Trafford (2005)

Kessler, Adam. Empires Past the Nice Wall: The Heritage of Genghis Khan. Los Angeles. Pure Historical past Museum. (1993)

Kolbas, Judith. The Mongols in Iran: Chingiz Khan to Uljaytu 1220-1309. Routledge (2006)

Komaroff, Linda and Stefano Carboni. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Artwork and Tradition in Western Asia 1256 – 1353. New York. Metropolitan Museum. (2002)

Lamb, Harold. Genghis Khan: The Emperor of All Males. London (1928)

Man, John. Marco Polo: The Journey that Modified the World. New York (2009)

Nyaama, Badarch. The Cash of Mongol Empire and Clan Tamghas of Khans (XIII-XIV). (in English and Mongolian) UlaanBaatar (2005)

Plant, Richard. Arabic Cash and How one can Learn Them. Spink (2000)

Smith, J.M. and Francis Plunkett. “Gold Money in Mongol Iran”, Journal of the Financial and Social Historical past of the Orient 11 (1968)

Watt, James (ed.). The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese language Artwork in the Yuan Dynasty. New York. Metropolitan Museum (2010)

Weatherford, Jack. The Secret Historical past of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire. New York (2010)