Kushan Empire Gold Dinars

The August ANA World’s Fair of Money show in Chicago is one of the biggest world coin shows in the country, and Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio is putting together a remarkable auction for this event. We have already showcased an impressive variety, from a would-be Roman Emperor to a Peruvian gold piece salvaged from the depths of a river bed. For this week our attention shifts to an empire forged in Northern India to Central Asia. The Kushan Empire extended its territories to their greatest extent during the reign of Kanishka. Under his rule, the dominion of the Kushan Empire reached into western China as well. This position allowed Kanishka to control both the overland (Silk Road) and sea trade routes between China and the Roman Empire. By overseeing this trade route, the Kushans were exposed to a wide variety of cultures and religions, and seemed to absorb and incorporate a multitude of influences. The nature of this loose federation and relative peace allowed the trade routes under their control to prosper. The emperor Kanishka demonstrated his empire’s cultural and religious melding on his coinage, which traveled the land and sea routes connected to his holdings.

This auction includes four gold Dinars from Kanishka. The obverse for this type depicts a Greek legend nearly fully encompassing a standing portrait of a bearded Kanishka. The Greek inscriptions common for the coinage of the Kushan Empire evidences their penchant for incorporating the other cultures they came in contact with. Kanishka is depicted standing, facing left, holding a trident/scepter in his left hand and placing his right hand on a fire altar. Kanishka is shown wearing a mantle of flames and his garb is widely considered to be stiff, possibly made of leather. The reverse design for these four pieces each displays a deity from a diverse and intricate pantheon, which blends the myriad cultures and religions that formed (and came into contact with) the Kushan Empire. The first reverse depicts the god Siva, the four-armed judge of the Underworld. The inscription on the right hand side names the god, who holds a spear, a sacrificial animal, and a vase. The second coin contains a right hand legend naming the deity as Mao, the winged moon deity. They are shown holding a sheathed sword in their left hands, and holding out their right arms. The third and fourth coins each depict the goddess Nanaia, the mother goddess/ goddess of nature. These similar reverse designs display the goddess standing facing right, crowned with a nimbus to demonstrate her divinity. She holds a scepter at an angle with one hand and a small box with the other. The only difference in the legend is the first coin displays her entire name, while the second abbreviates it. Minor differences in the design may be evident as well. Despite their age, these pieces show only faint rub, a nice strike, wonderful luster, and are each in Nearly Mint State or Mint State condition. Each is a truly attractive coin that is sure to enhance any collection lucky enough to claim it.

Look for this and other Ancient numismatic pieces in our upcoming August ANA Sale. Preview these impressive coins along with the rest of our auction this August at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California or in New York City. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.566.2580.

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