Ethiopia EE1887-A 1/2 birr

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Courtesy Heritage Auctions
Courtesy Heritage Auctions

The coin shown is a 1/2 birr silver coin, dated 1889 (Ethiopian Era). On the obverse is a portrait of King Menelik II. The date is along the base and is written in a format particular to Ethiopia, with and extra digit denoting magnitude. The reverse has the crowned lion of Judah with Amharic script in exergue. The mintmark for Paris (A) is below the lion.

Menelik II brought the Ethiopian Empire into the modern world. Previous to his reign, transactions were by barter, salt, or by imported coins such as the Maria Teresa Thaler[1]. He instituted a state coinage and successfully defended the empire against the attempted colonization by Italy in 1896. Ethiopia dates its coins using the Julian calendar, which is backdated approximately 7 years from the Gregorian calendar.

This specimen was sold as lot # 20807 on May 28, 2009, at the 2009 May Long Beach, CA signature World & Ancient Coin Auction #3005 by Heritage Auctions. It brought $1,897.50. The catalog description reads: "Menelik II 1/2 Birr EE1889A (1897), MS64 NGC, iridescent patina with blue-green and purple highlights. Rare quality for this type."

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specifications: 14.0375g, 0.835 fine silver, 0.3768 oz ASW.

Catalog reference: KM 4.


  • Michael, Thomas, and Tracy L. Schmidt, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 9th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2019.
  • [1]Gill, Dennis, Coinage of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Italian Somalia, New York: Printing Mart of Long Island, Inc, 1991.

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