Ethiopia EE1888-A 1/8 birr

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Courtesy Heritage Auctions
Courtesy Heritage Auctions

The coin shown is a silver eighth birr dated 1888 (Ethiopian Era). On the obverse is a portrait of King Menelik II. The date is below, written in a format particular to Ethiopia, with and extra digit denoting magnitude. The reverse shows the 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 lot 50992 on Jan 7, 2007, at the 2007 January New York Signature World Coin Auction #425 by Heritage Auctions. It brought $1840. The catalog description reads: "Menelik II 1/8 Bir 1888EE (1896), lovely toned AU, extremely rare date with only 200 struck by the Paris Mint, and perhaps three pieces known. This example was originally sold in the Irving Goodman Collection. The Ethiopian Era calendar commenced seven years and eight months after the beginning of the AD era and we have added eight years to the EE date for conversion purposes."

Recorded mintage: 200.

Specifications: 3.5094g, 0.835 fine silver, 0.0942 ASW.

Catalog reference: KM 2.

Sources:

  • 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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