Ethiopia EE1889 1/2 werk

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Courtesy Heritage Auctions
Courtesy Heritage Auctions

The coin shown is a half werk gold 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.

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 23806 on Jan 2, 2011, at the 2011 January New York Signature World & Ancient Coins Auction #3012 by Heritage Auctions. It brought $1495. The catalog description reads: "Menelik II gold 1/2 Werk EE1889 (1896), MS63 NGC, fully brilliant with exceptionally sharp details, highly attractive. (Incorrectly attributed as the full Werk on the NGC holder)."

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specifications: 3.5g, 0.900 fine gold, 0.1012 oz AGW.

Catalog reference: KM 17.


  • 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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