Ethiopia EE1889 gersh

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Courtesy Heritage Auctions
Courtesy Heritage Auctions

The coin shown is a silver one gersh dated 1889 (Ethiopian Era). On the obverse is a portrait of King Menelik II. The reverse has the lion of Judah with Amharic script in exergue. At the base of the reverse is the date, written in a format particular to Ethiopia, with and extra digit denoting magnitude This was the only silver gersh to be minted in Addis Ababa rather than Paris. A gersh is equivalent to 1/20 birr.

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 12837 on Sept 22, 2005, at the 2005 September (HWCA) Long Beach Signature Auction #387 by Heritage Auctions. It brought $172.50. The catalog description reads: "Menelik II Gersh (1/20 Talari) EE1889, KM13, toned VF-XF, sharp details, rare type struck in Addis Ababa utilizing the second reverse dies with the banner in the lion's right paw. This little type rarely occurs in such desirable grade, and is underrated in the SCWC."

Recorded mintage: unknown.

Specifications: 1.4038g, 0.835 fine silver, 0.0377 ASW.

Catalog reference: KM 13.


  • 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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