History and Art Through Coins

On display are over eighty coins in the Coptic Museum of Canada’s collection spanning from 300 BC to the 21st century AD.

Coins not only have a monetary value, they are a physical connection to the past, telling tales of power, culture and civilization. They record history, the evolution of the history of a nation or an empire and its stated values. They can give clues about the future and can explain why things are the way they are today. Coins may also be appreciated for their artistic value. You never know who touched a coin, but it can open doors to imagination!

This display gives perspective on the past calling the viewer to think about what kind of legacy coins leave behind for the future. Visitors are invited to explore the coin exhibition and view coins in a new way. Find out how Alexander the Great used coins to propagate his conquests and legacy, how portraiture was developed throughout the ages, how calligraphy was designed and used in Islamic dynasty coins, what kind of coins Judas got for betraying Jesus, how the production of coins was influenced (as today) by their economic times, and more…


Alexander III the Great (336-323 BC)

AR (silver) tetradrachm,
Diameter: 23.7 mm. Weight: 17.02 grams
Obverse: The head of Heracles in lion skin,
Reverse: Zeus enthroned holding eagle and sceptre (staff symbolizing authority)


Ancient Israel, Alexandre Jannaeus (103 -76 BC)

Copper (AE)
Diameter : 12mm Weight: 3.1 grams
Obverse: palm frond symbol
Reverse: thunderbolt

These coins are believed to be the ones referred in the New Testament as the “Widow’s Mite”. Mark: 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-5


Roman Egypt, Diocletian (241 AD)

Potin, tetradrachm
Diameter: 13.25 mm Weight: 7.5 grams
Obverse: Bust of Diocletian facing right
Reverse: Zeus holding scepter right hand and eagle in left


Indo-Parthian, Gondophares (AD 20 – circa 55)

Bronze Unit Diameter: 4.6 mm Weight: 2.6 grams Obverse: Diademed bust of Gondophares facing left
Reverse: Winged Nike standing right, holding wreath and palm

The name ‘Gondophares’ is a latinization of the Old Persian word Vindafarna meaning: “May he find glory.” When translated in Indian languages it is pronounced as ‘Gondapharna’, ‘Guduvhara’ and in Pali: ‘Gudaphara’. Gondophares is ‘Gastaphar’ in Armenian and ‘Gaspard’ in Western languages which means that he may be “Gaspard, King of India”, who, according to apocryphal texts and eastern Christian tradition, was one of the three Magi who attended the birth of Christ.


Byzantine Gold Solidus of Phocas (Date 602 – 610 AD)

Diameter: 18 mm Weight: 4.35 grams
Obverse: Bust of Emperor Phocas, wearing a crown and holding globus cruciger
(Latin for cross bearing globe).
Reverse: Inscription: VICTORIA AVGG, angel standing, holding a staff


Sasanian dynasty,Khusru II (Drachm circa 590 – 628 AD)

AR (silver) Drachm
Diameter: 30 mm Weight: 4.2 gram
Obverse: Bearded bust of Khosrau II wearing crown with a pair of wings topped with a star in a crescent and double margins as borders
Reverse: Fire altar with a triple margin border.


Umayyad Egyptian post reform fulus (Circa 7th Century)

AE (bronze) fulus
Diameter: 13.4 mm Weight: 1.8 grams
Obverse: La Ilaha Illa Allah Wahdahu
Reverse: Muhammad Rasul Allah, (Muhammad is the messenger of Allah)


Abbasid, Al Mansour (137 AH/ 755 AD)

AR (silver) Dirham
Diameter: 22.1 mm Weight: 2.8 grams
Obverse: “There is no God except Allah. He is Alone. [there is] no partner to Him”; margin: mint and date
Reverse: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”; margin: Sura 9:33


Coinage of the Crusaders.
Imitating Ayyubids of Aleppo, al-Zahir Ghazi (Circa 13th Century)

AR (silver) Dirham
Diameter: 20 mm Weight: 2.88 grams
Obverse and Reverse: Arabic inscriptions within a star-shaped pattern


Mamluk, Al-Zaher Baybars
(658-676 AH / 1280 – 1298 AD)

AR (silver) Dirham
Diameter: 21.3 mm Weight: 7.56 grams
Obverse: Heraldic lion below inscription


Ottoman Egypt, Mustafa III
(1171 AH / 1758 AD)

AV (gold) Zerri Mahbub
Diameter: 21 mm Weight: 2.6 grams
Reverse: Toughra signature of Mustafa III


Muhammad Ali Dynasty, Sultan Husayn Kamil (1335 AH / 1917 AD)

Diameter: 26 mm Weight: 13 gram
Obverse: Sultan Husayn Kamil, 1333 AH
Reverse: The Sultan of Egypt 10 Piastres, 1917 AD/ 1335 AH


Muhammad Ali Dynasty, King Fuad I (1342 AH/ 1924 AD)

Diameter: 17.5 mm Weight: 5 grams
Obverse: Portrait of King Fuad facing right, text on right hand side: Fuad I, King of Egypt
Reverse: The Kingdom of Egypt, 10 milliemes, 1924 AD/ 1342 AH


Muhammad Ali Dynasty, King Farouq (1358 AH/ 1939 AD)

Diameter: 20 mm Weight: 7 grams
Obverse: Portrait of King Farouq facing left, Farouq I, King of Egypt
Reverse: The Kingdom of Egypt, 5 piasters 1358 AH/ 1939 AD


21st Century coin, Cleopatra VII (1438 AH/ 2007 AD)

Diameter: 2.5 cm Weight: 6.5grams
Obverse: Portrait of Cleopatra VII facing right, 1438 AH/ 2007 AD
Reverse: The Arab Republic of Egypt, 50 Piastres