History of Coinage in Iran:
By the order of King Darius the Great, the first Iranian coin was minted in the late 6th century B.C. as golden Darick (Pic.1- right). This became the cornerstone of a new fundamental item in the history of the Persian empire that was the greatest power of the world at that time. Before Iranians, Lydians were the first tribe who invented the coin, naming Stater (Pic.1- Left). The Iranian Darick was a uni-sided hammered coin depicting a Persian warrior or probably the king, in the semi-sitting position while holding a bow in his left hand and a javelin in his right hand. Used as the official currency of the Persian Empire at the time of Archaemediansfor over 200 years, it weighed 8.41 grams and was equal to 20 silver coins. The silver coin was called Shegel, weighing 5.6 grams.
Left: The Lydian Stater. Depicting the fight of a bull and a lion. The same scene is repeated many times in the bas-reliefs of Persepolis.
Right: The Archaemedian Darick.
By the fall of the Archimedean and as a result of Helenization, the Parthian kings minted silver Drachma that was in the Athens's standards, weighing about 4.25 g.
In 226 A.D. when Ardavan V was defeated by Ardeshir, a new era began in the Persian empire and the Sassanid dynasty came into power. They established a pure Iranian government and tried to recall the glory of the Archimedean kingdom. The Sassanid coins had an original Persian pattern and were minted in gold, silver & copper. Golden Sassanid Drachma was only used in foreign trading so they are nearly rare today. Used as the main currency, silver coins were in circulation even in neighbor regions.
Pic.2 : Golden Sassanid coin belonging to the era of King Shapour II (309-379 A.D.)
Obverse: Profile of the king with his crown and the Avestian Pahlavi script depicting his name.
Reverse: A fire altar in the middle with 2 men guarding it on both sides, presumably the king and a holy person.
By the invasion of Arabs to Iran, the post-Islamic period began in the history of the empire; the Sassanid king was killed in Mary and the official religion of the country changed from Zoroastrianism into Islam. The saddest part of the story is the plunder of the Sassanid treasury by the Islamic troops. It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion silver coins were kept in the treasury as the reserve of the country. This is apart from other valuable jewels & masterpieces such as the heavy crown of the king, Golden Shabdiz (Corpse of King Khosrow Parviz's horse that was filled with gold). the gemmed Baharestan carpet & so many other items. For over 100 years, coins were minted in the style of Sassanid era with minor changes. On these coins, which are now called Arab-Sassanid coins, title of the Arab ruler or some Prayers were minted instead of the Sassanid kings' name but still had the portrait of the king (especially king Khosrow II & King Yazdgerd III ) and the fire altar on the reverse. Also during this era, some of the Sassanid survivors minted coins in the name of king Yazdgerd III in the eastern regions of Iran for a short period.
A very early Arab-Sassanid silver coin. The coin is in the King Khosrow II 's style.
The blue-colored script is in Arabic saying: " Besmellaahe rabbi " that means: In the name of my God, the Allah. These coins were in circulation until 700 A.D.
Later, Arab rulers began to invent their own style of coinage by omitting the pictures from the coins and replacing it with holy verses from the Quran and the name of rulers. The next centuries were the time for the Iranians to recall their culture and actually it was the rebirth of the nation. During these years, the same style of coinage were kept till the invasion of Mongols, when some pictures appeared on the coins. But the coinage industry did not return to its Golden days of Sassanid era till the Safavid dynasty came into power and established the first united Shiite government in Iran. They minted Ashrafi coins in Gold and Abbasi coins in silver. The Sassanid dynasty collapsed in 1750s A.D. by the invasion of Afghans and the country were in chaos for a few years. once again, a brave Iranian commander, called Nader Gholi, defeated Afghans and united the country. He ruled as king Nader Shah for 12 years until being assassinated. His heirs were in power for 50 years more but just ruling in a small region in the northeast of Iran. During this period Zands were in power but could never unite the country again. Qajar kings succeeded them.
Pic. 4: Hammered g old coin of King Fath'ali Shah Qajar's era.
Qajar (Ghaajaar) tribe, residing
in the northern parts of the country, was one of the most important tribes in Iran at that time. Their progenitor was Mohammad Hasan Khan Qajar who was killed by Karim khan Zand. His elder son, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar killed Zand princes in revenge of his father after the death of Karim Khan and crowned as the first king of the Qajar dynasty. He chose Tehran for the first the time and was nearly successful in uniting the country but was killed at the age of 63 while returning from Nakhjavan in the northwest of Iran. His heir was Fath Ali Shah (King) Qajar. During his reign, the first machinery coin was minted in Tabriz but as it cost more than hammered coins, their mintage were stopped. Some specimens are available at present. But in the reign of his grandson, King Naser-eddin Shah Qajar, traditional mintage in major cities of the country were stopped and the first Royal mint house was established in Tehran under his name.
The first minted coins were released in mid 18th century. Early machinery coins depicted the king's name on one side and the national emblem of the Lion & sun on the other side. Later on, portrait of the king (Shah) was added to some commemorative coins such as those minted on the occasion of Norooz festival or the golden jubilee of Nasser al-din Shah Qajar. At that time, portrait of Shah was only minted on commemorative coins. So coins were divided into two groups: Commemorative series (e.g. Shah's access to throne, his birthday and royal visits) and definite series.
All Definite series had one style: The national emblem of the Lion and Sun on obverse and the title of the king on reverse. This style was kept unchanged till 1925 when the prime minister Sardaar Sepah or Reza Khan Mirpanj (next Reza Shah Pahlavi) planned to change the monarchy system of Iran. At that time a mintage were released which did not mention the name of the ruling king (Ahmad Shah Qajar) but a script saying " Rayej-e- mamlekat-e- Iran " (Currency of the country of Iran). In less than a year, Reza Shah gained the power in Iran and first coins of Pahlavi dynasty were minted in few days. During this period, the Kiani crown was still minted on the coins with the name of Reza shah Pahlavi for the Pahlavi crown was under construction. Later, these coins were collected replaced with new coins depicting Pahlavi crown. During the reign of King Reza Pahlavi and in late 1920s, the currency unit changed from Dinar into Rials.
Visit the coin gallery of Shah Reza Pahlavi era
In 1941 by the abdication of Shah Reza Pahlavi, his heir to the throne, king Mohammad Reza Pahlavi accessed his position. Due to the World War II and inflation, the new coin series of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi were minted in smaller size and the 10 Rials coins were released for the first time. Currencies of 1940s were .05. 1. 25. 5, 1, 2, 5 & 10 Rials. After about 12 years, an alloy of nickel was used instead of silver. In early 1970s, the size of 10 Rls. coins was decreased and the new 20 Rls. coin was minted and for the first time, the portrait of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was depicted on the currencies similar to gold coins. This pattern continued until the 1979 revolution, except for the last coin of Pahlavi era. This coin was a 20 Rls. coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of foundation of the National bank of Iran and had the Portrait of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the Portrait of Shah Reza Pahlavi on the sides. Being an imperial country, so many commemorative coins were minted before the revolution of 1979. Every year, a variety of gold and silver coins were minted on the occasion of the Norooz festival and some other royal events in various quantities.
In February 1979, the Islamic revolution came over the monarchy system of Iran and after 2 months the Islamic Republic of Iran was founded by Ayatollah Khomeini. The first coin of the new regime was a 50 Dinars coin made of brass. What was wrong with this coin was the emblem of the Lion & Sun (without the Pahlavi crown) that was banned by the leader of the revolution a few months later. In March 1979, Pahlavi gold coins were replaced with Bahar-e Azadi (spring of liberty) and the style of coins in Iran changed completely. Since then, 4 coin series were minted and present coins are designed in 2004. Till 2003, current denominations were 5, 10, 50, 100 & 250 Rials. But due to the high rate of inflation, small denominations (actually 5, 10 & somehow 50 Rls.) were set aside gradually.
Pic. 5: The first gold coin of the Islamic republic of Iran minted in 1979, called "Bahaar-e Azaadi".
Click on the photo for the second coin series of the Islamic Republic of Iran.