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Khusro I with uncommon, "forgotten" mintmark


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Sasanian Persian Kingdom. AR drachm 30 mm, 3.93 g). Khusro I (531-579), Year 46. Mintmark BH. Obverse: Bust of king right, name before. Reverse: Fire-altar with two attendants, crescent and star symbols above, to right mintmark BH, to left date 46. Cf. Mitchiner MACW 1046. This coin: Purchased from Zurqieh, 2023.

(Historical section contains re-used text.)
Khusro's father, king Kavadh I (488-531 AD), had favored a radical Zoroastrian sect called the Mazdakites. The Mazdakites preached a doctrine with some resemblance to socialism, including sharing the resources of the aristocracy with the lower classes. (Kavadh may have supported the Mazdakites as a way to break the power of the nobility, leaving the central monarchy in control.) The Mazdakites also practiced wife-swapping, though some killjoy historians claim this aspect was over-emphasized by their enemies. Upon Kavadh's death, he named his younger son Khusro as successor. The Mazdakites supported the oldest son, Kawus; but Khusro soon defeated his sibling, executed the leader of the Mazdakites and many of his followers, and was successful in reestablishing Zoroastrian orthodoxy. Politically, Khusro continued to fight the powers of the aristocracy and minor nobles, removing the exemption from taxation that many of the wealthy families had enjoyed and installing government employees as tax collectors, instead of leaving local tax collection to the corrupt nobles. He also encouraged small landowners, and was strict in punishing any corruption by government officials. He fought a number of wars against the Byzantines, and also campaigned against the Hephthalites in Central Asia and established a military presence in Yemen. Overall, he is considered one of the greatest kings of the Sasanian dynasty, and is still revered in Iran as Anushiruwan (Immortal Soul).

I already had several coins of Khusro I; what drew me to this one was the mintmark. While browsing through listings of bare-bones-identified Sasanian drachms, this mintmark stood out in that it was very easy to read (as BH) but unfamiliar to me. It was not listed in my quick go-to for mintmark ID, the page at NumisWiki based on the late Tom Mallon's pages (https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Sasanian Mints) so I quickly purchased the coin as worthy of further research. Checking through print references showed that the BH mintmark was in fact reported, for both Sasanian and Arab-Sasanian coins. Gobl's "Bible" of Sasanian coins lists the mintmark as an unknown location, while Mitchiner's "Ancient and Classical World" also lists the mintmark, though only under Khusro I. Mitchiner even illustrates an example, dated Year 42 (coin #1046 in the book) and identifies the mint location as "Behkobad" in Iraq, near the Sasanian capital of Ctesiphon. As for the Arab-Sasanian series, Album, in the second edition of his Checklist, suggests the location as "uncertain, perhaps Bihqubadh in Iraq" and gives the rarity of the mint as "RR" ("Very rare. Seldom available. Collectors may have to wait years to locate one."). The most recent, third edition, however, reverts to "uncertain location (RR)." Heinz Gaube's "Arabosasanidische Numismatik" has a two-paragraph discussion of the mintmark, ultimately concluding that its location is unknown. (Actually, given the gap between the known Sasanian use of BH mintmark and its reappearance on Arab-Sasanian coins some decades later, I'm not so confident that the mintmark necessarily meant the same thing in those two different time periods.)  

My conclusion: The mintmark BH seems to be scarce in general (both Sasanian and Arab-Sasanian), and we're really not sure where it was issued. Also, this illustrates why it is important not to rely on just one source. whether online or print. Please post whatever related coins you have.

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That's a very neat find!  The moment I read 'barebones listings', I knew where it was from 🫠 . I don't have any photographed Khrusro I, but there's bound to be a scarce mintmark on one of these.


I thought I might have a Kavadh, but it's a Peroz.  I don't have many of the pre-skeletal style Krusru II's.

Why did earlier issues (except for the very early ones) have such a thin bust?


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Well spotted. Sasanian mints are confusing at their simplest, with transliteration differences and uncertainty over which mint the letters represent anyway.

I can't even manage Khusro I, so here's his successor.

Hormazd IV Drachm, 582
Yazd. Silver, 29mm, 4.06g. Crowned bust to right, wearing mural crown with frontal crescent and korymbos. Fire altar with ribbons and attendants; star and crescent flanking flames; YZ (Göbl Type I/1).

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