Previous coin
coins countermarked with Asprokastron coat of arms
Next coin
16 mm diameter, 0.62 g, silver
countermarked with the coat of arms of Cetatea Albă (Asprokastron): cross with even arms, with a dot between each pair of arms
? mm diameter, ? g, silver
countermarked with the coat of arms of Cetatea Albă (Asprokastron): cross with even arms, with a dot between each pair of arms

The pictures of the first coin are taken from E-bay, with the kind permission of the owner.

The second medieval coin pictures above are present on Romanian coins through the kind permission of Mr. Sarviro.

Numismatic literature mentions the existence of small Tatarian silver coins which have been countermarked with the coat of arms of Cetatea Albă - a cross with four globules between the arms. Since the countermark is similar to the cross on the Asprokastru strikings (presented on the previous page), it is believed that the two types of coins are contemporary. Reference [1] considers the Asprokastru coins to have been struck around 1450, during the reigns of Alexandru II (Alexăndrel = Tiny Alexander) or Petru Aron. Hence it would ensue that the countermarks were performed around 1450 also. However other opinions exist. Based on an older paper of numismatist Octavian Iliescu (which we did not find), an Italian researcher, Lunardi [4] considered the Tatarian coin countermarked with the coat of arms of Cetătea Albă as issues of the Genoese colony in town and dates them to the 1463-1465 time frame. Reference [5] shows these countermarked pieces as local issues, struck after the monetary reform of Stephen the Great and the Holy around 1465.

Interesting enough, such coins were found in the county of Iași, at Cîrpiți [2], [3] (nowadays Victoria). It is also interesting to observe that the title of the silver of these coins was measured - it is between 66.6% and 89% [6].

About the Silver Coin on which the Coat of Arms of Cetătea Albă Was Struck (1st Coin from Above)

The coat of arms of Cetatea Albă was struck over a silver dirham of Küchük Muhammad, one of the khans of the Golden Horde. The Golden Horde (also known as Kipchak Khanate) was the western part of the Mongolian Empire. It was founded by Batu Khan (1207-1255). The denomination of dirham comes from drachma, monetary and weight measurement unit in ancient Greece.

Küchük Muhammad (küchük means "small" or "short" in Turkic languages - see the name of village Kücük-Kainargi, named in Romanian Cainargeaua Mică) ruled over a troubled period of Golden Horde's desintegration. He assumed power around 1435 and lost it around 1459. Küchük was a nickname and, as such, does not appear on the coins. Under the rule of Küchük Muhammad the Golden Horde lost vast territories. In 1437 Ulugh Muhammad (Ulugh would mean "tall"), the former Golden Horde khan (1419-1422 and 1427-1437), created the Kazan Khanate. In the fifth decade of the century Crimea had become an independent khanate under the rule of Melek Khaji Girai (~1396-1466), one of the descendants of Genghis Khan (1206-1227).

About the Inscriptions on the Coin

On the obverse, inside an inner linear circle, the name of the issuer is mentioned:

ﻣﺤﻤﺪ ﺑﻦ ﺗﻴﻤﻮﺮ - Muhammad bin Timur.

On the outside lies inscription "al-sultan al-a'zam khan":

ﺍﻟﺴﻠﻄﺎﻦ ﺍﻻﻋﻈﻢ ﺧﺎﻦ , where al-a'zam means great or supreme [8].

On the reverse lies a tamga with two arms along information about the place where the coin was struck, Ordu-Bazaar:

ﺿﺮﺐ ﺍﻭﺭﺩﺍ ﺑﺎﺰﺍﺮ - duribe Orda Bazar [7], [9].

r u m i t n b d m h m
r a z a b a d r u a b r d
n a hk m z a a+l a n a t l s l a

The tamga or tamgha was an emblem used by Altaic tribes (Huns, Mongolians, Turkic peoples etc.); seal. The tamga used on the Tatarian coins of Crimeea stands for the stylized trident of Girai I, founder of Crimean Khanate and declared successor of Genghis Khan.

About the Orda-Bazaar Mint

According to the inscription, the coin was struck at the Orda-Bazaar (or Ordu-Bazaar) mint. The localization of the mint is not (as we read on the Internet) very certain. Based on the spread of coins bearing Ordu-Bazar indication, it is considered they were struck some place in the steppe region north to Crimea, close to River Dnieper, in the actual region of Kherson. Coins of Melek Khaji Girai, first khan of Crimea, are known to have been struck here - so the mint ought to be close to Crimea. Reference [7] points that the Ordu-Bazar mint could have been placed somewhere close to the Ural Mountains. Reference [9] comes with the hypothesis that this mint was mobile, accompanying the khan and his court. Not unlikely, if we take into account that ordu means army or army camp (English language has the word horde, Romanian language has words "ordie" and "hoardă", meaning ferocious army), and bazaar means basically the same as in English. It is not excluded that several mints called Orda-Bazaar to have existed.

About the Silver Coin on which the Coat of Arms of Cetatea Albă was Struck (2nd Coin from Above)

The coat of arms of Cetatea Albă was struck over a silver dirham of Syed Ahmed I, one of the khans of the Golden Horde. Syed Ahmed I ruled between 1433 and 1435 (however the chronology of Golden Horde khans is not very well known).

About the Inscriptions on the Coin

Although the coins is quite worn, small portions of text allow for the reconstitution, with sufficient certitude, of the original inscription. On the obverse, inside an inner linear circle, lies the name of the issuer:

ﺳﻴﺪ ﺍﺤﻤﺪ ﺧﺎﻦ - Syed Ahmed Khan.

On the exterior it seems to lie inscription "al-sultan al-a'zam khan":

ﺍﻟﺴﻠﻄﺎﻦ ﺍﻻﻋﻈﻢ ﺧﺎﻦ , with visible fragment "n al-a".

n the reverse lies the islamic creed (named Shahada), in its short form:

ﻻ ﷲ ﺍﻻ ﷲ ﻣﺤﻤﺪ ﺭﺳﻭﻞ ﷲ - La ilah illa Allah Muhammad rasul Allah, meaning "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God".


1. Buzdugan G., Luchian O., Oprescu C., Monede și bancnote românești. Editura Sport-Turism, București, 1977.

2. Costin B., Pînzar A., Monedele Moldovei și Valahiei. O expoziție virtuală. Emisiuni locale Cetatea Albă (Asprokastron), site web, februarie 2015.

3. Iliescu O., Les armoires de la ville d'Asprokastron et leur origine byzantine. Études byzantines et post-byzantines II, Editura Academiei, București, 1991.

4. Lunardi G., Le monete delle colonie genovesi. Atti della Società Ligure di Storia Patria, vol. XX (XCIV), fasc. I, Genova, 1980, p. 139-144.

5. Oberländer-Târnoveanu E., The Coinage of the Genoese Settlements of the Western Black Sea Shore and on the Danube. Peuce, serie nouă, II (XV), Tulcea, 2004 (2005), p. 285-296.

6. Oberländer-Târnoveanu E., Emisiunile monetare bătute pe teritoriul Moldovei în vremea lui Ștefan cel Mare (1457-1504) - o analiză critică. Cercetări numismatice, vol. IX-XI, București, 2003-2005, p. 293-399.

7. Pacikalov A.V., O lokalizații monetnogo dvora Orda-Bazar (XV v.). (Despre localizarea monetăriei de la Orda-Bazar), Rosiiskaia arheologhia, nr. 2, 2005, p. 87-92.

8. Plant R., Arabic Coins and How to Read Them. Seaby, London, 1980.

9. Sagdeeva R.Z., Serebreanîe monetî hanov Zolotoi Ordî. Izd. Goreaceaia liniia - Telekom, Moskva, 2005, p. 68.

Back to selection page!