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Zacour, N. P.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume VI: The impact of the Crusades on Europe

XI: Crusader coinage with Arabic inscriptions,   pp. 421-473 PDF (5.7 MB)

Page 423

by count, suggesting that one of the two latter conditions obtained, but
in the crusader period most precious metal issues were weighed out in transactions.
A payment of 100 dinars, for example, took the form of an amount of coins
equal in weight to 100 times the current standard weight of the dinar, an
amount which might be more or less than 100 individual coins. The process
of weighing was recognized as an inconvenience, but was considered normal.
Almost every transaction required a balance, with standard weights supplied
or regulated by the government.3 To alleviate the inconvenience somewhat,
coins were often sealed in purses, with a label indicating the content by
weight; these purses, if sealed by government agencies or reputable moneychangers,
could be passed from hand to hand like large-denomination notes today. A
form of check, ruq'ah, also was used in payments.4 It is important to realize,
therefore, that while the words "dinar" and "dirham" meant respectively "a
gold coin" or "a silver coin", a payment of a certain number of dinars or
dirhams meant transferral of that many weight units of the coinage in question
— the number of coins was immaterial. 
 Because the intrinsic value of precious metal coins was close — even
though not equal — to their monetary value, it would have been impossible
for any government to guarantee effectively the relationship of denominations
in two different metals. To do so would have meant to back up the relationship
by standing ready to exchange either for the other at a set rate, but this
was impossible in practice because of fluctuations in the prices of the metals.
(It is impossible even in the twentieth century, as shown by the abandonment
by all governments of precious metal coins with a defined legal tender value.
The fixed relationships of modern coins and notes are possible only because
their intrinsic worth is far less than their nominal value.) 
Hennequin, "Problèmes théoriques et pratiques de la monnaie
antique et médiévale," Annales islamologiques, X (1972), 1—51.
 3. The major exception in the crusader era was the new dirham coinage introduced
by Saladin in Syria and Egypt in the late twelfth century, which circulated
by count at least some of the time. Other exceptions would include most copper
coins, which were probably sold by the mint against payment in silver or
gold coins at a price far above the value of the copper in them, many small
transactions (a Syrian market manual of Saladin's time refers to a rule that
transactions of less than four coins could be by count), and informal payments
— no one weighed a coin before tossing it to a beggar. On the other
hand, no eastern Mediterranean Islamic gold coinage of the period 1092—ca.
1420 could have circulated by count, although the western Mediterranean dinars
of the type introduced by the Muwabbids probably did. 
 4. Solomon D. F. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, 3 vols. (Berkeley, 1967—1978),
I, 229— 266, discusses means of payment in lOth—l3th-century
Egypt and Syria in detail. For the evidence for weighing see also Bates,
"The Function of Fgtimid and AyyUbid Glass Weights," Journal of the Economic
and Social History of the Orient, XXIV (1981), 70-81. 

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