The Egyptian Connection

Egypt 20 piastres 1917H

‘He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia, They have stolen his wits away.’

‘Arabia’ by W de la Mare

That ending to the poem ‘Arabia’ has always seemed to me to match up well with T.E. Lawrence. However, being first published around …1912 (I think…?), means it’s a bit too much of a stretch to say the poet had Lawrence in mind when he was writing.

Anyway, Lawrence of Arabia did spend time in Cairo, and so was probably familiar with the large silver coins in use there. I’m guessing of course, but he might not have ever seen the type shown here which was produced in 1917 – being accustomed instead to the earlier design of 1910-1913 (KM# 310). The same could be said for the Australian troops that ended up in Egypt in late 1914.

Inner Circle

It’s worth noting that the later date includes two versions that initially appear to be very similar – the 20 piastres in the photos is the 1917H, a lower mintage variety (KM# 322). It is mintmarked with a tiny “H” on the denomination side, right at the bottom in the 6 o’ clock position – although it’s quite faint on the example pictured which is, let’s face it, a coin that’s certainly been around the block.

But you can avoid a bit of eyestrain and leave the 30x magnifier at home because it turns out the ’17H also has the identifying feature ‘without the inner circle’. The more common design produced from 1916-17 (KM# 321) not only lacks a mintmark, but also has a circle immediately inside the beading both sides, making it relatively easy to recognise.

Although strictly not part of any Australian series and too late to be regarded as ‘early’, you’d think that more than a few of both crown sized beauties would’ve been snagged by the AIF and so I reckon they are a historically significant coin and deserve to form part of anyone’s down under collection, where they would stand for a very select group indeed.

Happy Collecting!

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