Name of Object:

Token or weight


Rome, Italy

Holding Museum:

Museum of Civilisations | Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci”


Hegira 411–27 / AD 1020–35

Type of object:

Token, weight, glass

Museum Inventory Number:

15348/ 21523

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Green glass.


Diameter 2.2 mm, depth 4 mm, weight 2.4 g

Period / Dynasty:





Green glass token with a relief border, in a reasonable state of conservation, weighing slightly less than one whole dirham, which is 2.97 g. The token is marked only with a three-line inscription in kufic characters within a circle in the middle of the front face. The first line reads ‘al-imâm al-Zâhir’, the second ‘al azaz din Allâh’ and the third ‘amîr al-mu minin’.
Traditional Byzantine glass tokens were generally used as monetary weights, and this use was particularly common among Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs as well as among the Egyptian Tulunids and the Aglabids of North Africa. Shi’ite caliphs also used tokens for other means, particularly from the time of al-Mu’izz (AH 341–65 / AD 953–75). The fact that many of the tokens found are of identical weight suggests that they were used as ‘fiduciary coins’ in place of bronze coins, particularly as bronze was extremely rare in Egypt at that time. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that no glass tokens have ever been found in Syria, where bronze was abundantly available. These tokens are inscribed on at least one of their faces, bearing the name of the caliph and sometimes even the mint. Most Fatimid tokens come from the time of two caliphs in particular, Abu ‘Ali al-Hakim (AH 386–411 / AD 996–1021) and al-Mustansir (AH 427–87 / AD 1036–94), although a large number also come from the time of al-Zahir, al-Amir and other caliphs.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

Historical chronology (years of reign of Fatimid caliph).

How Object was obtained:


How provenance was established:

From the inscription with the name of the caliph.

Selected bibliography:

Balog, P. “The Fatimid Glass Jetons”, Annali dell’Istituto Italiano di Numismatica 20, 1973, no. 177, p.121.
Lane-Poole, S., Catalogue of Arabic Glass Weights in the British Museum, London, 1891.
Launois, A., Estampilles et Poids Musulmans en Verre du Cabinet des Médailles, Cairo, 1959.

Citation of this web page:

Paola Torre "Token or weight" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;it;Mus01;24;en&id=weights_and_measures

Prepared by: Paola TorrePaola Torre

Responsabile del Dipartimento di Archeologia e Arte Islamica e del Servizio Educativo presso il Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale “Giuseppe Tucci” di Roma.
Laureata in Arte islamica, ha svolto per anni attività di docenza presso l'Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli ed è autrice di numerose pubblicazioni e studi scientifici riguardanti soprattutto la ceramica del mondo islamico, con particolare riferimento alla produzione dipinta a lustro metallico, dalla Mesopotamia alla Spagna.

Copyedited by: Pier Paolo RacioppiPier Paolo Racioppi

Laureato e specializzato in storia dell'arte presso l'Università di Roma “La Sapienza” sta conseguendo il dottorato di ricerca in Storia e conservazione dell'oggetto d'arte e d'architettura presso l'Università di Roma TRE. Ha svolto attività seminariali presso l'Istituto di Storia dell'Arte all'Università La Sapienza di Roma e attualmente è docente di storia dell'arte del Rinascimento presso la IES at Luiss (Roma).
Ha pubblicato diversi contributi sulla tutela artistica, il collezionismo e le accademie d'arte, ed ha collaborato al Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani dell'Enciclopedia Treccani.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: IT 27