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Hoard of unpublished Hunnic silver drachms from Northern Pakistan

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I want to thank Mr.Wilfried Pieper for pointing out his wonderful article to me and for making it available. Pretty much everything listed below is based on his analysis of these coins presented in his article: 'New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004).

In 1990's small hoard of small silver coins was unearthed in (reportedly) Northern Pakistan. The hoard was dispersed between a number of dealers, and I was lucky enough to get the bulk (reportedly) of the hoard. These fascinating little silver coins were originally sold as "Hephthalite" coins, as per attribution of the Pakistani dealers, but they are completely unpublished in any catalogue and were completely unknown until this find.

The coins were first published by Robert Tye (Tye, R., 'Dammas, Daniqs and Abd al-Malik", ONSN No.148, 1996, pp.7-10)

Mr.Wilfried Pieper, to whom I am indebted for bringing these coins to my attention, examined a group of 42 pieces and published 15 distinguishable types in a wonderful article in the Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society - 'New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004). On this page, I list the pieces described by W.Pieper, as well as 125+ other specimens, with over 40 varieties identified and described. The huge variety of different crowns on this coins, was probably incidental - each type was engraved with a new crown, as was allowed by the imagination of the celator, and such diversity was probably not intended. Despite a number of die links, close to 100 different dies can be identified - it is likely that the original issue was quite large. Despite that, very few coins had survived and the coins shown on this page represent the majority of these coins known.

The coins are fairly small - they measure only 10 to 12 millimeters in diameter (about half an inch) and weigh about 0.52 to 0.96 grams, with the weight of the average pieces being 0.6 to 0.7 grams. The obverse depicted a crowned bust of two types ("small" and "large") and the reverses are of two types - a scarcer type depicting an altar, usually flanked by attendants, and the more "common" type depicts a trident with curved prongs and a 5-letter Brahmi inscription: Sri YaShaaDiTya

The obverse:

The obverse depicts a bust of different types -

"Small head"
Large plain head:
Large head with decorations

(the position and the number of dots varies):

 

There are no inscriptions, but, very rarely, the coins show a swastika in front of the bust. The bust and the swastika (when present) are surrounded with a dotted or lined circle.

The bust is derived from the Sassanian coins - it seems to indicate that the coins are of Hunnic origin, since the Hindu rulers did not imitate the Sassanian coins at this point. The busts also exhibit certain and unmistakable Hunnic characteristics, such as the large ear and a very large ear-ring. The use of the swastika on some coins is a Hindu element, but it was used on a number of Hephthalite issues (Gobl 295). The attribution of the Pakistani dealers was probably based on this overall "Hunnic" appearance of the bust.

The reverse:

Two different types exist, an unepigraphic type with an altar on reverse and one with a trident and an inscription.

Altar type:

This is the scarcer type - most coins in the hoard were of the "trident" type. The coins of this type are not inscribed on either side, but since they were found (and since they are stylistically very similar) together with the trident "Yashaaditya" type, they are obviousely closely related.

There are two varieties of this type, one with attendants flanking the altar and one without.

No attendants

Attendants flanking the altar

The scarcer type is the one without attendants - only very few coins in the hoard were of this type.

The "fire-altar" type is one of the most popular coin types in history. Originally used by the Sassanians is was widely imitated until ca.12th century AD in India. The prototypes for the Yashaaditya coins might have been either the Sassanian coins themselves, or the Hephthalite imitations of the Sassanian coins that circulated in the area (see the tablet below with some Sassanian and Hunnic examples).

Silver drachm of Yazdgard II (438-457 AD), Sassanian Empire. Crowned bust of Yazgard right, name in Pahlavi / Pahlavi word 'nwky' (good) to right in place of mint. Mintless type. 29mm, 3.6 grams. Gobl SN I/1. (Photo and description courtesy ACC) Hephthalite silver drachm, pre-Gujarat issues, ca.550-650 AD. Sassanian-style bust right, derived from winged-type of Peroz - wearing winged skull-cap, no letter above / Altar with two attendants, crude barbarized inscriptions. 28.5mm, 3.9 grams. Rare! Mitchener 1476. (Photo and description courtesy ACC) Hephthalite silver drachm, imitation of Peroz, ca.550-650 AD, pre-Saurashtran issue. Sassanian-style bust right, derived from winged-type of Peroz - wearing winged skull-cap, no letter above / Altar with two attendants, crude barbarized inscriptions. 22mm, 4.0 grams. Pre-Saurashtran series, Mitchener 64. (Photo and description courtesy ACC)

On the coins with the attendants present, the attendants are, curiousely enough, are always depicted as seated. This is most unexpected, since the attendants are ALWAYS standing on the Sassanian prototypes. It is possible that the seated figures were inspired by the "seated Ardochsho" Kushan and Hunnic coins.

Trident type:

The other type is more common and represented the bulk of the hoard. This reverse shows a up-pointing trident with curved prongs, surrounded by 5 letters. The letters are late Brahmi script, commonly used in the 6th (and later) century AD. The inscription (lined up) is shown below.

Sri Ya Shaa Di Tya

 

It is not easy to read (I misread it when I first handled the coins and I am grateful to Wilfried Pieper for pointing out my mistake) - the letters are often retrograde and are sometimes written right to left and sometimes comlpetely out of order. Di is usually depicted laying on its' side, and is difficult to recognize. The inscription is interpreted as "Sri" - honorific title, and "Yashaaditya", probably a name or a honorific name of a person. Such a name is completely unknown, neither on any other coin or in any genealogical list. It means - "Sun of the glory". Names ending with "-aditya" are known from both the Guptas and the Hunnic people, so, unfortunately, it does not tell us much about the origin of this person.

 

Intermediate type Late type
Silver drachm, Maitrakas of Valabhi (470-800 AD), India. Bust of king in Kshatrapa or Gupta style right / Trident with curved prongs and side-arm, Brahmi legend: Rajno Mahakshatrapa ramaditya bhakta Mahasamanta Sri Sarvva Bhattarakasa. 13mm, 1.9 grams.  Mitchiner ACW 4892 - 4896. (Images and descriptions courtesy ACC).

 

The trident type is derived from the post-Gupta silver drachms of the Maitrakas of Vallabhi (see above). The intermediate issue Maitrakas drachms showed curved prongs, while the late types showed straight prongs. All the Yashaaditya coins show with curved prongs, so it is likely that the Yashaaditya coins were contemporary with the intermediate issue Maitrakas' drachms, ca.600 AD or so.

 

A note:

The types might be presenting issues from two distinct mints or workshops, or perhaps they are separated in time - the small head on the obverse is never paired with the "trident" reverse, and is always paired with the "altar" type reverse. The large decorated head is always paired with the "trident" type obverse, and is never paired with the "altar" obverse (see the table below). This suggests that the two types were not issued, but followed each other (with the ones with the altar, perhaps, being the earlier ones). The rare coins with a small head on obverse but with trident/inscriptions on reverse are probably the "transitional issues".

Head type\Reverse type

Altar type

"Altar with attendants" type

Trident with "Sri YaShaaDiTya" around type

Small head

Very rare

"Common"

Very rare

Large head, no dots

Not found

Not found

"Common"

Large head with variously placed dots

Not found

Not found

"Common"

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Catalogue:

 


1. Types with an altar without attendants

 

Crown type:

Type 1.1: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border (possible traces of an inscription or Sri in front of the bust). Rev: Fire altar, surrounded by a rayed border. 13mm, 0.6 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) unlisted type.  (photo courtesy ACC).


 

 

Crown type:

Type 1.2: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border (possible traces of an inscription or Sri in front of the bust). Rev: Fire altar, surrounded by a rayed border. 13mm, 0.6 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) unlisted type.  (photo courtesy ACC).


2. Types with an altar and attendants

 

 

 

Crown types:

 

Type 2.1: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type - (photo courtesy ACC).

Most unusual type, found in only a single example. Are those inscriptions above the "crown"?


 

 

Crown types:

 

Type 2.2: Obv: Crowned bust right (crown is formed by 4 diagonal lines rising from a line), surrounded by a rayed border. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 2 (photo courtesy ACC; Photo with the green background is courtesy W.Pieper).


Crown type:

Type 2.3: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 2var/. (Photos courtesy ACC - swastika on this piece is only partially seen, die break on reverse).


 

Crown type:

Type 2.4: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border, swastika in front of the bust. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. 13mm, 0.7 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 3. (Photo courtesy ACC - swastika on this piece is only partially seen, die break on reverse).


 

Crown type:

Type 2.5: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border. The crown is topped with a crescent with a large dot inside. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. 12mm, 0.6 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 1. (Photo courtesy ACC; Photo with the green background is courtesy W.Pieper).


 

Crown type:

Type 2.6: Obv: Crowned bust right, surrounded by a rayed border. The curved crown is topped with a crescent with a large dot inside. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. 12mm, 0.6 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 1. (Photo courtesy ACC).


 

Crown type:

Type 2.7: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with one dot inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -.

This is a very rare type, issued in the same style as the Yashaaditya coins with an altar on reverse.

The obverse on this coin is struck from the same die as one of the coins with an altar reverse. This is the link to that coin with the same obverse die. It is interesting, since it would indicate that the coin were struck at the same place in about the same time.


 

Crown type:

Type 2.8: Obv: Crowned bust right (Crown with two crescents with dots and three dots inside), surrounded by a rayed border. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. 12mm, 0.6 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 1. (Photo courtesy ACC).

The obverse on this coin is struck from the same die as one of the coins with an altar reverse. This is the link to that coin with the same obverse die. It is interesting, since it would indicate that the coin were struck at the same place in about the same time.


3. Types with a trident and "Yashaaditya"

3.1. Types with an "domed" crown

 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.1.1: Obv: Crowned bust right ("solid dome" crown, looking like a hat), surrounded by a rayed border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 12. (Photo courtesy W.Pieper)


3.2. Types with an "open" crown

 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.2.1: Obv: Crowned bust right (crown made out of a plain line), surrounded by a rayed border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -. (Photos courtesy ACC).


 

 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.2.2: Obv: Crowned bust right (crown made up of a simple line and three crescents, each with a dot inside, no border (?). Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 4. (Photo courtesy ACC).


 

 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.2.3: Obv: Crowned bust right (crown made up of a simple line and three dots), no border (?). Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 4. (Photo courtesy ACC).


 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.2.4: Obv: Crowned bust right (crown made up of a simple line and six dots, variously arranged), lined border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 10. (Photos courtesy ACC).


 

Crown type:

  and

Type 3.2.5: Obv: Crowned bust right (crown made up of a simple line and six dots, variously arranged), dotted or lined border (?). Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 10. (Photos courtesy ACC).


3.3. Types with an "open rectangle" crown

 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.1: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with one dot inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -.

This is a very rare type, issued in the same style as the Yashaaditya coins with an altar on reverse.

 

The obverse on this coin is struck from the same die as one of the coins with an altar reverse. This is the link to that coin with the same obverse die. It is interesting, since it would indicate that the coin were struck at the same place in about the same time.


Crown type:

Type 3.3.2: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with one dot inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -.(Photos courtesy ACC).


 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.3: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with three dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 6 (Photos courtesy ACC, the photo with a green background is courtesy W.Pieper).

The type with three dots is the most "common" type of all Yashaaditya coins


 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.4: Obv: Crowned bust left ("open rectangle" crown with three dots inside), surrounded by a dotted or rayed (?) border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 11. (Photos courtesy ACC, the photo with a green background is courtesy W.Pieper).

These coins with a left-facing bust are rare and are of the crudest manufacture - the inscription is very crude and is usually incomplete.


 

 

Crown type:

and

Type 3.3.5: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with four dots inside, variously arranged), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 7. (Photos courtesy ACC).

Some specimens show traces of an inscription ("Sri"?) in front of the bust on obverse.

The image of the coin with a green background is courtesy W.Pieper. At a first glance, it looks like the crown on the obverse is shaped like a cap, but the top part of this cap is simply the dotted border of the coin, and this type is the "open rectangle" type.


   

Crown types:

 

Type 3.3.6: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with five dots inside, variously arranged), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 9. (Photos courtesy ACC; Photo with the green background is courtesy W.Pieper).


 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.3.7: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with six dots inside, variously arranged), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -. (Photos courtesy ACC).


 

Crown type:

 

Type 3.3.8: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with a crescent with a dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 4 (this coin). (Photo courtesy W.Pieper).


Crown type:

Type 3.3.9: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with an additional horizontal line and without any dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -.


 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.10: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with an additional horizontal line and one dot inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -.


 

 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.11: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with an additional horizontal line and three dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -. (Photo courtesy ACC).

The type with three dots is the most "common" type of all Yashaaditya coins


Crown type:

Type 3.3.12: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with an additional horizontal line and three dots inside), swastika in front of it, surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -. (Photo courtesy ACC).


Crown type:

Type 3.3.13: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with three dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border, swastika in front of the bust. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 5 (this coin). (Photo courtesy W.Pieper)


 

 

Crown types:

Type 3.3.14: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with an additional horizontal line and four dots inside, variously arranged), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -. (Photo courtesy ACC).


Crown type:

Type 3.3.15: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with an additional horizontal line and six dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 10. (Photo courtesy ACC; Photo with the green background is courtesy W.Pieper).


Crown type:

Type 3.3.16: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown made out of variously arranged lines, sometimes with an additional horizontal line), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type -. (Photo courtesy ACC).


 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.17: Obv: Crowned bust right (Crown with two crescents with dots and three dots inside), surrounded by a rayed border. The crown is topped with a crescent with a large dot inside. Rev: Fire altar flanked by two seated attendants, surrounded by a rayed border. 12mm, 0.6 grams. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 1. (Photo courtesy ACC).

 

The obverse on this coin is struck from the same die as one of the coins with an altar reverse. This is the link to that coin with the same obverse die. It is interesting, since it would indicate that the coin were struck at the same place in about the same time.


 

Crown type:

Type 3.3.18: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown made out of variously arranged lines, sometimes with an additional horizontal line), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 15. (Photo courtesy ACC).


Crown type:

Type 3.3.19: Obv: Crowned bust right ("open rectangle" crown with a crescent and dot inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 4var(?). (Photo courtesy ACC)


3.4. Types with a "turreted" crown

 

Crown type:

Type 3.4.1: Obv: Crowned bust right ("turreted" type, without any dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 14. (Photo courtesy ACC)


Crown type:

Type 3.4.2: Obv: Crowned bust right ("turreted" type, with three dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 15var. (Photo courtesy ACC; Photo with the green background is courtesy W.Pieper)


Crown type:

Type 3.4.3: Obv: Crowned bust right ("turreted" type, with four dots inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 15var. (Photo courtesy ACC)


 

Crown type:

Type 3.4.4: Obv: Crowned bust right ("turreted" type, with four dots inside), swastika in front of the bust, surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 8 (this coin). (Photo courtesy W.Pieper)


 

Crown type:

Type 3.4.5: Obv: Crowned bust right ("turreted" type, with a large dot inside), surrounded by a dotted border. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 14 (this coin). (Photo courtesy W.Pieper)

 


3.5. Types without crowns (?)

Crown type:

  or similar

Type 3.5.1: Obv: Bust right, with a large hair knot (?), no border (?). Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. Pieper's New types of early medieval silver portrait coins from northern Pakistan' in ONS-NL 181 (2004) type 13. (Photo courtesy ACC; Photo with the green background is courtesy W.Pieper).



4. Coins of uncertain varieties

 

 

Left-facing bust, double struck

Many examples are struck off-center, and the exact varieties cannot be determined

Type 3.5: Obv: Crowned bust right. Rev: Trident with a surrounding Brahmi inscription YaShaaDiTya. (Photos courtesy ACC).



 

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