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The Last Days of the Ottomans


Category: Turkey
Set Type: Muhammed VI, Standard Coinage Type Set, AH1336//1-AH1336//4, (1918), Mint State
Owner: Mohawk
Last Modified: 2/5/2019
Views: 19

Rank: 4
Score: 1642
Leading by: N/A
Points to Higher Rank: 27
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Set Description:

I love coins that are the end of an era, and this whole Type Set contains some of the most historically significant and beautiful end of an era coinage ever issued. These are the coinage types issued by Mehmed VI Vahideddin, the final Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Though some sources refer to him as Muhammad VI, which is not incorrect, I prefer to use the Ottoman Turkish version of his name as this is undoubtedly how he thought of himself.

The story of this set begins with the end of the First World War. World War I had caused the deaths of three empires by 1918: in chronological order they were the Russian (1917) the Austro-Hungarian (1918) and the German (1918). The Ottoman Empire survived the war, but it was a ghost of its former self. It consisted only of the territory which is now the Republic of Turkey and was quickly moving toward being occupied and partitioned by the victorious Allies. The Ottoman Empire had scored some serious victories during the war and had made some moves that had seriously embarrassed the Allies, particularly the British Empire. Now the Allies intended to make the Ottomans pay the price.

Mehmed VI Vahideddin inherited the throne, the war and the Young Turk Triumverate of the Three Pashas when his brother Mehmed V Reshat died on July 3 1918. By this time, the war was unwinnable and the Ottoman Empire and their main ally, Germany, were on very poor terms due to fighting among the two empires over territory in Russia and the fact that the Ottoman Empire did not declare war on the United States when it declared war on Germany in 1917. There was very little the new Mehmed could do other than let the war play out to the end, which it did in October of 1918 for the Ottoman Empire. Mehmed dismissed the Three Pashas, who fled in November of 1918 and took control of the government. This move brought the constitutional Ottoman Empire back to an absolute monarchal form of government for its last years.

Once the war ended, Mehmed undertook a policy of placating the Allies in all things, allowing for the occupation of Constantinople. In 1920, Mehmed's government signed the Treaty of Sevres, which essentially gave the Allies a green light in partitioning and occupying what was left of the Ottoman Empire. This move could have easily spelled the end of the Turkish nation altogether.

A new leader, famous Ottoman General Mustafa Kemal Pasha, was unwilling to stand by and let the treaty signed by Mehmed's government kill his nation. He set to work building a new Turkish nation out of the wreckage, reuniting the remainder of the Young Turk Movement with the addition of many everyday people who were willing to fight for the life of their nation, sparking the Turkish War of Independence which lasted from 1919-1923. Eventually, it came to be that Mustafa Kemal's government ruled most of the remaining Ottoman lands while Mehmed's government only ruled in Constantinople and the immediate outskirts. It became clear to all involved that the Ottoman government was no longer viable.

The actual fighting in the Turkish War of Independence ended in October of 1922, with the Armistice of Mudanya. Mustafa Kemal's Turkish Nationalists had won and were the masters of the Turkish nation. Mehmed VI was deposed when the Sultanate was abolished the next month, officially spelling the end of the Ottoman Empire in all but name. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne would make the succession of the Republic of Turkey official. Mehmed VI, and the rest of the Ottoman Family, went into exile. Mehmed himself died in exile in San Remo, Italy in 1926 at the age of 65.

Though Mehmed VI Vahideddin only reigned for slightly over four years, some very interesting coinage was minted during those years. All of the silver coins of Mehmed VI Vahideddin are rare, and those dated 1336/2 (1919) are among the premier rarities of all Ottoman coinage. The 1336/4 (1921) 40 Para is easily the most available coinage issue of Mehmed VI Vahideddin as it is relatively easy to obtain in circulated grades but it too becomes scarce in Mint State. It is also the strangest issue among the coinage of Mehmed VI Vahideddin (see the set for details!) There were also gold coins issued during Mehmed VI Vahideddin’s short reign, but these are not included in the set and they are arguably the least interesting coins from the last Sultan as the first years are essentially common date issues and the last years are so rare as to be impossible. Gold coins were used in international payments, including war reparations, which probably accounts for the high mintages even right at the end.

A full set of Mehmed VI Vahideddin’s coinage is all but impossible, but it is a difficult but achievable goal as a type collection as all of the silver types were made for both 1336/1 (1918) and 1336/2 (1919). While the 1336/1 coins had small mintages as well, they were minted in the tens of thousands, not simply the low thousands like the 1336/2 issues. So, please sit back and take a look at the numismatic survivors of the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

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