Israel Trade Coins

Israel's First Coin. BY DAVID T. ALEXANDER 


It would be easy to draw up a list of great world rarities - coins that would strain a king's treasury to buy. Fascination can come, however, not only from great rarity and dazzling price records but also from the story a coin can tell and from the historical context in which it was written. Coins have been eyewitnesses to the stirring and often violent events of the just past century. Coins testify to the birth or death of nations, recall vanished rulers and regimes, and bring revolutions and conquests into your hands. 

At the opening of the 20th century, the name Israel was found only in the Bible or as a collective word for the Jewish people in exile. After the founding of Zionism by Budapest-born journalist Theodor Herzl, vast effort was expended in establishing what Britain's Balfour Declaration called a "National Home for the Jewish People" in what had been the neglected backwater of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine. 

Despite growing Arab and British opposition, Jewish immigration accelerated in response to Hitler's wartime genocide in Europe. Unable to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict, the British withdrew in May 1948, after the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Zionist leadership proclaimed the State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Already under attack by Arab irregulars, the new nation repelled several Arab regular armies, emerging with greatly increased territory after three waves of struggle.

To the new Jewish State, coinage had an unusually poignant significance. A start was made toward a new Jewish coinage during the 1948 fighting in the Mechsav cutlery factory in Tel Aviv's industrial suburb of Holon. The fall story of this coinage emerged only after the present writer's on-the-spot research during the 1979 American Israel Numismatic Association study tour to Israel. 

Yosef Gannoy of Mechsaf modified a Bridgeport-built cutlery stamping press to hold coinage dies cut by Saloh Kluegermann, brother of the firm's owner. Moshe Neudorfer of the new Israel Treasury brought the reverse (value-side) die to the factory every working day and a slow, laborious striking commenced. 

The 25 mils was a 30mm coin of 97 percent aluminum, 3 percent magnesium, bearing a plain edge. The obverse depicted a bunch of grapes taken from a bronze prutah of Herod Archelaus (circa 4 B.C.). The stylized reverse wreath was adapted from coins of John Hyrkanos (135-104 B.C.) and was used in the later prutah series. 

The exact number of coins bearing the Hebrew date 5708 (1948) is unknown, but certainly small. Little attention was paid to such details in the midst of war. A substantially greater number was struck dated 5709 (1949). The coins' overall quality disappointed the Treasury, and they were released only because of the serious coin shortage following the British withdrawal and the following war.

1948. 25 Mils. KM-8. 30mm (97% aluminum, 3% magnesium), 3.1gr to 3.8gr. Smooth edge, beaded rim. Jerusalem/Holon Mint. First coin of a Jewish Commonwealth since the Bar-Kochba revolt (132-135 CE). The only coin of Israel dated "5708" - 1948. Mintage: 42,650. Ultra Rare Coin in MS Grade. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two stylized olive branches the inscription "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic and the year of issue in Hebrew. "5708". Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions. "Open" Clam above "25 Mils". Spectacular. NGC MS-64. 

 

The Anglo-Palestine Bank Ltd., which prepared the first banknotes even before the State was declared, did not prepare coins. The first steps toward issuing coins were taken by the State itself after its establishment. It was done very quickly, after realizing that there was a shortage of British Mandate coins, which were then in circulation.

Israel's government requested proposals for the design of a new coin series from the Israel Numismatics Society. Until those were ready, a coin with a value of 25 mil was issued. The term "mil" was carried over from the British Mandate. The first coin in the new series, a 50 pruta coin, was only entered into circulation on May 11, 1949.

The minting year 5708 (1948) appears only on 25 mil coins which were minted in Jerusalem; those printed in Holon bear the minting year 5709 (1949). Date of issue: 6th of April, 1949

 

Contemporary written information on the exact location of the Mints is sketchy and contradictory. It is presumed that an initial unsuccessful batch of coins dated 5708/1948 was minted at a workshop in the Hakirya compound in Tel Aviv (the former German Templer colony of Sarona). The balance of 5708/1948-dated coins was minted at the Michsaf cutlery factory in Holon, a fact which is well documented. Michsaf also minted a large quantity of coins dated 5709/1949, probably the "Open link" variety. Several sources indicate that a sizeable number of coins were minted in Jerusalem, but no written documentation about the location and name of the Mint is available.

25 Mils - Israel's First Coins and Varieties

1948. 25 Mils. KM-8. 30mm (97% aluminum, 3% magnesium), 3.1gr to 3.8gr. Smooth edge, beaded rim. Jerusalem/Holon Mint. First coin of a Jewish Commonwealth since the Bar-Kochba revolt (132-135 CE). The only coin of Israel dated "5708" - 1948. Mintage: 42,650. Ultra Rare Coin in MS Grade. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two stylized olive branches the inscription "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic and the year of issue in Hebrew. "5708". Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions. "Open" Clam above "25 Mils". Spectacular. NGC MS-63.

1948. 25 Mils. KM-8. 30mm (97% aluminum, 3% magnesium), 3.1gr to 3.8gr. Smooth edge, beaded rim. Jerusalem/Holon Mint. First coin of a Jewish Commonwealth since the Bar-Kochba revolt (132-135 CE). The only coin of Israel dated "5708" - 1948. Mintage: 42,650. Ultra Rare Coin in MS Grade. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two stylized olive branches the inscription "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic and the year of issue in Hebrew. "5708". Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions. "Open" Clam above "25 Mils". Spectacular. NGC MS-63.

1948. Israel. Trial strike of KM-8. Israel's first Coin, struck in aluminum. KM-8. 30mm, 3.3gr. Mintage: 42,650. Obv: The denomination "25 Mil" in Hebrew and Arabic; date in Hebrew below; two stylized olive branches around, based off of coins struck during the Bar-Kochba Revolt (132-135 CE). Rev: Uniface.. There is debate as to weather a few dozen to about 100 struck. PCGS AU-58.
 
The uniface strikes were reportedly struck while testing the dies one at a time. It has also been stated that these are actual errors, when the obverse die had been removed for security purposes and not replaced when the striking was resumed. They have been known to be counterfeited. On the original strike there are small raised dots on the blank side in repetitive alignments. On the counterfeit coins these do not appear as they have been buffed on the obverse.. According to estimates, there are 30-40 units Of the coin known to exist. PCGS, AU-58.. Very rare.

1948. 25 Mils. 30mm. Israel's first year coin. KM-8. Mintage: 42,650. Ultra Rare Coin in MS Grade. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two olive branches  "25 Mils" in Herbrew and Arabic. Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions. "Open" Clam above "25 Mils". Rotated Dies. Scarce. NGC XF-45.

1949. KM-8 . JY-5709 (1949). Jerusalem Mint. 25 Mils. Israel's first coin as a modern state, officially released in circulation on April 6, 1949. Open link variety: "Open" Clam above "25 Mils". Mintage: 650,000 (including open/closed link varieties). Edge: Plain. Diameter: 30mm. Weight: 3.3 gm. Rim: Pearled. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two olive branches  "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic. Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions and tough to find in mint state. NGC MS-64.

1949. KM-8. JY-5709 (1949). Jerusalem Mint. 25 Mils. Israel's first coin as a modern state, officially released in circulation on April 6, 1949. Open link variety: "Open" Clam above "25 Mils". Mintage: 650,000 (including open/closed link varieties). Edge: Plain. Diameter: 30mm. Weight: 3.3 gm. Rim: Pearled. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two olive branches  "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic. Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions and tough to find in mint state. Reverse rotated die 45 Degrees. Rare in this condition. PCGS MS-63.

KM-8 . JY-5709 (1949). Jerusalem Mint. 25 Mils. Israel's first coin as a modern state, officially released in circulation on April 6, 1949. Closed link variety: "Closed" Clam above "25 Mils". Mintage: 650,000 (including open/closed link varieties). Edge: Plain. Diameter: 30mm. Weight: 3.3 gm. Rim: Pearled. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two olive branches "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic. Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions and tough to find in mint state. NGC MS-62.
 
KM-8 . JY-5709 (1949). Jerusalem Mint. 25 Mils. Israel's first coin as a modern state, officially released in circulation on April 6, 1949. Half link variety: Half Clam above "25 Mils". Mintage: 650,000 (including all open/closed link varieties). Edge: Plain. Diameter: 30mm. Weight: 3.3 gm. Rim: Pearled. Obv: Cluster of grapes with tendril and leaf, "Israel" in Hebrew above, Arabic below. Rev: Between two olive branches "25 Mils" in Hebrew and Arabic. Short Lived Coin, minted under difficult conditions and tough to find in mint state. NGC MS-61. 
 

1949. Israel. 500 Prutah. 38mm, 25gr. Mintage: 33,812. Obv: Branch with three stylized pomegranates in center; "Israel" in Hebrew above, in Arabic below. Rev: Wreath of stylized olive branches; in center, "500 Prutah" in Hebrew. No Pearl occurs in the 500 Prutah type. PCGS MS-67.

1954. KM-19, Utrecht Mint. 25.6mm. Mintage: 20,000. Obv: In center, seven-branched palmtree with two clusters of dates; "Israel" in Hebrew above, and Arabic below. Rev: Smaller Wreath of stylized olive branches, further from the edge; in center, "100 Prutah" in Hebrew. No Pearl Variety since the master dies did not contain the design. Different Date (1954). Berries on the wreath are smaller, and closer in, almost touching wreath at the top. Zeros in "100" are narrower and taller. Only 1,000 estimated to survive as the coin was withdrawn from circulation shortly after issue when it was found similar to 50 Prutah coins. Difference between Utrecht and Berne dies was only found in 1960, three years after coins release in 1957. NGC MS-63.

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