Saudi Arabian Gold Coins

One of the more interesting options for coin collectors is Saudi gold coins. While Saudi Arabia is famous for its wealth, most of that wealth is in the form of oil, not gold. Like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia originally formed from the unification of smaller states: In this case, it was the union of Nejd, Al Hasa, Hejaz, and Asir in the year 1932. While the Kingdom does have its own mint, it has no significant gold reserves. While many Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates use the dirham, the basic unit of Saudi Arabian currency is the Riyal, which is commonly abbreviated SAR.

What's the Difference Between Bullion and Numismatic Value?

Anyone collecting coins needs to understand the difference between bullion value and numismatic value. This is the core factor that determines the investment value of a coin. In general, you pay a higher premium, the difference between the buying and selling price, on numismatic coins than bullion coins.

  • Bullion Value: Bullion value depends on one thing and one thing only: precious metals. It's based on the amount and purity of the gold or silver in the coin.
  • Numismatic Value: Numismatic value is based on extrinsic factors such as the condition and rarity of the piece. It's a lot harder to quantify, and is generally more important to currency collectors than investors.

Which Saudi Arabian Gold Coins are Collectible?

Even though the Saudi mint only struck one coin in gold, there are actually two such coins associated with Saudi Arabia:

  • Saudi Guinea: Originally issued in 1950, or the Islamic year 1370 after the Hejira, this coin was based on the British sovereign. It is approximately 22 millimeters in diameter and weighs very slightly under eight grams. There was a second issue of the same coin in 1957. While the first issue struck in Pakistan, the 1957 release was the product of the Saudi Royal Mint in Mecca. It remains the only gold coin officially struck by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Like many Arabic coins, the guinea features a calligraphic rather than representational design. In addition to its guinea valuation, it also bore the denomination of 40 SAR.
  • ARAMCO 4 Pound Coin: Struck by the United States in Philadelphia in the years 1945-46, they contained 0.94 ounces of gold or the equivalent of four gold sovereigns. Intended for ARAMCO to pay royalties to the government of Saudi Arabia, few of these coins went into circulation, and the majority were eventually melted down. It did not bear a riyal face value.

Current Saudi Currency

Prior to the formation of Saudi Arabia the riyal was the currency of the Kingdom of Hejaz, with a smaller unit known as the ghirsh, or qirsh. The ghirsh phased out as a unit of currency in 1963. The Saudi Riyal divides into 100 halalas, which serve the same function as cents in other countries. Halala coins come in 50, 25, 10, and 5 halala denominations. The Saudi Arabian Monetary agency is phasing out small denomination notes in favor of copper-nickel riyal coins. These replace the earlier silver riyals such as those minted between 1935 and 1954.