The Last King Of Afghanistan: 5 Afghanis (Afghanistan, 1961/1340)-Article

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

This coin is pre-revolution 5 Afghani, dated 1961. It represents the 3rd denomination of the Afghani Series 1961. The coin features a reed-edged design, is made of a nickel clad steel and weighs 8.04 g. Its dimensions are 29 mm (1.14 in) wide and 1.96 mm (0.077 in) thick. Most notably the coin uses a double date, in both the Persian Lunar (1381) and Solar (1340) calendars.


The observe features Mohammed Zahir Shah (1914-2007), the last King of Afghanistan. Who was overthrown in the “White Coup of 1973”, by his cousin and former Prime Minster Mohammed Daoud Khan (1909-1978). Creating the short-lived Republic of Afghanistan (1973-1978), which ended with the Soviet-supported Saur Revolution (1978).

The coin's text is minted in Dari, in Perso-Arabic script. The coin's text reads "محمد ظاهر * دافغانستان", translated as “Mohammed Zahir * Afghanistan”. The observe a double date expressed in eastern Arabic Numeral (Persian variant). The date to the right (۱۳۴۰/1340) represents the Persian solar calendar, while the left represents the lunar calendar (۱۳۸۱/1381). When adjusted, both dates are as represented as 1961, in the Common Era calendar.


The reverse is relatively sparse, at its center is a large “۵" (5 in standard numerals). Which is confirmed in Pashto the coins upper and lower text. Expressed as “پنج“ and "افغانی “, which translates to “Five” and “Afghanis” respectively. The reverse features a pair of large curving spikes of wheat, wreathing the center “۵" (5) repressing the coin's value.

The Last King Of Afghanistan

Born Zahir Shah on 15 October 1914, in the Afghan village of Deh Afghanan (now downtown Kabul). Zahir Shah was the son of Mohammed Nadir Shah and Mah Parwar Begum. His father, a senior member of the Mohammadzai Royal family, served as commander in chief of the Afghan Army. Under the short-reigned King Amanullah Khan, who ruled from 1919-1926. His mother a Persian-speaking woman, served as Queen Consort of Afghanistan from 1929-1933.

His father assumed the throne after the assassination of Habibullāh Kalakāni. Who seized the throne from Amanullah Khan during the Afghan Civil War (1928-1929). Nadir Shah (his father) served as king until his assassination by Abdul Khaliq Hazara, 1933. Thus beginning the reign of Zahir Shah, at age 19.

As per royal custom Zahir Shah adopted the name Mohammad, thus becoming Mohammed Zahir Shah. Mohammed Zahir's was known for its decentralization of power. His paternal uncles Mohammad Hashim Khan (1884-1953) and Shah Mahmoud Khan (1890-1959) served as his Prime Ministers.

This period was marked by an expansion of Afghanistan's diplomatic relations. In 1934, Afghanistan joined the League of Nations and gained formal recognition from the United States. Despite these diplomatic relations Afghanistan managed to remain neutral during World War II (1939-1945). Although they did maintained trade relations with both the Axis and Allies.

From 1944-1947 Afghanistan underwent a number of tribal revolts, known as the Khost Disturbances. Afghanistan's lack of preparedness in the conflict, motivated a push for modernization. Leading to mass recruitment of foreign advisers and requests for foreign aid. Controversially making request for aid to both the US and Soviet Union.

In 1963, Zahir Shah assumed self-rule in a controversial effort at modernization. Introducing a new constitution in 1964, simply know as the 1964 Constitution. Introducing the concept of a modern democratic state. Including free parliamentary elections, civil rights, women's rights, and universal suffrage. Creating outrage from rural traditionalist, monarchist, and the Afghan military.

While recuperating in Italy, after receiving medical aid in London (UK). Zahir Shah was overthrown in the non-violent “White Coup of 1973”, by his cousin and former Prime Minster Mohammed Daoud Khan (1909-1978). Establishing the Republic of Afghanistan (1973-1978), while Zahir Shah remained exiled in Italy for 29 years.

During this period Daoud Khan was assassinated in 1978, during Saur Revolution. Creating the Soviet-supported Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Followed by the 1979 Soviet intervention beginning the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989). After the collapse of Soviet Union (1991), Zahir Shah was favored to unify Afghanistan.

Although was blocked from returning by Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). Concerning his stance on the British imposed 1893 Durand Line. Over fears the issue would threaten Pakistan's political sovereignty. In addition being in conflict with the ISI's trained proxy, the Taliban. Which were overthrown during US invasion of Afghanistan.

Zahir Shah finally return to Afghanistan 18 April 2002, at the age of 87. He arrived on an Italian military transport at Kabul Airport, where he was greeted by Afghan President Hamid Karzai (1959-?). On 23 July 2007, Zahir Shah died at the Afghan Presidential Palace compound, in Kabul. His rule is remember as a period of relative peace.

Size Comparison

A 5 Afghani coin with US Half Dollar for comparison.

Additional Notes

  • In Afghanistan, local dialects of Persian are known collectively as Dari. Outside of Afghanistan, Dari is alternatively known as Afghan Persian.

  • The Persian Solar Calendar is the official calendar of Iran and Afghanistan, it begins on the Spring Equinox. Years are divided into 12 months (29-31 days long), one year is 365-366 days long.

  • The Persian Lunar Calendar is a direct copy of the Arab Lunar Calendar. Which is divided into 12 lunar months and 364-365 days.

  • The coin's wheat spikes are likely meant to represent Khorasan wheat, an ancient species grown in Afghanistan and Iran.

  • Khorasan wheat receives its name from the Persian providence, although it's origin is currently unknown.

  • Khorasan wheat produces gains twice the size of modern wheat species, producing larger yields during drier seasons.

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