Hitting dealers just a short while ago after a period of great anticipation, the Mint of Poland’s beautiful Imperial Art: Mesopotamia coin was one of the best art-architecture coins to be released last year. We’ve already covered the coin in some detail in an earlier post, so won’t go over the details again.

At last weekends World Money Fair in Berlin, we were fortunate to stay in a hotel right by Berlin’s famous Museum Island, upon which sits the world-famous Pergamon and Neues museums. The former has one of the most amazing artifacts in the world today, the reconstructed Ishtar Gate from 575B.C. built by the famous King Nebuchadnezzar II, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to have a direct look at the inspiration behind the coin.

We’ve broken down some of the key design elements of the coin and tried to match them up with what we saw at the museums in Berlin. You might notice nothing about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and that’s because they’re not conclusively proven to have ever existed. Certainly no location or contemporary accounts have been discovered, so as far as we’re concerned it’s an unsubstantiated story until evidence appears. It’s a shame that the Ishtar Gate hasn’t taken its place as one of the seven ancient wonders, as it’s magnificent, and exists.

If you ever holiday in Berlin, take time out to see these museums as not only are they full of superb quality artefacts, they’re not overloaded or cluttered, leaving it easy to view unhindered. Just enough as they say, and presented to perfection.

At the bottom of the article there’s a deal on the coin from the US distributor, so take a look if you want one of these beautiful coins.


The Ishtar Gate is one of the most famous artifacts in the world and for good reason; it’s stunning. Constructed using glazed bricks with alternating rows of dragons (mušḫuššu) and bulls (aurochs), all done in a bas-relief style, the richly coloured gate in blue and gold also carries a huge inscription from the king that ordered it built around 575 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar II (yes, Neo’s ship name in the Matrix movies wasn’t a made-up word).

Amazingly, this is the smaller, outer gate, and the much larger inner one is in storage by the museum as it’s just too large to display unfortunately.

As you can see above-left, the gate is a prominent part of the coins reverse side and the wikipedia-sourced image above-right gives you a good loo at the inside of the gate. Unfortunately, the museum is undergoing some restoration work and the current exhibit is partially covered by scaffold, as you can see from our image below.

Excavated between 1902-1914 by regarded German archaeologist Robert Johann Koldewey, it was rebuilt in Berlin in the 30’s and stands 14 m high and 30 m wide. There are numerous examples of the bulls and dragons in museums around the world, and they’re well worth seeking out if you’re in the vicinity of one.

Below-left you can see the original excavation and a model of the gate that clearly shows the inner and outer openings. The small frontal one is the one in the Pergamon. Below-right is one of the bas-relief bulls fabricated in glazed brick to amazing effect. There were literally scores of these, including Lions in the long walkway leading up to the gate. Hard to believe they’re twenty-five centuries old.


The top of the reverse of the coin carries a reproduction of cuneiform, a system of writing produced using a stylus, often made from a blunt reed. While there are many stone-carved examples, it was predominantly used in clay tablets like the one from the Pergamon we saw, pictured left. As a system of writing, it was already around 2,500 years old at the time the Ishtar Gate was built, although in an earlier form, as like all writing, it evolved through use and time.

It’s estimated that between 500,000 and 2 million cuneiform tablets have been excavated, with only around 5% ever having been read in modern times. The British Museum has the world’s largest collection at around 130,000 tablets. Who knows what’s written upon them. Perhaps the weird ones are right and there’s an account of an alien visit amongst them….


An Assyrian protective deity, it is usually depicted having a human head, eagles wings and a lion (or bull’s) body. First seen in this form around 1100BC, the Lamassu (protective spirit) were well known in Mesopotamian culture and were used at the entrances of palaces and cities. From the front they appear to be standing, yet from the side appear to be walking. At left is a close up of the hind legs of one of the pair we saw in Berlin, at right a view from the front. Incredibly imposing.


The obverse of the coin is mostly given over to the palace of Sargon II, built from 713 BC at a location 20 km north of Nineveh at the foot of the Gebel Musri. This new residence city, Dur-Sarruken, (House of Sargon, or Sargon’s Fortress) was not built on an existing site, but was wholly new. Huge in scope, it was to be the largest city in Assyria at almost three square kilometres and had seven gates in the fortification walls. Perfectly symmetrical as there was no need to encompass previous construction, it was barely finished when Sargon was killed in battle.

Sargon’s new palace was built to a scale and quality not matched by his predecessors, and was covered in relief scenes of his many victories, including the sack of Musasir that helped pay for his new city. Many exist in the Louvre and in the Baghdad Museum, but not in Berlin sadly, although the relief of Sargon II at left is from the Pergamon.

As for Dur-Sarruken, it was seen as a bad omen upon Sargon’s death and abandoned by the Royal Court. No monuments or acknowledgement  was given by Sargon’s son, Sennacherib, and what we know of him comes from his own inscriptions and from later chroniclers.


The coin still has a few units available from the tiny 500 mintage (half that of a Tiffany) and we’ve also been sent a video of the actual coin by the US distributor, First Coin Co. They have the coin in stock at $374.90 USD including worldwide shipping, but if you enter the code MESO12 you’ll get a nice 8% off. The page can be found HERE. Nice touch is a guaranteed refund of any customs and import duties.