Ethiopia is a landlocked nation in northeast Africa. Like all nations, barter and trade between tribes and individuals took place in ancient times. Acceptable items of trade included salt bars called amoles, cloths, and iron bars (Pankhurst). Each of these items were useful in their own right, and the laws of supply and demand determined the value of each tradable good.
That system of trade continued up to WWII. Along the way Ethiopians incorporated Middle Eastern as well as Mediterranean, and eventually European coinage. In 1894 Ethiopia developed a national currency, but that did not exclude the use of amoles, cloth, iron or foreign monies in barter and trade.
Invaded by Italian forces during WWII, Ethiopia aka Abyssinia used Italian coinage until 1941. During the Spring, Ethiopian, Somali, Kenyan, Sudanese, Indian and British forces expelled all Italian forces from the region (Imperial). In March the exiled Emperor Haile Selassie returned from Bath, England. His bust is engraved on many Ethiopian coins.
In addition to being the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie claims lineage from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba through is paternal grandmother. As such his biblical ties are also familial. Rastafarians see Haile Selassie as an incarnation of God. In the faith, he is the chosen one who will lead Africans and the African diaspora to freedom. The lion on the coins is the Lion of Judah with the emperor’s scepter and crown.
In 1969, Ethiopia added a new coin design. The new coinage retained the Lion with a new focus on the ferocity of the lion’s roar. There are three types of Roaring Lion coins, one in gold-tone, one in two-tone, and one in silver-tone.
Stuart Devlin from Australia created the engraving used on these Roaring Lion coins. He was lauded as a master craftsman in Australia and the world at large for his contributions to art and design. In addition to coins the master metal-smith also created Olympic Medals, Medals of Honor, designed furniture, interiors, and collectible Christmas boxes. He died in 2018, but his art lives on.
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Pankhurst, Richard. “Primitive money in Ethiopia.” In: Journal de la Société des Africanistes, 1962, tome 32, fascicule 2. pp. 213-216.
Imperial War Museums. “How Italy was defeated in East Africa in 1941.” https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-italy-was-defeated-in-east-africa-in-1941