Securely tucked away behind the formidable Ark walls, the Khan's mint produced the entire currency of the region until the 1920's. Before this, Bukharan coins held sway since Bukhara possessed greater clout as a more prosperous region. However early in the nineteenth century Mohammed Rakhim Khan fought a victorious campaign in Bukhara where he avenged the murder of his father and pillaged the entire city. He returned with camels tottering under huge sacks of gold which were minted into Khiva's own currency, the tenge. These coins were made of pure gold or silver and today are highly prized by local women, who have them melted down and made into the distinctive Khorezm earrings which are unique to the Oasis. The mint's craftsmen were usually drawn from the foreign slave population, who were apprenticed at an early age and forbidden to marry lest their family responsibilities drove them to dip their fingers into the Khan's coffers.
From 1913 silk money was also made in the mint and, apparently, the Khiva Khanate was the only region apart from China to produce silk notes. The first notes were made from yellow Chinese silk with the edges neatly sewn down by Singer sewing machines. After the revolution blue silk rubles were introduced, bearing a Soviet star, corn sheaves plus a hammer and sickle. At that time money laundering had a completely different connotation from today as the silk notes, which were quickly dirtied through the exchange of many hands, were simply washed and re-used. The influence of imperial Russia eventually replaced the silk money with paper although the silk currency retained a symbolic value, being sown into elaborate, flowing jackets and bedspreads. These were given as wedding presents to bring the newly married prosperity and allowed the showy to, quite literally, wear their former wealth for all to see.
By the 1920's the Khanate had been superseded by the Khorezm People's Soviet Republic and the mint was put to a suitably proletariat use, producing 63 Workers medals in 1922. Comrade Lenin was presented with the first of these which, interestingly enough, was one of only two medals he ever received and so was continually worn. An original Workers medal can still be seen in the Arab Mohammed Khan Madrassah.
The original Khan's mint was probably situated in the current Ark excavation area while the present replica stands on the site of former toilets. Inside there is a mock-up of the mint alongside displays of various coins, bank notes, printing blocks and medals.