Once anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha became acceptable and replaced the aniconic symbols previously used to indicate his presence, they became the primary cult images. Under the Kushan king and important Buddhist patron Kunishka I, during the first quarter of the 2nd century, coins bearing his image together with that of Buddha on the obverse were issued for the first time.
Examples of this type are extremely rare. J. Cribb, in 'A re-examination of the Buddha images on the coins of King Kanishka: New light on the origins of the Buddha image in Gandharan art', Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia, 1985, pp. 59-87, describes a total of 23 representations and has identified only six representations of a standing Shakyamuni Buddha, of which this is likely type D1; compare also with E. Errington and J. Cribb (eds.), The Crossroads of Asia, 1992, cat. nos. 197-99.
The depiction of Buddha is frontal, in slight tribhanga, as opposed to the convention of depicting gods or kings on coins with face in profile, as the coin makers were most likely adhering to sculptural prototypes conceived as frontal images. The variations of images indicate that during the reign of Kanishka I a canon of sculptural images was already in existence, thus providing important evidence for the chronology and development of Gandharan sculpture. It further represents an important step in the history of Buddhism, fittingly placing Buddha on the face of a coin reserved for gods for the first time.