Numismatics: The hobby of kings

Numismatics:  The hobby of kings
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/19/2019 5:42:09 AM IST

 For those born around the time India gained independence, ‘annas’ was a term commonly used to denote coin denominations. An anna is 1/16th of a rupee. To be more precise, 1 anna is 6.25 paise. 4 annas are equal to 25 paise and 8 annas are equal to 50 paise. Next came the paise, a hundred of which made a rupee.  Those born pre independence till the early or may be even the mid- nineties would have seen and used a variety of coins. 

The usage of coins dates back to the fifth and sixth century BC in ancient Greece. The first Roman ruler Augustus Ceaser in his reign between 31 B. C and 14 A.D collected coins from Ancient Greece and other shores or lands.  He even presented unusual and rare coins to his friends and successful generals. 

Collection of coins then was considered as a ‘ Hobby of Kings’ because it was mainly kings, princes, the wealthy and powerful , and even popes  who amassed vast collections of coins. Today, people the world over indulge in this hobby irrespective of status of class. Much like philately or the collection of stamps, it is a hobby that is highly rewarding and satisfying.

The smaller denomination coins used during pre and post independence were made of aluminium and were very light, while higher demonization coins introduced later were made of stainless steel, nickel brass and copper nickel. The coins currently in circulation are made of Ferritic Stainless steel. Coins made of pure silver were also used during the British rule in India.

Those born in the mid or late 2000s would have not used, seen or collected annas/coins to buy a cup of tea or toffees from shop. The earlier generation had that privilege and pleasure and they have tales to tell of how coins could purchase even household items. 

Today, we rarely use coins as the value of money has considerably depreciated and cost of living has skyrocketed when compared to yesteryears. Coins are either collected in exchange for currency notes or we prefer toffees/candies instead of keeping coins. In Nagaland, shopkeeper also give sweets/candies for change lesser than five rupees.    

The anna was demonetized as a currency unit when India decimalized its currency in 1957 followed by Pakistan in 1961. Old coins from a different era though still have immense value as collectibles and remnants of history.  They are tangible forms of history with images of rulers and emperors engraved in them along with other information of that period. 

The coins still in circulation are Re 1, 2 , 5 and 10. While 5 rupees notes have become rare in the last few years, rupee 1 and rupees 2 currency notes are no longer in use. 

Clearing a misconception

There is a misconception that numismatics only consists of collections of coins. The fact is, the hobby encompasses even bank notes and medals.  Interestingly, numismatics also includes the collection of misprinted notes and coins with minting errors. 

While coins and currency notes are used to buy things, medals are primarily meant to commemorate an occasion or honour people for their contribution to a cause or act of valour. Medals are generally made of copper and silver.

Medals of Nagaland

The State government of Nagaland had released the ‘Statehood medal’ during the inauguration of the State of Nagaland on December 1, 1963 as the 16th State of the Indian Union by Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the then president of India.

Another medal of historical importance for Nagaland is the World War 1 Naga Corps Medal which was presented to interpreter Khakhu Sema, 38 Naga Lab. CPS. 

Naga Hills medals were given to those who served the British in the Naga Hills.  The British also presented the ‘Medal of Freedom and Honour’ made of bronze which is slightly smaller than the size of a compact disc to families who had a member(s) who fought in the World Wars. 

Coins still hold immense value 

While chances are you won’t be able to use annas and other old coins/currency notes to buy things today, they could however fetch you a handsome prize many times more than its actual value because of its rarity and historical value as a reminder of an era or time in the past.

Currency notes in particular are a collector’s delight as they are colourful and feature intricate designs. Old Indian currency notes mainly have pictures of animals like tigers, peacocks and historical sites and monuments. 

Kuhoi Yeptho who owns Nagaland Numismatics, the only numismatic shop in Nagaland in fact stated that the value of these items keeps appreciating every year. 

They have given upward and consistent returns than any other forms of investment (like equities, real estate, bank deposits, gold etc with their cyclical savings).

While there are many who collect coins or numismatists, the two numismatists in Nagaland who have the largest collections of rare coins and old currency notes are Kuhoi Yeptho and Dr Andrew Ahoto who is the chairman of Livingstone Foundation Higher Secondary School.

Kuhoi has been collecting and selling coins for around 17 years ever since he was student. He has spent most of his savings buying and collecting coins.  

Dr Andrew Ahoto however has the largest collection of coins, stamps and other invaluable and rare collectibles including even covers of match boxes in the Northeast. He has plans to open a museum in the future to showcase his exhaustive collection.

Most expensive coins and currency notes

The value of old coins and currency notes depend of their mintage ( where it is minted; Bombay, Hyderabad or Calcutta) and the rarity.

The most expensive Indian coin is the 1939 rupee 1 coin which costs around 4 lakh rupees  while the most expensive post independence old currency note is the rupees 10 note of 1949 signed by governor CD Deshmukh which costs 35 to 40 thousand rupees. 

The most expensive pre-independence currency note is the Bank of Bombay rupees 16 note which is currently priced at around a whopping 20 lakh rupees. 

Dr Andrew Ahoto also stated that in more recent times, coins of 25p, 50p, and Re 1 from 1957 were sold for around 4 lakhs. 

Why coins and old currency notes are so important? 

Though coins and bank notes might not be in circulation, they are still in high demand as many people collect them to preserve history. Coins and currency notes tell you about the rulers of a particular period or the priorities of different governments pertaining to economic and social growth. 

Coins are also used to commemorate important events and celebrate personalities while old currency notes are collected for their aesthetic value and historical importance. 

The first countries to use coins 

China is believed to be the first country to use recognizable coins. The first minted coins were however created in Lydia which is modern day Western Turkey.  The use of coins in India can be traced back to 1st millennium BCE to 6th millennium BC. 

One of the oldest currency notes of the British colonial era is the Hyderabadi rupee which was used from 1918 to 1959 while one of the earliest coins was the Travancore rupee issued by Travancore state which was mainly parts of Kerala today.

Beware of cheats

Speaking to this writer, both Kuhoi Yeptho and Dr Andrew Ahoto pointed out how some people try to cheat numismatists by providing them with wrong information of currency note or searching for notes that have never been printed.  For example, if a note has a picture of two peacocks, some would approach them with the offer that they have a currency note with three peacocks in them, a note that has never been printed by the government.

Kuhoi Yeptho and Dr Andrew Ahoto revealed that what these people try to do is make fake note and sell it to them for a very high price.  What they however do not know is that there is a catalogue for numismatists which has the prices of old currency note and is updated every year.  The duo said numismatics  like philately, requires patience and might not give you immediate returns but they are no less than a treasure. If you have a coin or currency that is rare or sought after, it can fetch you a handsome price.  Whether you choose to sell them or not, coins and currency notes are still a treasure. 

Samuel Beech

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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