Two-paise, half-anna coins and plenty more… how about some time travel with old ‘money'?
While a 1717 half-anna coin from the East India Company turns the pages of history, an aluminium-magnesium two paise coin from the 1960s brings a flush of memory for a good many people. Even one-rupee coins of old mintage can have a nostalgic effect on the observer. While numismatists and historians alone may be attracted to battered-old metallic symbols of commerce involving empires lost in antiquity, almost every other person is excited at the sight of coins that once filled his pockets.
Tryst with the past
Pappammal, a seller on Armenian Street, trusts coins discontinued within living memory to provide her with a steady business. Trays filled to the brim with coins of 20 paise and 10 paise and lower denomination bear testimony to her belief. These coins are obviously sold at much cheaper rates than those minted centuries ago, and therefore fit into most purses.
“Children buy these coins for their school projects,” she says.
Traders sell 20, 10, five, two paise and one paisa coins for Rs. 2 to Rs. 5 apiece. There are a few exceptions, though. Pointing to a brass 20 paise coin from 1970, C. Samy Dhurai, a coin trader at the Lily Pond Complex, says: “The lotus engraving on this coin gives it a special significance and fetches a better price — Rs. 10 — for the trader. It is sought by the religious who offer, say, 101 or 51 of these coins in their worship of a deity.”
As it is with all other forms of commerce, the coin trade is governed by the supply-demand dynamics. A coin's value increases in proportion to its rarity. “Between an 1835 half-rupee silver coin with an engraving of William IV and a 10 paise coin, a serious collector of coins will entertain no doubts about which is more valuable,” says Samy, who was an avid collector of ancient coins before he began to trade in coins.
While the numismatist in Samy encourages him to ascribe greater value to the metal from the 19th Century, he knows that a sense of nostalgia actually forces some people to pick up the more recent of the two outdated coins.