P. Subramanyam Setty has a collection of coins and notes that encapsulate nuggets of history
At the 5th National Numismatic Exhibition that concluded in the city recently, Bangalorean P. Subramanyam Setty, the veteran coin and note collector, was honoured for his impressive collection over the years. At his Vijayanagar residence, heaps of albums with the rarest of notes and coins are neatly arranged and placed in a room that attracts anyone to take a closer look. “At the outset I want you to see the Fancy Number series in my note collection, they are thrilling,” says the septuagenarian, a member of the Karnataka Numismatic Society. The fancy is in the Mahatma Gandhi note series where the denominations from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 10 bear the numbers 111111 to 999999 and from 100000 – 1000000, — 19 notes in all.
Out of the 136 Star Notes issued by the Reserve Bank of India, Setty has 130 out of them in Rs. 10, 20, 50 and 100. “Star Notes are currency notes issued by RBI for replacement of defectively printed bank notes bearing the star in the number panel for indication. Issued between 2006 and 2014, the present RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan too has issued three Star Notes of Rs.10, and I have many of them issued by former governors, Dr. Y.V. Reddy and D. Subba Rao too,” he explains. Going back to pre-Independence British India Series-1, with a profile portrait of King George VI on the first series of RBI notes issued in 1938 is what Setty cherishes, while his post-Independence Republic India Series – II has a Rs.1000 note issued in 1954 with the Brihadeeshwara Temple of Tanjore depicted on the reverse. “Look at the size, it’s a huge 20 x 13 cms!” exclaims Setty.
“My collection is the rarest. Each of the old and exceptional of the notes costs in thousands to get hold of them. On many occasions we have travelled to the nook and corners to meet people who possess them, and we pay a premium,” says Setty. The Republic of India Ashoka Pillar series with the Chakra depicting the wheel motif of the Konarak Sun Temple issued in 1975 and the Mahatma Gandhi Series issued from 1996 are all available with him. “The one rupee Gandhi series of 1969 and the Rs.2. 5 and 10 issued between 1957 and 1970 stands out in my collection as the RBI stopped one and two rupees in 1995,” he says, the nearly 200 staggering variety with different signatures making up his note collection.
Subramanyam Setty also has an astounding 71 varieties of ‘Commemorative Coins’ up-to-date, issued by the government since 1964. “They are referred to as the uncirculated proof-sets,” he says. While most of these coins are in memory of events or renowned personalities of the country which are mostly in quaternary alloy with 50 per cent of silver along with copper, nickel and zinc, the thousand years of the Brihadeeshwara Temple in Thanjavur is commemorated with a 44 mm thousand rupee coin with 80 per cent of silver in its make-up!
The Platinum Jubilee dedicatory coin of the RBI released in 2010 is a Rs.75 denomination with the RBI monogram of the Tiger. “I am still waiting for the Motilal Nehru and Sant Tukaram coins, it takes six months to one year and we book a year in advance,” says Setty. “I also treasure the Mahatma Basaveshwara coin that I possess.” Born in Andhra Pradesh and settled in Bangalore with an agarbathi business, Setty’s son Sharath Babu and daughter Sharmila are captivated to be part of the note and coin fold, while his other son Varaprasad, a central excise employee, has received several awards for his postal stamp collection.