Numismatist scours river beds across the country for old coins, and sells those without legal value to students, cinema crews

‘Aatril potaalum, alandhu podu’ (Even when throwing into the river, measure and throw).

This Tamil adage seems to have been a clue for C. Samy Dhurai to hunt for old coins in rivers across the country, especially in the State.

Samy Dhurai, now 33, began collecting coins at the age of 13. Now he sells old coins that don’t have legal value at his shop in Moore Market.

He sells ‘otta kaal anna’ (coin with a hole in the centre), ‘oru anna’ (one anna), and five and ten paise coins, among others. Students, cinema production teams and coin collectors frequently approach him for purchasing the coins.

“When I worked in a shop earlier, I would keep aside coins of different shapes. My interest in coins began then,” he says. The coins are priced according to their value, ranging between Rs. 3 and Rs. 1,000.

He goes to various districts and States to collect the coins. “Most coins are found on river beds as there used to be a practice of dropping coins while bathing. I have found many coins in Thanjavur, Karaikudi, Mumbai and Kolkata,” he says.

Often, coins are found in scrap shops. “Sometimes, without knowing the value, people dump huge bundles of copper coins in scrap shops in the city. I go purchase them and keep them in my shops. I have a personal collection of coins used during the Chola and Mughal eras,” he says.

Fifty-five-year-old P. Pappa too sells coins at her roadside shop on Armenian Street. “Students purchase the coins for project work. It’s nice to know schools are encouraging children to understand the value of old coins,” she says.

Mr. Samy Dhurai says old coins and currency notes are used in movies too. “There has also been an increase in coin collection,” he says.

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