From one ‘anna’ copper coin to a treasure trove

The retired headmaster from Peraiyur has a passion for preserving history and began his coin and stamp collecttion at the age of 11.

Published - August 27, 2013 03:17 pm IST - RAMANATHAPURAM:

S. John Rajendra Prasad with his collection of ancient coins and rare stamps. Photo: L. Balachandar

S. John Rajendra Prasad with his collection of ancient coins and rare stamps. Photo: L. Balachandar

For Tamil Pandit ‘Pulavar’ S.John Rajendra Prasad the passion for preserving history began at the age of 11 when he stumbled upon a one ‘anna’ copper coin of the East India Company dating back to the 17 century, and now his house is a treasure trove of ancient coins and rare stamps.

Mr.Prasad, who retired as Headmaster of Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) High School, Peraiyur, turns humble as he displays his collection of ancient copper coins and stamps and says he is not sure whether the coins have any numismatic value and the stamps warrant a philatelic exhibition.

His collection includes rare British India antique, the East India Company half ‘pice’ copper coin, and a number of coins with Hindu deities emblazoned on them though its rarity and numismatic values could not be determined, as history has it that in the olden days, temples used to convert the British coins as temple tokens.

The collection also includes copper coins from very early dates such as 1616, 1717 and 1818 with figures of Gods and Goddesses on them. They are in the denominations of ‘anna’ and ‘half anna.’

A coin collector, preferring anonymity, says these pieces are not coins per se, though they contain valid denominations and the name of the issuing agency – the East India Company – along with its emblem. Mr.Prasad, however, would not boast about the numismatic value of these coins as he admits that he has been collecting these rare coins and stamps out of passion, ever since he drew the inspiration from his maternal uncle. Many of his friends and students helped him collect coins and stamps on seeing his passion for preserving history.

His collection of stamps includes stamps of one paise to 90 paise denominations, stamps of foreign countries and a couple of ‘withdrawn stamps.’ A withdrawn stamp depicts an archery event, where Lord Krishna is shown shooting the eye of fish in the well, seeing its image in a mirror.

As this theme of the stamp clashed with the popular Mahabharata event, in which Arjuna shot the eye of a fish to win Draupadi, the Postal Department withdrew the stamp.

Also in his collection is another withdrawn stamp on Rabindranath Tagore, released in 1978 to honour the great poet. The stamp was withdrawn as it described Tagore’s portrait of a woman as Tagore.

Residing at Peraiyur, a nondescript village in Kamudhi taluk, Mr.Prasad proposes to organise an exhibition next year and display his rare collections during the annual ‘Manavar Mandram’ function organised in the village during the last week of May. He has a collection of more than 2,500 stamps and 1,000 coins, he says.

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