Udupi, a numismatists’ delight : The Tribune India

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Udupi, a numismatists’ delight

Did you know that when all digits on the serial number of a currency note are the same (like ''555555'' or ''777777''), it is a type of fancy note?

Udupi, a numismatists’ delight

Rashmi Gopal Rao

Did you know that when all digits on the serial number of a currency note are the same (like '555555' or '777777'), it is a type of fancy note? Or if there is a pointed star under the year of a coin, it has been manufactured in the Hyderabad mint? Well, it is unlikely that we observe these little things when we handle notes and coins. Learn about all of this and much more at the Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) in Udupi.  

A totally insightful and interesting gallery with close to 3000 coins from as early as 400 BC, the coin museum, located in the temple town of Udupi, is indeed a revelation of sorts. The town that’s just about 420km from Bengaluru is synonymous with the 13th-century Krishna Mutt, a world-renowned temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. Udupi, a bustling town, is also known for being the birthplace of banking institutions like Syndicate Bank and Corporation Bank, apart from being famous for its delectable vegetarian cuisine.  

Situated in the heart of the town, the coin museum was once the residence of Haji Abdullah Haji Kasim Saheb Bahadur, the founder and president of Corporation Bank from 1906 to 1929. The heritage building, now housing the museum, is impeccably maintained, so much so that it’s hard to believe it’s almost 120 years old! The museum is maintained by Corporation Bank.  

Treasure house of information

The museum is a storehouse of trivia and information, apart from having a rich display of coins. Information pertaining to the birth and development of the Indian banking system, including the history of the Imperial Bank of India and the State Bank of India, is detailed at the entrance. A brief description of all 24 RBI governors before incumbent Shaktikanta Das, from the first two British governors, Osborne Smith and James Braid Taylor, till Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel, has been displayed.

Information on how commodities like tobacco, cowrie shells, clamshells and elephant tusks were used in different countries instead of money is interesting.  There is a section on mints which traces the history of the four mints in India, with the oldest two being in Kolkata and Mumbai, established in 1829 by the British. It was a revelation to note that the Hyderabad mint was established in 1903 by the erstwhile Nizam but was later taken over by the Government of India in 1950. While the Mumbai mint has a small dot or diamond mint mark under the year of the coin, the Kolkata mint bears no mark.  The newest is the Noida mint, which was set up in 1986 and the coins minted here have a small, thick dot under the year of the coin. Several foreign mints like Royal mint, London, Seoul mint and Moscow mint, too, have manufactured Indian coins and the same were imported in 1985, 1988, 1997-2001.  All this information along with the mint marks has been displayed.  

Rare collectibles

The museum has several gold, silver, copper and lead coins that were used during the reigns of various dynasties, including the Mauryas, Kushanas, Satavahanas, Cholas, Pallavas and Hoysalas. Rare collectibles like cardboard coins that were prevalent in India during 1939-45, when there was a shortage of metal during World War II, is notable. Similarly, on display are the Haj or Gulf rupees that were printed by the RBI during 1959-1966 for the benefit of the Haj pilgrims. The fact that every one rupee note is signed by Finance Secretary and all others of higher denominations by the RBI governor form for some thought-provoking trivia. There are several commemorative coins released by the RBI.  MK Krishnayya, who is the curator and guide of this museum, is extremely helpful and does a great job in explaining all the nuances and details to the visitors.  Photography is strictly prohibited in the museum.

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