Saturday, 31 December 2011

Coin shopping in Sri Lanka

The enchanting island of Serindip is steeped in history. Ancient Buddhist kingdoms thrived since the ages before the Roman empire. The island was a battleground between Tamil invaders from the Indian subcontinent and local Sinhalese kingdoms. Later, a successive wave of colonial powers, Portugese, Dutch and finally the British adds to the island's history. Coinage follows the comings and goings of Kingdoms, invaders and colonial powers. Sri Lanka therefore has a most interesting coinage history.

My first stop was Galle, with a magnificent Fort built mainly by the Dutch. I soon realize that places that sells coins are inadvertently also gem stores, as Sri Lanka is a big producer of gemstones. There are also vendors near the lighthouse and popular spots near the fort walls. Most were selling really worn out British and Dutch era copper coins, and tried to overcharge for the silver coins 

Eventually, I only managed to pick up an 1895 Ceylon Queen Victoria 50 cents from a small time gem-seller operating out of his house's front porch.

1895 Ceylon 50 cents. KM#96. Mintage: 450.000.

Next stop: Colombo. For coins, you got to head out to Chatham Street in the Fort district of downtown Colombo. Again all these shops have gems as their main business and seem to deal with coins as a moonlighting business. I went into three shops here. Hussain, from The Jewel Shop finally offered something that i was consciously looking out for, a British Rix Dollar. Unfortunately, it was a bit over my budget. I did get from him two nice and cute AU/UNC Ceylon 1/4 cent 1870 coins. From another shop down the road, i got a 1929 Ceylon 50 cents and a random 1935H North Borneo 1 cent coin that they had. The shop has a lot of nice clean Polonnaruwa era coins, but not knowing anything about it, I refrained from picking any of it. At another shop called Heaven's Gate, down through a tiny alleyway, I picked up a 1/2 Stuiver 1815 coin.

1870 Ceylon 1/4 cent. KM#90. Mintage: 200.000.

The next destination that I picked up coins was at Kandy. A real interesting shop is 'Kithsiri Antiques', Castle Lane in the central business/market area of Kandy. The shop was on the second level of a row of building along a small lane. The shop attracts a lot of business from people selling their silver. The room was packed with antiques and has a very good selection of local coins. I managed to pick up a 1815 1 stuiver and a 1802 1/48 rix dollar coin. Part of the shop was a small room, where a silversmith was melting silver.


1815 Ceylon 1/2 Stiver. KM#80. Mintage: 2.400.000


1815 Ceylon 1 Stiver. KM#81. Mintage: 2.800.000


 1802 Ceylon 1/48 Rixdollar. KM#75. Mintage: 2.700.000

Finally, I picked up coins was from one of the many vendors in Anuradhapura. I thought I should pick up some medieval Sri Lanka coins, and I randomly did that. The two coins that I purchased by the Kuttam Pokuna (twin ponds) on the sprawling grounds of the Abhayagiri Monastery was later identified to be  massa coins from the reign of King Vijayabahu IV (1271-1273) and King Bhuvanaikabahu I (1273-1284).

Left Column: Rev. and Obv. faces of a massa coin from the reign of King Vijayabahu IV (1271-1273). Right Column:  Rev. and Obv. faces of a massa coin  from the reign of King Bhuvanaikabahu I (1273-1284). 
 
  


  
    

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