HYDERABAD: Some may like the heads in a coin, some the tails. But Giridhar Sripathi, 31, loves both sides of the coin as he is a passionate coin collector. A data scientist at Oracle Corporation in Hyderabad, who is also pursuing a part-time PhD from NIT Jamshedpur in Artificial Intelligence, Giridhar has more than 2,000 coins in his collection of various rulers, dynasties, and kingdoms.
This Miyapur resident recalls how he started collecting coins. “During my school days, my grandmother used to talk about their days during the British period and she gifted me half-anna copper coins of East India Company and one silver rupee coin. During that time, I also read about coin collection and it was fascinating. Later on, I started collecting the coins with the pocket money I had with me, and also my parents helped me a lot and encouraged me.
History classes helped me to understand the rulers and the freedom movement.” With the coins that were gifted by his grandmother, Giridhar purchased a book about the East India Company and British India company coins. “I gradually started interacting with other numismatists across India. We used to exchange coins and also senior numismatists helped me to differentiate the fake from the genuine ones,” he adds.
Currently, Giridhar’s collection boasts of Janapadas (around 600 BCE), Middle Kingdoms: Gupta Empire (320–480 CE), Chola Empire (850–1279 CE), Early Modern period (c. 1300–1858 CE), Delhi Sultanates, Sur dynasty ( Sher Shah Suri, Islam Shah Suri ), Vijayanagara Empire, Mughal emperors, Colonial India: Dutch India (1605 - 1825), Danish India (1620 - 1869), French India (1668 - 1954), Portuguese India (1505–1961), East India Company ( 1612–1757) and the princely States.
So where does he source his collection from? “I exchange coins if the one I have is not in my list. I also get it from exhibitions and through auctions across the country.” Explaining about Janapadas, this coin collector elaborates: “Ancient Indians were the earliest issuers of coins in the world, along with the Chinese and Lydians (from the Middle East). The first Indian coins – punch-marked coins called Puranas, Karshapanas or Pana – were minted in the 6th century BC by the Mahajanapadas (republic kingdoms) of ancient India. These included Gandhara, Kuntala, Kuru, Panchala, Shakya, Surasena and Saurashtra. “Janapadas and Mughal coins are my favorites.
The Mughal coins established their footprint in North India and less in South India. Golkonda, Haidarabad (Hyderabad), Machalipattan (Machilipatnam), Chennapattan (Chennai) are a few of the mint locations in South India and I have collected these coins. Everyone knows only about Babar (founder of Mughal dynasty), Humayun, Shah Jahan, Akbar and Aurangazeb in the Mughal dynasty. In fact, we have total 20 Mughal rulers including Jahandar Shah , Rafi ud Darajat , Shah Jahan II , Shah Jahan III, Muhammad Shah Bahadur who ruled less than a year.
No one knows about these rulers. I can proudly say that I have the silver coins of all the 20 rulers during their reign.” “Initially, my friends would think coin collecting was useless. But now they realise the importance of these coins. Coin collection is my stressbuster. On weekdays, I am occupied with my work and also with my PhD research. But on weekends, I dedicate my time completely towards my coins. This is the best way to understand our Indian civilisation,” says the coin collector who confesses that he has spent as much as Rs 30,000 on some rare coins.
Fast facts about coins
The rarity of coins can be classified into common, scarce, rare and extremely rare.
They are graded into fine, very fine, extra fine, and uncirculated(UNC).
Coin price varies from Rs 100 and even up to lakhs. Recently a rare gold coin issued by a Mughal emperor was auctioned for Rs 56 lakh in Bengaluru.
Preserving the coin is as much as important as collecting the coin. I generally preserve the coins in albums after cleaning the coin or else the coin will be damaged.
Janapadas are the Vedic period coins on the Indian subcontinent which are really hard to collect. They are also rare and they are most expensive too.
Those interested can register clubs like the Numismatic Society of India and Rashtriya mudra Parishad.