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Worthy collection

S. Saravanan's numismatic collection boasts of some very rare coins. From the punch-marked coins of the Mauryan period to commemorative coins, he has 450-odd with him.


HOBBY FOR some may just be another morning ablution.

At times serious, at time not so.

Ask S.Saravanan and he defines hobby as a "good platform to showcase artistic endeavour".

He possesses a unique passion which he hates to call a hobby. It is a "treasure close to his heart".

It is his timeless and priceless wealth of coins and stamps from eras, perhaps lost in mists of time or recorded in chapters of history.

Saravanan's numismatic collection boasts of some very rare coins.

From the punch-marked coins of the Mauryan period to commemorative coins, he has 450-odd with him.

For each of those he has meticulously documented the significance and historical importance.

Numismatics is a vast subject embracing the study of coins and medals.

Numismatic items often help in archaeological discoveries like fixing the date for a particular period or event. Through numismatic evidence, the economic growth of a population can also be traced.Indeed, history speaks not only a language of cannons and spears but also of coins left in the dust.

Many a times, the tiny pieces of metal help archaeologists to arrive at conclusions for many unanswered questions.

Saravanan's collections at first sight may appear small lumps dulled by age and use. But they mirror the age in which they were produced.

Considering their diminutive size, the practical reason for their production, and their common day usage, it is fascinating to note that coins mirror the same cultural and artistic visions as do the more famous and aristocratic works of art, like architecture, sculpture and painting.

"I started collecting coins from the age of 12 and till 18 was wholly devoted to this passion.

Sometimes I would be awake through the night documenting my collection, calculating its quality, protecting them and learning more about them," quips this 25-year-old numismatist.

What began as a hobby in 1992 as a VII Standard Kendriya Vidyalaya student in Bokaro, is a fulltime devotion now.

"It all started when I asked a friend in my class to lend me a China coin. To my surprise he gifted it to me on my birthday, which I can never forget. I feel indebted to him for sowing the seeds of coin collection in me. I also owe a lot to my father, who groomed me and presented me some rare coins. Later I developed my own contacts and grew in my collection," he reminisces.

With his eyes gleaming, he bares his favourite collection of sea-salvaged coins: "It is very rare," Saravanan's voice is laced with pride as he shares a bit of history.

On January 25, 1809, two merchant vessels, Admiral Gardner and sister ship Britannia bound for Bengal (India) met their match and ended up at the bottom of this nautical graveyard in the English Channel. The Admiral Gardner was loaded with a cargo of anchors, cannonballs, copper ingots, iron bars, and a shipment of new copper coins minted by the East India company.

The coins were struck by the Soho Mint and were the first coins to be struck on a steam driven coin press. Admiral Gardner's treasure lay at the bottom of the Goodwin Sands till it was discovered by a group of English adventurers in 1985.

"This is one of those coins found after remaining under the sea for 176 years! My coins from that wreck are in two denominations, 10 and 20 Cash.

They carry the crest of the British East India Company while the reverse bears a Persian and English inscription that translates into "X Cash for 2 fulus" or "XX Cash for 4 fulus," he gushes drawing the attention to the fact that even after 195 years, the coins are in "excellent near mint condition."

Saravanan's story does not end here. He also has coins, which belonged to the Princely States of India.

"There were more than 270 main Princely States, of which I have coins of only 25 Princely States. I am trying to collect coins of other States also," he says with an undying enthusiasm.

His interests in philately is not as intensive as his numismatics. Yet he is the proud owner of more than 100 commemorative stamps.

Apart from his drive, Saravanan has a small dream.

To exhibit his rare collection of coins. He plans to hold the show this month for the benefit of the people, to add to their knowledge and interest.

No doubt, coins record the history of those who created them.

And in case of people like Saravanan, they speak volumes of the artistic taste and commitment of a young numismatist.

T. SARAVANAN

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