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A coin and a horseshoe

John L. Paul



MONEY FROM THE PAST: Numismatist Stephen Verghese displays his horseshoe shaped 19th century coin in Kochi on Friday. — Photo: Mahesh Harilal

KOCHI: The history of the evolution of coins, currency notes and stamps may be as interesting as the history of mankind. They have their own tales to tell.

Most people are accustomed to flat, round coins, and numismatists take pride in their collections of the smallest and largest of round coins. Among the exhibits at a three-day exhibition of the Cochin Numismatics Society, which began at the Ernakulam Town Hall here on Friday, are coins in the shape of a horse shoe, a hair pin and so on. They come from the collection of Stephen Verghese, a professional philatelist and numismatist based here.

Mr. Verghese says: "The horse-shoe shaped coins (called `Manilla') were in use among tribal people in parts of Nigeria in the early 19th century. Each coin weighs 80 grams, which could make it the heaviest coin in use in ancient times. They were made of copper and brass. Three such coins had the value of five shillings. They find mention in the writings of Sir William Gregory."

A friend of his brought along two such coins from Nigeria. Very few people in India have such `offbeat' coins in their collection, according to this enthusiastic collector. These coins figured in a stamp released by Nigeria in 1953, he said.

Larin, the hair-pin shaped coin in Mr. Verghese's collection, are made of silver. "They are 500 years old and were in use during the reign of Adin Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur," he says.

By Saturday, coins made of gold and a few more rare coins and stamps will be on show. The organisers are waiting for more security staff to guard them.

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