|The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), to mark its 60th anniversary, is issuing a ‘Frosted Proof’ crown size multi-colour silver commemorative coin in the denomination of Rs 5000. It is the first multi-colour coin issued by the CBSL, the bank said on Tuesday.
The CBSL has issued commemorative coins to mark important events and persons since 1957 and the coin to mark the 60th anniversary of the CBSL will be the 50th commemorative coin that is being issued.
This is a limited issue of 5,000 coins and a coin will be sold at a price of Rs. 7,000 through the counters at the Head Office of the CBSL, 30, Janadhipathi Mawatha Colombo 1, Money Museum at No.58, Sri Jayewardenepura Mawatha, Rajagiriya, CBSL Provincial Offices at Anuradhapura, Matara, Matale, Jaffna and Trincomalee and on line through the CBSL web site; www.cbsl.gov.lk after January, 2011.
By Kavan Ratnatunga
A commemorative Rs. 500 sterling silver crown size frosted Proof NCLT coin was issued on 2015 December 14 by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to mark the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Colombo Municipal Council. It was minted by the Mincovna Kremnica, Republic of Slovakia.
Obverse: In the center it carries the official logo of 150th anniversary with image of Colombo Town Hall with 1865 and 2015 above on the left and right. Below in Sinhala, Tamil and English MARVEL OF COHESION and at the bottom in large numeric 150 and ANNIVERSARY. The legend COLOMBO MUNICIPAL COUNCIL, with two lotuses to separate, the text in English, Sinhala, and Tamil, along the periphery.
Reverse: The face value of the coin 500 in large numerals above FIVE HUNDRED RUPEES in Sinhala, Tamil and English. On the top, SRI LANKA, in Sinhala, and to left and right in Tamil and English.
The frosted proof coin has been struck with one ounce of sterling silver to the British crown coin size. Enclosed in a clear plastic coin capsule, it is embedded in red velvet, inside a red leatherette covered 6.5cm square, spring hinged presentation box, with a white satin inside cover. It is accompanied by a numbered certificate of authenticity.
In terms of section 52 A (1) (a) and ( b) of the Monetary Law Act (Amendment) No.6 of 1998, with the approval of the Minister of Finance, the Central Bank issues commemorative coins and notes, and can sell such coins at a price higher than the specified denomination to cover cost of production. The CBSL has issued commemorative coins to mark various important events since 1957 Buddha Jayanthi issue.
This is only the second occasion that a commemorative coin has been issued by CBSL for a non-national event. With on average only two commemorative coins issued every year over the last decade, it is not too many. However the very high cost of these silver commemoratives, puts them clearly out of affordability of most coin collectors. It is a pity that CBSL was unable to accommodate the request of CMC for a circulation commemorative coin. We can hope that CBSL will reserve some of the mintage of circulation coins to satisfy such requests in the future.
Unlike previous commemorative coins which were also sold by CBSL, except for few kept for CBSL museums, the complete mintage of only 1,000 coins have been issued to CMC, which was authorised to sell them at actual cost, as permitted by the Monetary Board of Sri Lanka.
Coin was advertised by the CMC for sale to the public for Rs. 8,110 each. Quarter page color advertisements appeared in the state run English, Sinhala and Tamil dailies on November 23. Those who wished to obtain a coin were requested to make a reservation with the Colombo Municipality ID center(@ Town Hall,1st floor), by letter. Payment needs to be made to the Municipal Treasurer. The limited number of silver coins were made available on a first come first served basis. Public who have reserved a coin will be informed to collect the coin from the CMC after Monday December 21. Since the sale of a coin is a new task for CMC, they need to work out the logistics of doing so. They clearly should have left the task to the CBSL.
A colourful ceremony was held on December 14 at the municipal grounds sponsored by the Colombo business community at cost of Rs. 250 million. Around 250 of the silver coins were given to former mayors and 50 foreign mayors who were invited to attend the ceremony. The rest of the coins are being sold to the public.
A Rs.10 postage stamp was also issued at the same time, overriding a long standing Sri Lanka Post stamp issue policy, which does not authorize the issue of a stamp for any organization, for which a stamp had been issued previously. A stamp was issued for the CMC centenary in 1965.
A double page advertisement and a five page supplement appeared in the Ceylon Daily News of December 14. Included was a quar ter page article for this coin, which I found to my amazement, had been copied verbatim from my webpage at coins.lakdiva.org, without copy editing and probably even reading it.
By Kavan Ratnatunga
At the request of the Sri Lanka Catholic Bishop’s Conference a commemorative Rs. 500 sterling silver crown size frosted Proof Non-circulating Legal Tender (NCLT) coin was issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CB) to mark the visit of Pope Francis from January 13 to 15th . It is the first commemorative coin issued by CB, in recognition of a Christian religious event.
The coin was presented to the Pope Francis by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at an event hosted by President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.
Obverse : In the centre is an image of Pope Francis. Within a circle of 120 dots is a ring of 33 honeysuckle flowers in the traditional Sinhala artistic style. Number 33, is considered a sacred number in the Christian tradition,based on the estimated lifetime of Jesus Christ.
Reverse: In the centre is the official logo for the visit. The periphery is decorated with a Liywela made out of 40 floral designs each with Na flowers, 3 Na buds and 3 Na leaves, within a circle of 120 dots. Na, the National Tree of Sri Lanka, is used in the statue of Our Lady of Lanka – representing the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.
The coin was designed by Rev. Fr. Priyantha Silva, Archdiocesan Consultant on Ecclesiastical Arts and Architecture.
This limited edition of 1500 coins was made at Mincovna Kremnica in Slovak Republic with one ounce of sterling silver to the Buddha Jayanthi Rs. 5 silver coin size. Enclosed in a circular coin capsule, it is embedded in red velvet inside a white leatherette covered 6.5cm square spring hinged presentation box with white satin inside cover. A printed numbered Certificate of Authenticity contains the specifications and the text in English, Sinhala and Tamil. The frosted proof coin should never be removed from capsule and touched by hand as finger prints will ruin the numismatic value.
It was sold to the public at the CB cash counter from January 19 for the issue price of Rs. 9000. In 1990 the Silver Crown had a face value at Rs. 500 (US$12.5), in 1998 it rose to Rs. 1000 ($15.6), in 2006 to Rs. 1500 ($14.7), and in 2011 it rose to Rs. 2000 ($15.0). The reduced face value in 2015 to Rs. 500 ($4) is unexpected. There was some apprehension from those who were not coin collectors and wanted it with religious devotion, when they were told the Rs. 500 coin costs Rs. 9000. The coin has just over Rs. 2000 worth of Silver, to which the cost of minting the Proof coin, Packaging, Air Freight, Taxes (VAT+NBT), and maybe the Face Value is added.
Coins were sold at strictly one coin per person in the queue. The initial sale was stopped after about an hour at around 10 am. The coins then appeared at a much higher price on Chatham Street. One dealer said the coins went like hot cakes. To try preventing the limited mintage of coins being bought up by dealers and sold for a higher price to collectors, buyers had to register a request for a coin, with the name and phone number at the CB Economic History Museum. The CB Museum staff did register telephone requests. However the process was frustrating to many genuine collectors, who without knowing the new procedure, came maybe from a long distance, and had to return on another day to get a coin for their collection. The CB recorded the names and national IDs of those who purchased coins.
The general demand for such high priced coins is about 1000. However this coin may have a much larger demand because of interest from the local religious faithful. It will also have demand from international collectors. Coins issued by the Vatican have high demand and numismatic value. Unfortunately the CB does not serve international collectors and has discontinued online sales
Sri Lanka’s Central Bank (CB) in March gave Mincovna Kremnica of the Slovak Republic the contract, for the supply of 175 Million Rs.10 denomination circulation coins during the period from 2013-2015. To minimize cost of production the order was for pure steel with no nickel plating which helps prevent rusting.
The Nickel Plated Steel Rs 10 circulation coin of this type were first issued in 2010 April and have years 2009 and 2011. It was minted at the Royal Mint in UK and was issued to replace the Rs10 currency note which was last printed with a 2006 date. The first coin consignment from Slovak Mint arrived in Sri Lanka on August 7 and was put into circulation without any notification to the public the next week. It was first noticed in circulation by a keen collector on August 23 and reported to me. I went to the HQ of the Bank of Ceylon and was informed they had no Rs.10 coins. I then made a request at the cash counter of CB. They kindly obliged and gave me a nice small cellophane pack of 100 Rs10 coins. In contrast, the Royal Mint packed in large plastic bags of 1000 coins.
When I phoned the CB Museum in Rajagiriya the next day, I was assured that no such coin has been issued as yet. The CB currency department had not even informed the staff in its own currency museum.
The new Rs10 coin was expected to have identical design to the old. However this Slovak mint coin has clearly visible differences with the Royal Mint issue. The Armorial ensign is 7.5 per cent smaller and the large numeral 10 is 6 per cent smaller. Many of the other design features are correspondingly slightly smaller. The flat edges on the rim are smaller and the cantilever loops around the 11 sided coins are not joined. The high-raise is also less. It will most probably feel different to a blind person.
Previously the CB minted 25 cent and 50 cent coins with year 2009. Nearly two years after it was issued in 2011, no coin collector I know had found a 2009 25 cent coin from circulation. Despite many requests to the CB for a mint bag of these 2009 coins, I was unable to get any. Specific requests via my bank were declined by the CB. Finally they said there were none left of that year in the CB Vault. An easy reply when they can’t easily locate any. We were almost convinced they did not exist, despite what we understood from the CB. Although unlikely, maybe the Royal Mint sent coins with 2006 year for the 2009 25 cent order.
In 2013 February, I went and picked up circulated new type 25 cent and 50 cent coins from the famous Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. I was told that it was from about 2 to 3 months collection, since these low denominations are now a very tiny fraction of the coins put in tills.
Ultimately after many hours looking at the year on over 1400, 25 cent and 1700, 50 cent coins, I found just four 2009 25 cent and thirty five 2009 50 cent coins. There were 13 foreign coins among the 25 cents included 5 Euro cents, 4 Singapore cents, 3 Thai 25 Satang and 1 UAE 5 Fils. The 2 Foreign coins among the 50 cents were a 50 ore from Norway and a 1 Sen from Malaysia.
Far more foreign coins than 2009, 25 cent coins in the same lot is very surprising. I agree foreign coins are probably over represented in temple tills of a Vihara frequented by foreign tourists, but I assume these were just few that missed detection, when the coins were sorted.
Getting into circulation requires the CB to get a now rare request for these coins from a bank. The coins being issued from the bank to a merchant, and a customer being given the coin in change, and then using it. Merchants no longer use or give cents coins and even if someone gets one, will it get reused or thrown. It is now of no value to even give a beggar or put in a collection till. The 25 cent will now get thrown more often and may explain the under representation of 2009 year coins in any circulated lot.
The currency Department of the CB mostly announces NCLT (Non Circulating Legal Tender) coins. So while these high value commemoratives now costing over Rs. 7500 each, have become too expensive for most collectors, the low value regular coins that don’t effectively circulate are almost impossible to find.
In a recent interview the superintendent of currency said it costs the CB Rs. 3 to mint a Rs1 coin. Maybe they wish to discourage the hobby of coin collecting, since it now costs the CB more than the face value to mint them.
(The writer maintains an educational website on Lankan coins at http://coins.lakdiva.org and is the President of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society)
|As the Hobby Fair opens this week, Kavan Ratnatunga looks at a hobby of numismatics that has fascinated many down the years|
Numismatics, like some aspects of astronomy and natural history, remains a branch of learning in which the amateur can still do valuable work, and it is on the great collecting public, or rather on that part of which is interested in the subject at a scientific level, that the progress of numismatic science largely depends. - Philp Grierson - Prof. of Numismatics, University of Cambridge
The hobby of numismatics covers the collection and study of coins, tokens and currency. Coins are some of the oldest artifacts that reveal the history of the past. Evidence that coins have been collected since ancient times have been proved by the collection like composition of some ancient hoards found in Europe.
Lanka has a very rich and documented numismatic history of over 2300 years. The earliest known coins mentioned in the Mahavamsa are Karshapana. These are small flat silver pieces about three grams in weight on which various marks have been punched. Some numismatists have spent a lifetime recognizing and studying the various patterns and associating them with various periods of Indian history. Most came from India in trade, but some may have been manufactured in Lanka.
The first indigenous coins of Lanka issued during the early Anuradhapura period have the railed swastika which is found only on Lankan coins. The largest of these coins known as the Elephant and Swastika has multiple symbols. Smaller coins have the Bo tree, or a lion, or Gaja Lakshmi on the reverse and the railed swastika on the obverse.
The Kahavanu which were issued in the 7th to 11th century have about half sovereign of gold and are also found as fractions Pala (Quarter) and Aka (Eighth) of a Kahavanu. Similar sized copper coins known as Massa issued from 9th to 13th centuries had the name of the king written in Deva Nagri text.
Coins were also issued by the colonial rulers of Lanka, the Portuguese, Dutch and British for use in Lanka. During the British period from about 1840 to 1880, tokens were used in coffee and tea estates as payment for labour. The tokens were redeemable only at the company shop for goods creating a closed economy.
The first rupees and cents coins are dated 1870 and have the head of Queen Victoria. Similar coins in copper and silver were issued with the heads of Edward VII, George V, George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. Coins with the Ceylon Armorial emblem were issued from 1963 to 1972, and the Sri Lanka Armorial Emblem since 1972. The Central Bank has also issued commemorative coins since 1957, some of which circulated, and can be found among the change you get. Others were issued in limited number and are sold above face value and called Non Circulating Legal tender (NCLT). They should never be taken out of there protective capsules and touched by hand.
Lankan currency notes have a rich history of over 200 years. The oldest notes issued by the Dutch in 1785 were known as Kredit Brieven. The British issued Sterling currency from 1827 and many international banks operating Lanka issued currency as well. From 1885 there was rupee currency from the Ceylon Government, and since 1951 from the Central Bank.
In general coins should never be cleaned except with soap and water. Some ancient coins may require conservation but that should only be done with expert knowledge. Currency notes should never be washed or ironed to make them look better. These actions can easily be detected and will reduce the value of the numismatic item.
The market value of a coin or currency is based on its rarity and condition. Punch Mark coins about 2000 years old may sell for their weight in silver. Most copper Massa coins which are over 800 years old and VOC duits which are over 200 years old may be obtained for under Rs 100 since they are found in very large numbers. There are, however, a few Lankan copper coins that are worth a lot more than their weight in gold.
Coin collecting as a hobby is done for just the joy of collecting. Some also collect with a motive to sell the coins for a profit. Then it is not a hobby but investment.
Numismatic Society (SLNS: Its activities
The Sri Lanka Numismatic Society (SLNS) was founded in 1976 to serve the coin collectors in Lanka and counts many leading collectors of coins and currency as members.
It meets on the third Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. at the Royal Asiatic Society in the Mahawali Centre in Colombo 7. SLNS will have an exhibition booth at the Hobby Fair 2010 organized by SLANA and the Rotary Club of Colombo from June 2nd to 4th at the Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre
Coins of tribute
Coins of tribute
Three coins, depicting various scenes from the Buddha’s life, are being issued to celebrate the 2550 Buddha Jayanthi
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka has issued three commemorative coins in the denominations of Rs. 2000, Rs. 1500 and Rs. 5 to mark the 2550th Buddha Jayanthi year.
The coins were presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and a few other dignitaries, at the inauguration of the 2550 Buddha Jayanthi celebrations held at the Presidential Secretariat on May 11.
The two crown size sterling silver Rs. 2000 and Rs. 1500 commemorative frosted proof coins depict the same scene from the Birth of the Buddha. A brass plated steel Rs. 5 coin will also be issued with the image of Sri Pada below a Dharma Chakra. In the Rs. 2000 coin the seven lotuses and the Bodhisatva Siddhartha are plated in gold. On the reverse, above a lake with lotus is shown a 24-pronged Dharma Chakra, as found on the Ashoka pillar at Saranath in Varanasi, where Buddha taught His Dharma to His first disciples.
According to traditional belief, after His birth in Lumbini, Siddhartha took seven steps under which seven lotus blossoms appeared, while announcing His forthcoming Enlightenment.
In the Buddha Dharma, worldly nature is likened to a lake of lotus blossoms. Just as there exists in a lake, young buds, mature buds and buds about to bloom, in the world of humans too there are men of diverse levels of attainment of consciousness. Disciples like lotus flowers in the lake, bloom by the radiance of the Dharma, represented by the Chakra. Buddhism, as a religion with some mythological beliefs and worship adopted by a majority in Sri Lanka, is represented on the obverse.
Buddhism, as a philosophy, a pure Dharma practised through meditation and being adopted by a growing international community, is represented in abstraction on the reverse, like the Ying and the Yang on two sides of the same coin.
The coins were designed by Kelum Gunasekara of Kelaniya, who also designed five of the 50 stamps issued by the Philatelic Bureau for the 2550 Buddha Jayanthi. The Royal Mint in Wales has minted 10,000 of the gold embossed silver proof coins with a face value of Rs. 2000 for the Central Bank. These are sold at Rs. 7000 each. The 20,000 silver proof coins, which have the same design, except for the face value of Rs. 1500, are sold at Rs. 5000.
It is unfortunate that the doubling of silver prices in the last eight months and the cost of production has required the Central Bank in collaboration with the Buddha Sasana Ministry to decide to sell the coins at a very high premium above the face value. That will make the coin unaffordable to most coin collectors in Lanka. It remains to be seen as to how many would buy the Rs. 2000 coin at Rs. 7000 or the Rs. 1500 coin at Rs. 5000 – more than three times the price of very similar silver proof commemorative coins sold currently at the Bank.
It also seemed a pity that the coins produced as a special rush order were only released for sale to the public after Vesak, on May 15. Limited quantities are available at the Central Bank, the Currency Museum located at the Centre for Banking Studies in Rajagiriya, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and selected branches of Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank. The proof coins are issued in a presentation box enclosed within a plastic coin capsule. These coins, which are individually minted without being touched by the human hand, should not be taken out of the plastic case, for a fingerprint on a proof coin will destroy the numismatic value of the coin, which in this case has been made to be a lot more than the face value.
The coin will clearly sell now to a few dedicated collectors. However, most people will wait till the long term devaluation of the Rupee and the increase in price of silver makes today's high price more attractive in a few years. Such was the case for the 1998 Rs. 5000 gold sovereign which was sold by CBSL for Rs. 8000. Usually CBSL has sold the silver commemorative coins at the cost of minting them, which is just above the face value. For example, in 1998, 1999 and 2000 CBSL issued three silver crown sized coins for the 50th Anniversary of Independence, the Cricket World Cup, and the 50th Anniversary of CBSL.
This is the third Buddhist commemorative silver coin issued by Sri Lanka in the modern era and clearly as beautiful as the first two. The first, a Rs. 5 coin was issued in April 1957 for the 2500 Buddha Jayanthi, and is still considered one of the most beautiful crown size coins in the world.
The next was the Rs. 500 coin issued in June 1993, for the 2300 Anubudu Mihindu Jayanthiya, which has been selected for the front cover of the 2007 Standard Catalog of World Coins to be published this month by Krause in USA.
The 1957 Buddha Jayanthi Rs. 5 coin has been popular among even non-collectors and was issued into circulation at its face value. Although 500,000 of the 1957 Rs. 5 coins were minted, 258,000 were returned to the Royal Mint in 1962 November, to be melted as silver bullion when the price of silver exceeded the face value. Many more have probably been melted to make jewellery. 50 years later uncirculated coins sell in the World Numismatic Market for about US $25. The far more rare proof of this same issue with only 1800 minted sells for about $60.
|The 2550 Buddha Jayanthi Rs. 5 coin|
A roomful of what could probably be Sri Lanka’s largest collection of antiques --- Kumudini Hettiarachchi steps into the house of retired planter Flavian Dias
Chock-a-block is a large wing of a home in Kochchikade, Negombo – not with clutter but a trove of antiques.
Crammed full on the floor, on and atop shelves, hanging on walls and in every conceivable nook and cranny are antiques, most probably the largest collection in Sri Lanka, gathered over the years by retired tea planter Flavian Dias.
Now 72, Flavian’s childhood gave no indication of his bent towards antiques. With his father being a Registered Medical Officer hailing from Panadura, the family moved from place to place.
Having completed his education, young Flavian decided to try his hand at tea-planting in Maskeliya, joining the Gartmore Group in 1963 under the Soysa family, with guidance being given by H.A.V. Soysa.
Later he moved to the Attampitiya Estate as Senior Assistant Superintendent, having come under the influence of N.H.S. Perera, former Director of Harrison & Crossfield.
His interest in antiques was nudged several years later, when he bought a large brass tray in Dambulla in 1970.
There has been no turning back from the trail of antiques which became wider and more enthusiastic since his retirement as the Superintendent of the Maussa State Plantation in Madolkelle in 1989.
And the trail is dotted with unforgettable landmarks………144 pieces of brass-copper trays, tea-pots, flower-pots and many others that he bought from “a chap who had returned from Saudi Arabia” seven years ago, telephones, pol-katu anguru irons, lamps of varying shapes and sizes, bells aplenty and even haal-seru, some of which he had saved from the melting pot.
Talking of pots, we are shown many a cauldron, one weighing as much as 115 kilos, made of brass and copper and cherished by ayurvedic physicians, with medicines being kept in them for as long as two weeks to mature.
It certainly was not medicine that was kept on a large, beautiful 118-year-old dish along with a gravy boat.
This dish with the emblem of the Ceylon Rifles would have proudly borne a roasted piglet with all its garnishing, with “veins” at the base to drain off the gravy, that Flavian purchased from a person in Negombo.
He also shows off an 88-piece cutlery set, manufactured in Japan but marketed in Saudi Arabia and a large dish used in the Middle East creating an image of a group seated around it tucking into a sumptuous dinner.
From food to drink we move, with Flavian holding up a bottle of pol arrack, the seal unbroken and the alcohol intact which is 45 years old.
The paper label, of course, has seen the ravages of kavo (silver fish) and he is quick to say that “udath kavo kala, yatath kavo kala”. The memories flow forth how he bought it from a tavern in Badulla in his planting days, for just Rs. 8.50.
Opens, he does, not the bottle of pol but a ‘cellaret’ of Rangoon teak that foreign planters stocked with whiskey, brandy and gin in the days of yore but which he bought off a Muslim mudalali who stored it with papaya and dried fish.
Cellaret is described in the Oxford Dictionary as a cabinet or sideboard for keeping alcoholic drinks and glasses in a dining room.
Each and every item has a tale attached, with Flavian pointing out that through experience he has mastered the art of spotting the antique from the fake.
Sometimes the antiques are brought to his doorstep as his reputation as a collector has spread far and wide and at others he would stop-by paththara kada, step in and cast a quick glance around, picking up old items, during his journeys across the country.
Home he comes then laden with antiques, to the consternation of his wife, Juliet, who shakes her head in despair to find space for them.
“In attempts to clear their homes of what they believe to be junk, many people sell off yakada-badu to the paththara kada to be melted,” he says, adding that younger generations don’t know the value of some of the “old” stuff in their homes.
More tidbits of information, as Flavian points us in this direction and that. Eleven Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines he has, seven of which are still working.
The “classic” one is a “silent machine” manufactured back in 1890, 125 years ago. The sewing machines are not limited to this British brand but have been augmented by 70 more from the Singer company.
We move onto coins, with the oldest being one minted in 1703 under the VOC seal of the Dutch and another prized possession a gold coin of 1911 with the head of George IV of Britain.
Under the glass of his large table, neatly laid out are notes of local currency, including a 10-cent note of 1942 and a rupee note of 1954.
There are also two super-quality Stradivarius violins — one handed down by his mother which is 85 years old and the other more than 200 years old.
Suddenly, there is a blast of music, a dance tune, after a friend of his who was pottering around some gramophones puts on a record.
“During early times, gramophones were made of iron,” points out Flavian, giving a little bit of history. Gradually to reduce their weight, they were manufactured from pittala.
Radios are also part of his possessions, with the second-hand one he purchased from another estate Superintendent for the princely sum of Rs. 250 from his first salary having pride of place.
Wall clocks he has 70 in all, complemented by six grandfather clocks, two of which had been given to him by Simon Fernando, the father-in-law of his son Surakshan.
Those two are of the Junghans brand made in Germany and bought from M/s F.X. Pereira & Sons, First Cross Street, Colombo 1, in 1930.
“This hourly meter I bought from a paththara kade for five rupees,” laughs Flavian, also holding up an instrument box he had purchased closer in time, 1960, just before his examinations at St. Joseph’s College.
A special item is the Chixexer, which can distinguish the sex, whether pullet or cockerel, of chicks as young as a day-old which had been presented to him by Carmel, the daughter of the Deniyaya Estate Superintendent, R.L. Perera. The machine had been bought by Mr. Perera on a visit to London in the 1950s.
An early Petromax lamp brought down and dusted for us to view at close hand, several Menorah (sacred candelabra with seven branches), a bottle embossed with the skull and cross bones and ‘Poison’ written across for all to see, a lion cut out of kalu-gal picked up in Rattota, a road-tracer used on tea, rubber and coconut estates, old scales, stools with antlers as legs, a bell which had been used to summon all the workers for meals at a walauwwe, brass animals strewn over tables and shelves, ink-pads, cigarette lighters and even a thermometer more than 100 years old in perfect working order and much more form his antique-trove.
With every inch holding one or more items, it is only once in a way that they see a duster being passed over them and Flavian does concede that he has now stopped buying antiques as his wife is “dead against” his passion.
He has no personal favourite but loves them all and even though the secret of his collection is “ganu witharai and no denu” (buying but not selling off), Flavian is now feeling the onerous responsibility of maintaining this one-man museum.
What he hopes for is that the authorities would take over his invaluable collection for a reasonable price, leaving behind a few items close to his heart due to their sentimental value.
Then the wide and varied collection will be preserved for posterity, adds Flavian.
Bank of Ceylon opened a museum at the bank's head office at Echelon Square in Colombo.
The establishment of Bank of Ceylon in 1939 ushered in a new era in the economic history of this country. Prior to this, though there were banks established in the country, the average Ceylonese (as we were known then) did not have access to modern banking services. A wealthy and privileged few had access to those foreign banks and the majority did not.
The financial services available to the Ceylonese, for the most part, were those offered by the Nattukottai Chettiar money lenders.
This unsatisfactory state-of-affairs needed to be remedied. After a series of interesting events the Bank of Ceylon was formed in 1939 as a bank specifically designed to cater to the needs of the indigenous Ceylonese population. This museum deals with this story and bank of Ceylon's growth over the years up to the present period
The Bank's new museum is situated at the 28th floor of the head office. In designing the museum the architect has taken advantage of the round shape of the Bank of Ceylon head office building giving it unique curved presentation galleries. There is circular viewing gallery which goes round the building from which a visitor could get a good view of the City of Colombo by walking around the gallery.
At the entrance to the museum a panel gives the objectives of the museum as follows:
“The BoC Money and Banking Museum aspires to educate and enrich people with Sri Lanka's history of money and commerce spanning two millennia, and its transition into the modern banking era.
Discover Sri Lanka's early bartering methods, long history of trade relations, and the emergence of a stylized local coinage, followed by the country's entry into modern banking and its role in 21st century commerce and banking practices”.
The Museum consists of three sections-the coins and currency section called the “Money Gallery”, the Bank of Ceylon history section called “BOC Gallery” and the modern banking section called the “Banking Centre”.
Coins and currency section
This section deals with how exchanging goods led to the gradual development of the use of money and how different systems of coinage developed over the years. It also houses an interesting collection of coins and currency notes.
Sri Lanka's pre-history goes back thousands of years. There is evidence that pre historic humans in Sri Lanka have exchanged goods perhaps as far back as 40,000 years ago. The cave dwellers of the interior part of the country have exchanged goods with the hunter gatherers of the coastal areas. The excavations have revealed things like shark teeth in the dwelling sites in the interior of the country.
During the “proto historic period” which ranged from about 1500 BCE to 600BCE this exchanging of goods became more methodical leading to the introduction of primitive systems of weights and measures. These weights and measures were an important development that led to money in the form of coins coming into use.
The first coins appear to have come into use at the end of the Proto Historic Period and the dawn of the “Early Historic Period”.The earliest type of coins to come into use were the “punch mark” coins of Indian origin. These are the coins that were used in India during the time of the Buddha. By the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BCE coin production commenced locally.
During the 2nd and 3rd Centuries CE the influence of Rome extended to Asia and Roman coins came into use in Asia including Sri Lanka.
An important development of coins was the introduction of gold coins. As trade expanded Lanka became a busy hub as an important link in what is called “The Maritime Silk Route. The famous “Kahapana” gold coin came to be issued during this period.
Another important development occurred during the shift of the kingdom to Polonnaruwa. Raja Raja Chola , the first to rule from Polonnaruwa as the capital, was also the first monarch to introduce coins bearing the name of the ruler.
Tissamaharama in the south is another place where many unique coins have been unearthed leading us to look deeply into the relative importance of this area. The coming of the Portuguese, the Dutch and finally the British brought interesting changes to the money that was in circulation. Many types of coins could be seen at this museum along with a description of their unique qualities.
The Bank of Ceylon section
This section deals with the gradual arrival of modern banking in Sri Lanka and the events that led to the formation of Bank of Ceylon as a state-assisted bank.
With the coming of the Portuguese in the early 1500s a new era in trade begin. This trend continued under the Dutch and became firmly established when the British consolidated their control over the entire island in 1815. The 19th century saw increased opportunities for those that could produce agricultural goods for export to make immense amounts of money. Those who could find the money to invest in such production stood a good chance of becoming very rich. Finance was the key issue and banks and financiers appeared such as the Nattukottai Chettiar community.
Later on as problems of finance reached a crisis point a commission was appointed by the Government by way of an order from the British Governor. The commission's recommendation led to the formation of Bank of Ceylon.
The day to day operations of a bank in those far off days were very different to what we see today-a far cry from the highly computerized environment we have come to take for granted. A great many operations were done by hand. Documents were filled using a “Dip pen” where the nib of the pen had to be dipped in ink every few words.
These entries are often written in very beautiful hand writing. The office used manual ledgers-large books which were bound in leather. A rotary sharpener was used to sharpen pencils. Later on accounting machines made by companies such as Burroughs and Ascotta came into use. Many such pieces of equipment that were used during those times are on display.
The museum also has a collection of interesting documents. Among these are letters written by former prime ministers-for example the letter written by the late Dudley Senanayake after the death of his father the first Prime Minister of Ceylon Hon. D.S.Senanayake. Another interesting set is the documents pertaining to the buying of shares in Bank of Ceylon at the first issue of shares.
Modern Banking Section
This section which has been designed keeping the interests of school children in mind is designed so that a visitor could experience a modern banking environment. Multi-media projectors, touch screen displays etc have been installed so that this educational aspect could be strengthened. It also has a Ultra-Violet light facility so that children could experience first hand the security features of currency notes. An automated teller machine is also available for children to try out how to use one.
We live in an era of increasing technological advances and sophistication. The last two decades have seen changes occur that one could not have dreamed of a few decades back. Technology has invaded many fields. It is to be expected that there will be more technological innovation occurring with regard to banking and also money.
With regard to banking the changes are obvious. Technology is shaping not only the way banking services are offered and the products themselves, but also the way banks are controlled and governed. Increasingly more advanced teller machines and cash deposit machines are changing the way people draw money and make deposits. Modern advanced risk management approaches which are used to control banks would not have been possible without the availability of required levels of computing power that today's computers possess.
Money has also been touched by technological advances. Today's currency notes incorporate many advanced security features. Among them are watermarks and cornerstone watermarks, security threads, see-through registration features , extra small print and the incorporation of multi-coloured threads in the paper used that glow under ultra-violet light. Other features likely to appear include the use of printing inks that change colour with the angle of light falling on them.
The future may hold many changes. Money as we know it now may also change to incorporate “smart” features. The first signs have begun to appear. We live in an era of Digital technology and it is probably only a matter of time before it touches and changes money as we know it today.