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The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 54, December 31, 2017, Article 21

TOM BABINSZKI VISITS INDIA

E-Sylum reader Tom Babinszki recently visited India and wrote about his experience in his December 20, 2017 Blind Coin Collector blog. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

It started about a year ago when I was first asked to do some work in India. After much preparation, I spent almost two weeks in Bangalore, and some days in Visakhapatnam and Pune. In general, I try to prepare for my trips by reading about the place I’m going to. Sometimes I do very poorly, but I tried to take India seriously.

I talked with people, read some articles, and books. My favorite was Ervin Baktay’s book about his three stay in India. This Hungarian orientalist spent three years in India between 1926 and 1929. It is almost a century later now, but the concepts were interesting, and in case of such a rich and ancient culture, or should I say cultures, a hundred years should not matter much. It was fascinating to read about the different religions and how they coexist together in India. Baktay’s book was the most helpful throughout my trip. I of course, also prepared numismatically, which wasn’t as easy as it seemed originally.

I started by contacting as many places as I possibly could research. Coin clubs, coin stores, online forums. I am disappointed to say, aside from the Falcon Coins Gallery in Bangalore, nobody got back to me.

The next difficulty was learning about Indian coinage. There are some materials out there, but the information is vast, and is hard to find. The best resource I found was the Mintage World site. I wrote about it last year. They have quite a bit of materials about the different Indian states, sultanates and historical periods.

It was my first time visiting India, it is a fascinating country. I really enjoyed talking with the people, exploring the culture and the food. But as always, work was first priority.

I was surprised to find that the hotel didn’t have coins. I went to the bar just so that I could pay with cash, I had beers in the minibar, and I was way too tired, but I couldn’t miss a chance to get some coins on the first day. However, instead of coins for change, I got more money back in bank notes. When I asked for change, in English, because all the people knew English at the hotel, they told me they didn’t have any, I had to go to the bank. So much about collecting…

On my first free evening, where else could I go, I visited the largest local coin store, the Falcon Coins Gallery, the only place who wrote back when I contacted them. I called an Uber and got there in about 15 minutes.

Coincidentally, it was The feast of St. Eligius, the patron saint of numismatists, as I found out that day from my friend on Twitter. He sure made my day…

It felt like a regular shop off the street, it wasn’t hard to find. One of the owners, Mr. Parekh set down with me at the table and showed off some interesting Indian coins. I tried to moderate my purchase, first of all probably it wasn’t the cheapest place, as it was a high end store, and there is no need to buy everything at the same time, especially that I didn’t even know about most of the coins. The history of coinage in India is just vast. However, I have to say, the prices were very reasonable, and Mr. Parekh’s knowledge about the coins was amazing. I would have paid just to be there. It was interesting to touch some of the Indian coins I have read about, and a few more I never knew existed. I bought a variety of coins, in particular trying to get ones which are easiest to feel.

Mr. Parekh showed me some nice old coins, but mostly we looked at the ones from the last two centuries.

I got two books, one about the coinage of Karnataka, which is the state where I was staying, and a general introduction to the coins of India. Probably the best thing I can get from a country’s visit.

COINS by Gupta book cover Karnatuka Coins book cover

After I made the payment, they offered a tea, and called Mr. Kirti M Parekh, who is the father of the gentleman whom I was working with. he is the president of the Karnataka Numismatic Society. We talked a little about collecting and took a picture, all three of us.

Tom Babinszki in India coin shop

It was the tenth day in the country and I haven’t seen a circulating coin yet. It is time to do something about it. I tried to ask for coins, at the hotel it doesn’t exist, people don’t use it. I haven’t heard coins where people were paying, but it is also true that I haven’t been around cash registers much. I either got food or coffee at work, or it got written up to my room. I’m mostly using bills for tips. I asked around a bit, but nobody had coins. I can’t just leave India without circulating coins if they exist, so today I stopped by the bank on the way from work to pick up a few.

Tom learned that the bank wouldn't give out individual coins, but would only sell them in bags. He eventually purchased 400 coins. -Editor

Overall, personally, professionally and numismatically, it was a great trip. I came home with a few interesting coins, and I’m looking forward to reading the books I got.

Thanks for the great numismatic travelogue, Tom! -Editor

To read the complete article, see:
Collecting in India (http://blindcoincollector.com/2017/12/20/collecting-in-india/)

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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