Pabitra Saha passed along this article about a new book from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on the history of the Currency Department. Thanks!
Numismatics is an art, science, hobby, and profession. Only those who collect, study, and research coins, tokens, symbols, and notes – called numismatists – would know the complexity and difficulty in practising this costly hobby.
To help them, two researchers from the Currency Department of the Central Bank, Shellomi H. Gunawardena and W.M.K. Weerakoon, have laboriously documented the currency notes and coins issued by the Bank in the last 70-year period. The book titled ‘The 70 Year Journey of Currency Issue and Management’ has been released marking the Bank’s 70th anniversary.
The book contains seven chapters and two appendices. Gunawardena and Weerakoon have taken the readers through the historical evolution of currency in Sri Lanka from ancient times to date and how the legal structure for the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to issue currencies was framed. Coins-based means of payment had been used in ancient Lanka which had been an important trading nation from very early times. Drawing on historical records, Gunawardena and Weerakoon have documented that the earliest coins found from Lanka had been those of Indian origin with different shapes, sizes, weights, but punched with common symbols and characters. They were called Puranas or Kahapanas.
From around the 1st century CE, there were round copper and gold coins. In addition to the locally minted coins, there had been coins of Arabian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Indian origin testifying to the country’s role as an international trading hub in ancient times. During the colonial period beginning from early 16th century, coins belonging to the respective colonial power, namely, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British, had been in use. However, the currency system in the country had gone through major transformation only in the latter part of the 19th century under the British rule.
With this brief introduction serving as the background, Gunawardena and Weerakoon have set on to their main task of writing the book, namely, documenting the currency issue, management, and its modernisation done during the central banking era beginning from late 1950. Prior to this, currencies had been issued in the island, under a system known as the Currency Board established in 1884. Under the currency board system, there was a self-discipline in the issue of currency since it had been linked to the available foreign exchange reserves with the Board.
Gunawardena and Weerakoon have documented every fine detail of all the coins and notes issued by the Central Bank over the period covered in their study. Those details from a single source are a gold mine for currency lovers and collectors. The book that has been printed in multicolour and bound in hard cover add further value to it as a reference book. The photos reprinted are finely done, and therefore, the readers would get the feeling of seeing live currency notes when they master the book. Thus, both co-authors should be commended for the useful work they have done.
To read the complete article and press release, see:
Central Bank’s 70-year journey through currencies: A valuable guidebook for currency lovers
Special Publication by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on
The 70 Year Journey of Currency Issue and Management
Kavan Ratnatunga writes:
"That glowing review was written by a former Deputy Director of the Central Bank who is an Economist, not a Numismatist. It has sadly not been proofread carefully and missed a lot of the finer detail. The images are not to any scale and could have been a lot better. The softcover is being sold at US$5 and is worth that price for a novice collector."
Wayne Homren, Editor
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