A narrative on production and minting techniques in the Mughal Empire. This includes specific XRF testing results on the silver coins of Shah Alam I during testing of a large number of coins organised by Arthur Needham at the Ashmolean Museum.
Some years ago a paper was published by Barry Tabor on a visit to the location of the mint site at Daulatabad. Our group conducted specific investigations prior to the republishing of the article. The research included specific interaction with various authorities, mapping arrangements and non invasive scientific testing.
Given that much of the work done was outside “normal” numismatics and more into metallurgy the findings and methodology are perhaps outside the scope of current numismatics.
However given that we know a mint exists at Daulatabad. We have researched the location and will now await confirmation from other parties that the site we have researched is in the fact although we have evidence to note that the site was in fact used as the mint at some stage.
So we also know that there is very little basic research achieved into the actual location and design of such mints. Our efforts have been to at least set an investigative benchmark.
The research was brought into question when some photographs were posted for comment of a social media site. The article that our initial research was based on was posted and doubts expressed that it was not a mint but perhaps a bath house. In following conversation the claim was debated but it remains. Noting that this is not the first time research that we have been associated with has been queried (unsuccessfully each time although pieces of the work have appeared later without reference to us as expert research) it is still necessary for us to regather and review. The person making the suggestion that it is not the mint site made no effort to request from us what evidence we had now to support our researched. It was a bland statement.
Unfortunately it needs to be reviewed and will be reviewed carefully.
- Daulatabad had a mint.
- Research shows (including advice from relevant authorities) that the site nominated is correct.
- Specific research techniques not normally used in numismatics were used to gain information.
- Scientific analysis (non invasive) has shown the site nominated was used for a mint at some stage.
- The research or at least the primary paper has been rejected by an expert in numismatics based on no concrete evidence for rejection.
- It is necessary for us to take further time and expense to check on the rejection.
It will be expected that the relevant authorities who have provided us with information, if it is incorrect, will retract and issue a formal correction.
It is understandable why many researchers leave such research when almost at whim anything can be challenged. Be brave work on and publish. There are reasons why even basic research (such as this) has never been fully attempted and some of those reasons have nothing to do with the quality of the research. New areas will be investigated despite what may be thought by others and the newest technologies used in the hands of world experts.
Keep researching folks!
There has been a short hiatus in the continuing of this theme.
In the next few days the key post will be made. The questions to be discussed;
CAN A COIN BE GRADED THAT CANNOT BE FULLY ATTRIBUTED?
CAN HAND STRUCK COINS REALLY BE GRADED?
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Recently we republished a major article on this subject. Since that article was written a researcher in Ahmedabad, Amit Mehta, has worked on a number projects including the various copper coins of the western regions. He ahs also co authored ( with Sameer Panchal and Vinay Vadke) a book in a series “Heritage of Gujarat Through Coins” “The Princely States of Chhota Udepur, Deogarh Baria, Lunavada and Sunth.”
It was a privilege for me to be recognised as a contributor to this book. However copper coins in India have never really had the research they have deserved. From the times of the great Victorian era numismatists it seems that copper coins of the great subcontinent have been under researched. Then again with the great number of coins , empires and rulers within the region there is still much work to be done on the precious metal coins but copper coin collecting and research will uncover great secrets.
So we attach Amit’s article. It has been a great pleasure working with Amit. The methods of crop funding in the western areas especially that of poppy (opium) growing could yield some surprises as suggested by Amit. It is time for a greater depth of research and collecting. These copper coins are still extremely cheap. Who knows what might be discovered.
Arthur Needham for the team.
Kachha Paisa: A re-look at the humble coin of the masses
in the rural interiors of India; By AMIT MEHTA
I have been fascinated by the ‘unofficial’ currency that circulated in India in themid19th century but at the same time peeved by the name Kachha Paisa which gives an impression of it being not too welcome or possibly, an illegal currency.This unofficial currency or ‘commodity coinage’ was denounced by the colonial officials as ‘counterfeits’ giving them the ‘Kachha Paisa’ tag. They were the equivalent of the Civic Coppers which circulated in Afghanistan and Iran at around the same time. I have penned these thoughts to help increase awareness amongst collectors that Kachha Paisa’s are not only collectible but are in fact more fascinating than the official mint issues.
Kachha Paisa can be defined as a coin or a currency which circulated at a given point of time and was acceptable in the market for regular trade but at the rate of exchange arbitrarily determined by the local shroff based on a number of factors including acceptability. This means that the number of paisa / pice that could fetch a rupee or may be other paisa / pice was determined by the local trader, Shroff or Money lender. There was no fixed rate of exchange like the official mint issues which traded at fixed rates. Silver was used only for large value transactions and Copper was required for petty daily transactions. Farm labour including opium and cotton workers were paid using copper. Each crop of opium and cotton, which were in great demand by the trading houses for export, needed multiple progressive advances from the buyers. These advances were necessary to pay for seeds, farm labour and to meet the daily needs of the farming community. This was invariably paid in copper because silver was a high value currency – way too high for the ordinary peasant or labour for everyday use. Minting Silver was the prerogative of the state whereas there was little or no control on minting copper. The cost of transporting copper over long distances from mints was much higher per unit as compared to transporting Silver. It appears that minting rights were farmed out and anyone could get a license to mint copper by paying a nominal fee to the authorities. The population in the areas where these Kachha Paisa circulated was mostly illiterate and for accepting a coin, relied only on the symbols. Since these coins were struck with very low margins, the possibility of the mint workers cutting corners during minting cannot be ruled out. This would have resulted in a poor strike / double or multiple strikes etc. – features very commonly found on these coins.
Over Struck coins also point to the use of previous issues without melting or heating to cut costs. The main feature used to label a coin as a Kachha Paisa and differentiate it from an ‘official’ coin is the presence or absence of specific symbols associated with the issues of the official mints. Absence of such symbols or finding the symbol/s which differ from the official issues or the presence of multiple symbols associated with multiple ‘official’ mints are cited as reasons to label a coin as a Kachha Paisa. Presence of symbols associated with two different states has also been attributed to minting during skirmishes or invasion with the invader adding his symbol to the locally recognised symbols. However, I do not find this line of thought convincing. A study of coins termed Kachha Paisa throws up another interesting fact. Most such coins, especially those minted in Central India where opium was the chief produce, have, besides the symbols associated with mints in the surrounding states, one or the other of the following symbols:
a) A device with 3 or more prongs (often called ‘Trisul’ ) which is interpreted as a ‘standard’ coin marking of the Central Indian region. It is in fact an implement that is / was used to score poppy to produce the opium containing liquid and hence easily identified by the local population.
b) A four-petal flower often appears on a number of such coins. It should be noted that the poppy flower is very often drawn as a four petal flower.
Most, if not all Kachha Paisa’s were struck privately with or without permission from any political authority by local money lenders / village heads / large traders / trading houses in the major cities for consumption in the rural or far away areas. The crude minting, some which look like deliberate attempts to avoid the mint name coming on to the coin ensures that most coins do not shoe the mint name on them making it impossible to attribute them to ‘states’. An error that a collector makes today is trying to attribute these coins to specific states. Since these coins are not state issues but local area specific private issues – akin to tokens of today. Unscrupulous dealers brand these coins as rare or unique coins and demand unreasonable prices. It is necessary to keep in mind that the economy then was more like a barter trade economy, often using copper to trade, than the trade in monetary terms that we have today.
Kachha Paisa’s circulated in the market just like official copper currency but since it would have been costly to transport copper in large quantities over long distances, they would have been minted locally in the area where they were used. This humble currency was mainly used by the population to meet their daily needs. A symbol or a mark was placed on the coin which the illiterate population could easily recognise or relate to. These coins were generally used in a small area surrounding the ‘mint’ place though some may have travelled long distances. To make the coins acceptable for use in a little larger area, the ‘minter’ may have used symbols acceptable in the surrounding areas. Since the value of the coin was generally determined by the weight of copper and the symbols, it actually would not have caused much hardship to the consumer –who, in any case had little choice since the ‘official’ coinage would not be available in the interior areas.
Unfortunately no records of this minting including the farming of minting rights or licensing of the minting have been found and hence it is not exactly possible to confirm. Discussions with other collectors have thrown up an interesting fact that such parallel currencies have existed and been in use since ages. These were not the normal forged coins meant to deceive but actual circulating coinage for use in a restricted area with a suitable small mint run. The Kachha Paisa phenomenon is not confined just to Central India but is widely spread from the North of India to the Berar area in South Central India and from the borders of Gujarat to a fair distance inland in to Malwa in Central India.
Though a lot of people view the Kachha Paisa’s as not collectible, I believe that these are very short run issues – which changed with passage of time – and sometimes, some trade houses had a different design for every crop. These unscrupulous traders who had minted these coins may have agreed to pay higher value than the shroff if the coins were exchanged for goods from them giving them an added profit. It is very clear that these pieces circulated and functioned as money. They played an important part in the daily activity of the common man. Thereby, they should be included in the border of the concept of the word ‘coin’ and command the same respect. These coins are actually found from very small or localised areas and if the hoards / finds are properly documented, it may still be possible to have more information on them. Unfortunately, Indian find laws being what they are, no one in his right mind would like to report a find. These are very scarce coins and it is only a fortunate collector who is able to lay his hands on them. For coins minted using just one or two dies, not more than a few thousand would have been minted and only a few would have survived.
I thank Barry Tabor who did pioneering research on these coins for having guided me in my formative years and Arthur Needham for all his help in making this subject easier to understand. I also thank members of the forum‘World of Coins’ for their valuable suggestions on the subject. Copyright 2017
Completing a manuscript is never easy. Then again completing a second book is never easy.
A number new discoveries, or perhaps major finds somewhat neglected by others recently, required a rigorous review of certain aspects of the work. Even after this was done there is now a specific section of recorded history on the rule of Jahandar Shah that requires a further review and investigation.
As late as last Saturday we were presented with a “new” find. The problem was that the coin was almost, could have been, possibly maybe a coin of Jahandar Shah. We have seen a number of copper coins like this in our research. If we are really not sure then, sorry, it can be recorded officially.
We hope the careful recording of what we do know will spur on greater interest in uncovering new coins and styles. We also hope that these new discoveries can be properly celebrated in the future rather than just receiving a cursory acknowledgement in some distant corner.
The search should be on and true celebrations should take place when new finds are identified.
ps: the pdf of the final looks stunning.
Attached is a major article written some years ago by Barry Tabor. It is a large file (around 30Mb). It is a great basis for further investigation
Please view the video attached. It starts a discussion on what is really to be seen on Indian coins. Especially those described in numismatic literature as ‘Islamic Coins”. It is time to examine the coins much more closely than has been generally done. Let us venture into the world of symbolism and display. It was for those who needed to understand what the ruler was telling on his coins. The understanding was not there for all to see, but it was certainly there for those in the major power base to see and to take note of.
Just a short note on another matter.
There have been a number of questions raised about some highly specific advice given on this blog on coins storage and the treatment of bronze disease. In many matters the mass availability of social media has led to many opinions on many matters being made available. On this blog we utilised the opinions on coin storage and bronze disease treatment from the genuine world experts and these have been peer reviewed. Although as a group we probably have the necessary personal experience to comment in these areas (and in future some other highly specific areas) it will always be our policy to seek out information from the best in the world. Feel free to comment on these articles if you wish but please remember the calibre of the writers. They are WORLD EXPERTS not experts in their own world.
Put simply metrology is the science of measurement. Here in general for hand struck coins it means weight because there is a greater variance in, for example, coin linear measurements (diameter etc.) Than there are in the actual weight.
So why is it important? It is important because in general all coins have a notional weight and with hand struck coins although there is a variance there is still a range that is acceptable. If it falls outside this range then it must be viewed with some suspicion from the outset.
Everyone knows this of course! Well perhaps they don’t because it is often thought so unimportant by many people that they neglect to place the weight of coin in any question about it. These days the cost of highly accurate electronic scales is extremely cheap. Basically if you can afford to collect coins you can afford one of these. So there is no excuse not to have one and NO excuse not to include the weight in discussions. Frankly there are one or two people who enter these discussions who seem to believe that weight is unimportant in any coin. There are wrong in this assertion.
For machine struck coins the tolerances are much stricter in most cases. Here the use of electronic vernier calipers is necessary. Again these are now comparatively cheap. So we are able to know very rapidly the weight (and diameter) of a coin and this can be compared to the standard or notional weights of the series.
Metrology is mentioned here for two reasons.
- Recently a coin was placed for auction in a major auction house that had been graded by a major international grading house. An independent expert noted it was a forgery and thankfully went through the correct process to have the coin removed. Even the best make mistakes so it is important to have ALL the facts about a coin not just a photograph and a few whimsical notes.
- Much is spoken about the particular weights of various hand struck series in the sub continent (and elsewhere). A major paper is being prepared on this subject for release in conjunction with current manuscripts in preparation.
So the metrology of a coin is vital to all facts as we move forward.
Back in the 1970’s a new name was given to hand struck coins from the Indian sub-continent, especially the Mughal Empire. To receive the name NAZRANA (sp. nazarana) they had to be struck as perfectly as possible. Below is an example from the rule of Farrukhsiyar and is from a private collection.
This coin even has much of the border so often missing from almost all coins. It is a beauty to behold and surely if sold it would command a superior price. Everything is in place and again surely if graded it would receive a superior grading.
However if the coin had on it a shroff mark, you know those little punch holes to test the metal, it would not be graded! So we raise the primary question with the so called coin grading: What are we actually grading with the process? Prettiness of something incomplete or something that is fully attributed?
In our collecting there needs to great care taken in collecting the many wonderful series of hand struck coins. Buying graded coins may not in many instances get you the best possible coin.
Note: A section in our shortly to be released book on the coins of Jahandar Shah discusses Nazrana coins. There is confusion on what NAZR actually was. Perhaps it is time to remove the term from our numismatic vocabulary.
Epigraphy: The study of inscriptions (without being overly technical).
Shown above is a page from our first book. It shows the overlay colour coding used in all of our works. The same colour is used to demonstrate the words across all the series. The coin issuer’s name with be in red, the mint in green, the mint epithet, if present, in blue etc.
On this superb coin we have practically all of the relevant information available on the coin. The ruler’s name is clear, the mint and epithet can be deduced without problem and importantly the dates are seen clearly. So we have all the information of historical importance.
But what if, like many hand struck coins, one of these important pieces of information was missing or unclear? What if a Regnal Year was missing or the actual date of issue or even the mint name? We then have a coin that is incomplete. So can this coin be actually graded? If it can be what are we really grading?
These are the primary questions placed before you. Because surely also if the information is incomplete on a coin then no matter what the perceived grade is an incomplete coin must be worth less than a complete coin no matter what the grade is of the complete coin!