Category Archives: General

More on Katchcha (Katchha) Copper Coinage


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





Barry Tabor’s Seminal Article on Katchcha Coins from the Malwa Region India

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

opium money last



Please try to understand a little history: Understanding what is on the coins.

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.

Happy Retirement Dr Bruce Kaiser

All the best to Bruce who starts “retirement” on January 1. Although I doubt if Bruce will retire.

Bruce from Bruker had faith in my seminal XRF project that found a home at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. His expertise and careful work laid to rest many if not all of the negative views about the controlled use of XRF in numismatics.

Thank you Bruce from all of us.

Online Traders and the Reputation of Numismatics

Again our attention is drawn to various comments, mostly in social media, about how the actions of dealers who exist online  are destroying ‘the very fabric of numismatics and coin collecting’.

Coupled with this is a level of sniping at national and internationally known coin dealers and auction houses by people who have an obvious agenda to both disrupt a reasonable market place and to denigrate one or more sellers in favour of others or who are in fact endeavouring to set up business for themselves.

Recently two incidents were resolved satisfactorily by following due process.

  1. Involved a coin graded and attributed by one of the world’s largest coin grading companies was listed for sale by a major Indian auction house. A savant of this series remarked that it was a fake. The writer gave advice on procedure and the coin was swiftly withdrawn.
  2. A new Roman coin was listed by a major specialist international auction house. It was questioned by a number of senior experts. the writer incidentally remarked that coins of a similar style had been seen in a major museum display many years ago. The was withdrawn for further authentication. The coin is now back on the market having been fully authenticated.

Following a series of known and well advertised steps when there is a doubt by experts works because mistakes are made by even the very best.

So if you wish to listen to these continuing tales of foolishness and that are spread in a guise called a warning to those in the numismatics pursuit you, my friends, are being led astray by people with an unknown pedigree and unclear intentions. If you are of a silly disposition or believe in chasing rainbows then find something else to do. If you don’t want to do any research for yourself then find something else to do. If you are unable to take the steps of precaution that you take in any other transaction you do then don’t do the transaction.

The hobby/investment or whatever you wish to do with is peopled by wonderful folks from all around the world. Some are extremely secretive in what they do, some are gregarious and helpful. Others, just as in anything, will prey on the unwatchful and silly.  There are many coin societies, great people, sellers and auction houses who are absolutely reputable and who have sound return policies.

If you personally wish to be helpful may we suggest:

  1. When someone cries fake demand that the weight and dimensions of the shown.
  2. When someone cries fake and points to a seller in the open marketplace demand that formal notification procedures are followed and people with some real expertise support the claim. Mistakes are made. This also goes for allegations of tooling, coin repair etc.
  3. Take note of what is being advised But ask yourself if you would have that carelessness in your actions when someone says they have been duped.  Besides have read a few stories lately about this I am wondering what planet some people really live on.
  4. When buying coins check the way in which the coins are shown to you. If the are casually dumped in front of you without adequate protection then it is time for action. Put on your cotton gloves, bring out your scales and calipers and check coins one by one. If there is an objection from the dealer then the dealer needs to be educated.

Time to make a stand for the wonderful joy of coin collecting. Silence alloys the enemies a foothold.


Sub Continent Coins: Two Marketplaces

Again in recent times on various social media sites there have attacks on sellers within the marketplace.  However there appears to be a complete failure in basic knowledge, and basic ethics for that matter, by a number of of the most outspoken attackers.

  1. There is a major difference in the marketplace between some internet social media sellers and major selling and auction houses.
  2. The is a law in India that states that objects of more the 100 of age cannot be exported without a licence. If you don’t like the law do something about it and I don’t mean bleating about on social media. If you ignore the law then at some time you will be caught. The sooner the better would be a great starting point.
  3. Issuing wild threats about going to the government to ensure everyone has the correct licences and pays their taxes is a direct insult to many sellers (there is in India a differentiation between someone casually selling a few things and a true business for example) and rather shows that if you have stung by your own failure to take normal precautions in the marketplace. In fact your personal failure and the invective used to justify your own failings are a great disservice to the whole collecting fraternity. Then again perhaps that is your mission.

We have a number of marketplaces. Firstly If the Indian law is respected in full there are two separate marketplaces. Yes i know the law is broken to the advantage of come BUT what happens in India and what happens outside India can be and often is two different things.

If you wish to buy through social media and online buying sites please don’t tell us of the failures, ripoffs, personal torments and threats. You made the decision, you live with it. Most people understand the pitfalls of doing this. Of course we find selective reporting here of so called miscreants. But that is perhaps another story.

In this part of the story we will move on to another recent innovation in social media and that is blatant attacking of major sellers and auction houses. Very recently an upcoming and expanding auction house in America was attacked on Indian and world wide social media by a small group of Indian coin “experts”.  Whether they were really experts or not is really not up for discussion this time but they used the same tactics against a highly legitimate business run by a very good person who uses known experts to assist with his listings. Note above that there are two marketplaces, Indian and non Indian and what might be perceived as not rare in some parts of India might be rare in other parts of India or almost non existent overseas. As there is technically no easy method of reducing rareness overseas the marking of a coin as rare, for example, is quite justified. There is also a need to understand that most major auction houses and sellers have either in house experts or utilise the services of other known experts.

However this has not stopped the recent attacks. The big noises somehow decide they are dealing with a pedal rickshaw wala who has allegedly overcharged  ten paisa for a journey. The drum beating starts and a name is trashed on the opinion of one so called “authority” supported by a few of his friends. The trashers that start this have, of course, no downside. Administrators of these sites are either part of the plan or become somehow overwhelmed by the increased number of hits they are receiving. So rather than having any guts to stop the rubbish they turn on those who defend the real marketplace. This is a sad and sorry reality in today’s marketplace.

For new and the average collectors the continued reading of these articles is highly negative. Then again perhaps that is exactly what these negative operators want. Let’s trash a few names and only our friends (or us) will remain in the marketplace. Sad but true. Yes there are paid provocateurs out there and obviously sites that protect them are also in on the racket.

Buying coins is like buying anything, there are normal precautions to take and in general you buy from sellers with some provenance. That is the message that should be relayed to everyone and the next step is learning about your chosen collecting ideas.

Think about it.



Thank You for Being Such a Great Help!

Our files are now closed for the Jahandar Shah book on all coins.

Yes it took a little longer than expected but we needed to address positive a negative criticisms of our first offered in the new style of showing translations of coin legends.

We got a number of laughs out of one or two of the negative criticisms. Still trying to understand how it can be suggested that when just about every ruler in the western world has a myriad of books and reports written about them that it was too much to expect special publications about the coins of the Mughal rulers. I guess the same people expect close attention to be paid to every little minor change with their favourite coins but close enough is okay for major Indian coins. However we have tried to take note of and accommodate all of the advice received.

To our 349 helpers we thank you without reservation. To the universities and major libraries that have made our life much easier a special thanks. All but four of the major institutions we contacted helped us with our coin requests without charge. For a specific photograph we have made a long term very favourable arrangement with another. To the four who decided that because we were not university staff or attached to a university that our research was somehow unworthy and as a consequence we needed to be charged exorbitant sums of money to obtain a photograph for either attribution or publishing sorry we won’t be doing that. We note the bias, it was expected. Thankfully most great institutions have noted that the world has moved on a little.

So the research on Jahandar is closed as is the research on the next seven books other than highly specific sections where errors have been noted in previous publications.

We thank our publishers for their continued absolute support.

A recent private trip to India cemented our long term goals.

We are about to enter a new era of discussion and contact with our helpers and others who have a great love for the coins of the great Indian sub continent.


Thank You to Bibliothèque nationale de France Paris

The writing and publishing team would like to thank the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

We have recently received wonderful assistance in the provision of a rare image for publication and look forward to obtaining many more images from them.

Their kind and courteous handling of our requests has made the process of research much easier than it usually is.

Thanks again for your assistance now and long into the future from the team at historic Coins of India.


The Number Game (Part 2): Absolute Safety in Numbers.

I would like to thank Gev Kias for sending his new book, co authored by Dilip Rajor, “Standard Catalogue of Coins of British India 1835 to 1947, Currency Issues. The book is superbly presented with very high quality photographs throughout. I thank the authors for the kind words written with their signatures on my copy and the highly underserved mention in the “thank you” section.

I waited for this book because this series is on Numbers and the safety of numbers. British India (BI) coins are a great collecting area. They are very easy to read and understand and in general minting numbers are known so “rarity” can be thoughtfully calculated. This is unlike our beloved hand struck earlier issues from India where mintages are unknown, they were melted and remelted, they are difficult to read (buy our works and there will be no trouble with this) and some of them are so rare we can’t even find pictures to show you.

However back to numbers. In hand struck coins we are very careful when and how we issue a code for a separate type because there are, of course, variations in hand die making. However lo and behold in BI coins we have a breath-taking array of subtypes. Count the berries, count this, look at the neck etc. etc. It rather makes the strict restrictions on what we do in our hand struck coding rather lame. (btw there is a lovely long term sub project in this for someone).

Not only do we have these wonderful sub types in these BI coins but there is no problem in getting those wonderful grading numbers without fear because the coin die is designed to exactly fit on the full flan.

So we have a wonderful congress of numbers for us to concentrate on when we collect these wonderful coins.

However, and this area of sub continent numismatics is being an increasing laughing stock by a number of very astute collectors, because of the continuously writing about fakes in the market place by experts and self proclaimed experts. In fact these people are so astute that they can tell from poor photographs and don’t even need to see weight and dimension figures of the coin in question. And no folks putting these numbers in a query does not help the so called forgers because this information ahs been around since these coins were first minted.

So if you wish to guard you hobby and rely on the safety and comfort of numbers it is time to take a stand and demand that these people place everything before you before condemning coins and what is more the source of the coin must be demanded so a correct analysis of coins and the situation can be fully reviewed. Don’t do this and the laughter will become louder and louder.  The world of numismatics has gone through these phases before and it was strong work by collectors and reputable sellers that sorted the so called problems out. However we now have the animal called social media with us where everyone is an expert and there are no repercussions on fools and provocateurs who condemn everything for fun. This is a role for competent admins of course, please take head.

Another note on this great book, there has been a small group who have condemned one or two aspects and, perhaps, very minor errors. This happens everywhere with any great work. A minority of self proclaimed (in most cases) experts run off at the mouth and denigrate rather than celebrate. No numismatic author receives universal praise if they are to present something new and adventuring. The old (and young) diehards would rather protect ignorance and bias than help other to learn and appreciate.

Great work Gev and Dilip.