Travel Magazine

Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) – Udupi: a Numismatists’ Delight

By Rashmi Gopal Rao

Did you know that when all digits on the serial number of a currency note are the same (like ‘555555’ or ‘777777’) it is a type of fancy note? Or if there is a pointed star under the year of a coin, it has been manufactured in the Hyderabad mint? Well, it is unlikely that we observe these little things when we handle notes and coins.  Learn about all of this and much more at the Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) in Udupi.

Corporation bank roots

A totally insightful and interesting museum with close to 3000 coins dating from as early as 400 BC, the coin museum located in the temple town of Udupi is indeed a revelation of sorts.  The town which is just over 420 km from the capital city of Bangalore is synonymous with the 13th century Krishna Mutt, a world-renowned temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.  Udupi is a bustling town also known for being the birthplace of banking institutions like Syndicate bank and Corporation bank apart from being famous for its delectable vegetarian cuisine.

Situated in the heart of the town, the coin museum is actually the former residence of Haji Abdullah Haji Kasim Saheb Bahadur who was the founder of Corporation bank of which he was President from 1906 to 1929.  The heritage house that is now converted to the museum is impeccably maintained and is hard to believe that it is almost 120 years old! The museum is maintained by Corporation bank.

Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) – Udupi:  a numismatists’ delight
Pic courtesy: Udupi coin museum

Treasure house of information

The museum is a store house of trivia and information apart from having a rich display of coins.   Information pertaining to the birth and development of the Indian banking system including the history of the Imperial bank of India and State bank of India is detailed at the entrance.  A brief description of all the 24 RBI governors till date right from the first two British governors Osborne Smith and James Braid Taylor till the latest governors Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel has been displayed.

Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) – Udupi:  a numismatists’ delight
Pic courtesy: Udupi coin museum

Information on how commodities like tobacco, cowrie shells, clamshells and elephant tusks were used in different countries instead of money is interesting.  There is a section on mints which traces the history of the four mints in India with the two oldest being in Kolkata and Mumbai which were established in 1829 by the British.  It was a revelation to note that the Hyderabad mint was established in 1903 by the erstwhile Nizam but was later taken over by the Government of India in 1950.  While the Mumbai mint has a small dot or diamond mint mark under the year of the coin, the Kolkata mint has no mark.  The newest is the Noida mint which was set up in 1986 and coins minted here have a small, thick dot under the year of the coin.  Several foreign mints like the Royal mint London, Seoul mint and Moscow mint too have manufactured Indian coins and the same were imported in 1985, 1988, 1997-2001.  All this information along with the mint marks has been displayed.

Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) – Udupi:  a numismatists’ delight
Pic courtesy: Udupi coin museum

Rare collectibles

The museum has several gold, silver, copper and lead coins that were used during the reigns of various dynasties including the Mauryas, Kushanas, Satavahanas, Cholas, Pallavas and Hoysalas.  Rare collectibles like cardboard coins that were used in India during 1939-45 when there was a shortage of metal during the period of the II world war is notable.  Similarly, on display are the Haj or Gulf rupees that were printed by the RBI 1959-1966 for the benefit of Haj pilgrims.  The fact that every one-rupee note is signed by the Finance secretary and all other denominations upward are signed by the RBI governor form for some thought-provoking trivia. There are several commemorative coins released by the RBI.

Corporation Bank Heritage Museum (Coin Museum) – Udupi:  a numismatists’ delight
Pic courtesy: Udupi coin museum

M K Krishnayya who is the curator and guide to this museum is extremely helpful and does a great job in explaining all the nuances and details to the visitors.  Photography is strictly prohibited in the museum.

This article was originally published in The Tribune here.


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