City Secret – Old Coins, Daryaganj
The mint of history.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In a fashion, India’s dense history of invasion, destruction, reconstruction, colonization, re-colonization is immortalised in its coins. This occurred to The Delhi Walla one Sunday morning in Daryaganj’s weekly book bazaar as I stopped by Vijay Kumar’s collection of old coins.
Spread out on a plastic sheet covering a portion of the pavement, there were coins ranging from the Mughal era to that of the British to the years that immediately followed the independence. Kings, tyrants, ministers and scamsters were marked with their own worth. George VI was priced at Rs 1; Nehru stood at 50 paise.
There were coins from the extinct principalities of Gwalior, Mewar, Bundi and Hyderabad, as well as from China, Egypt, South Africa, France and the late USSR. You will find Lenin and Mao, Jinnah and Gandhi, and a number of unidentifiable kings and queens.
With around a thousand coins, Mr Kumar’s customers face a tough treasure hunt, particularly so if they wish to focus the search on a specific country. “The czarist-era kopecks of Russia must be lying somewhere. Look, please look,” he says.
In the course of a few minutes, you may travel from East India’s India to George Washington’s America and many other lands.
Mr Kumar says, “People from old families sell the coins to me and I sell them to collectors.” Prices range from Rs 5 to Rs 50 to higher for the rare varieties.
And if you manage to unearth a kopeck, you will be asked to pay Rs 200. In bargain you must trust.
Where Adjacent to Moti Mahal Restaurant, Daryaganj Time 10am to 7pm (only on Sundays)