Author Topic: General question on old Indian minting practices  (Read 2793 times)

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Offline Prosit

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General question on old Indian minting practices
« on: August 02, 2011, 06:21:55 AM »
I have see a lot of (if not all) old Indian coins posted here where the entire design is not on the coin.  The coin die was bigger than the coin blank.  Why was this done?

Dale

akona20

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2011, 06:45:53 AM »
In general the important consideration in the coins in question was the weight (and metal purity) rather than the actual coin dimensions. So if the weight was correct then things could proceed to the actual stamping procedure (by hand).

Dies that were engraved could take a number of coin sizes with the smaller (in diameter) thicker coins not receiving the whole engraving although it must be said that there are sufficient 'full' sized coins that do not have the total engraving on them either. Other important factors were the dates because of known coin depreciation in some times and of course because some mints had a better reputation for metal purity than others (depending on a raft of peripheral issues).

This is the short version of a very interesting study.

Offline Prosit

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2011, 06:53:07 AM »
So the reason is that weight was the denomination and the design ancillary.  Makes perfect sense.

Dale

Offline Oesho

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2011, 05:55:39 PM »
The question on old Indian minting practices has been subject before on WoC.
I can't recollect when and where and in which connection, but I put forward that I have read somewhere that striking coins with larger dies and smaller flans was particular done to prevent counterfeiting.
Of course the other reason was that it required less energy to strike smaller (dumpy) flans, rather than thin broad flans. Thin broad flan coins, showing the complete die, were obtained from the mint for an additional fee and were generally used as presentation money (nazarana).
Striking smaller coins with larger dies will give the forger a problem that he has to imagine the additional design of the legend. By copying the exact coin, the forged die will show a smaller part of the legend. And coins struck with such dies will quickly be detected, as certain parts of the lettering suddenly stops before the rim of the coin.

Offline Prosit

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2011, 08:45:09 PM »
Thanks!  I had not considered it as anti-countefeiting procedure.  If you collect enough of the same coin....I suspose you can see the entire design?

Dale

Offline Figleaf

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2013, 05:31:04 PM »
In theory, yes. On large coins, where not much of the die is missing, it may be done, even with a limited number of coins. A fine alternative is drawing a die reconstruction. We are fortunate to have not one, but a handful of people on the site who can do this. They are artists and experts at the same time.

In practice, there are signs that minters (or their overseers) had a preference for a certain area of the coin. For instance, the area with the regnal year seems to have been a favourite. Makes sense, because the regnal year is a prime control mechanism. There seems to have been less attention for the mint name. That is surprising, because regnal year and mint lead straight to the person responsible for producing the coin. Maybe the Mughals had more faith in their mint masters than contemporary Western rulers…

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline cmerc

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2013, 07:52:26 PM »
In practice, there are signs that minters (or their overseers) had a preference for a certain area of the coin. For instance, the area with the regnal year seems to have been a favourite. Makes sense, because the regnal year is a prime control mechanism.

One main reason why the regnal year was important is the "batta" system.  The laws required that most taxes be paid using current year coins, as it was assumed that older coins had more wear and hence less silver content.  Older coins, bearing older regnal years or AH dates, were exchanged for newly minted coins by "shroffs" or money changers, almost always at a considerable premium.  The condition of older coins, even if uncirculated, made little difference and still had to be exchanged.  The supply of new regnal year coins was also artificially regulated by shroffs, to increase the exchange premium and exploit small farmers and merchants to make greater profits. 

The British took measures to combat this economic exploitation by the shroffs.  One measure was the introduction of fixed or frozen regnal years on coins, which made it very difficult to distinguish between old and new coins.  (The British still had tolerance limits on the silver weight of a coin.)  Perhaps by the end of the 19th century, shroffs were all but gone, as the practice of dating coins was resumed. 

Thanks!  I had not considered it as anti-countefeiting procedure.  If you collect enough of the same coin....I suspose you can see the entire design?

Yes, you could get the same design but then you had to accurately engrave it to a die.  Too difficult for most counterfeiters, as compared to casting methods.  If you cast your forgeries out of the same coin, then all coins show the same region of the die design: a clear giveaway if all your coins are identical. 
Defending this hobby against a disapproving family since 1998.

akona20

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2013, 08:58:06 PM »
"The British took measures to combat this economic exploitation by the shroffs."

This is a very debatable statement. From my perspective the British method of coinage (and controlling money resources) was so vastly different to that of the Mughal Empire that full British control over the total economy was impossible if currency was still in the Mughal free mint mode. The shroffs as bad people are a common British thread when they managed to hold an economy together that was considerably larger than that of Britain for hundreds of years.

If a review of the effects of the British system of central mints needs to be done go no further than the destruction of the currency system (and the economy)  in Afghanistan in the late 19th century by the British. A very similar effect happened on a much larger scale in India somewhat earlier. The British controls were introduced for one reason and that was the exploitation of India by the British for financial gain.

Offline cmerc

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2013, 09:16:55 PM »
I certainly defer to Arthur's experience in this matter.  My limited knowledge comes only from what I have read (probably JONS articles, can't remember). 

Although the shroffs were managing the economy before the British, it is almost a certainty that they were engaged in exploitative practices.  I wonder if the masses fared better under the Mughals/land-owners/shroffs or under the Brits.

And of course, the British reasons for undermining the shroffs was probably not altruistic, but as you say, for consolidating their own economic domination.  I should have thought of that!
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akona20

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2013, 09:30:11 PM »
Hi, many questions on this subject unresolved and open to debate.

Any money handler is exploitive if they can get away with it. However within India there were various methods to avoid exploitation of course. Noting that the vast majority of the population used humble money and coppers (and when there was a shortage of "official" copper unofficial copper) and hundis (bills of exchange) were used for large sums of money the actual avenues of exploitation were somewhat controllable.

The question arises, where could people be exploited? Then when you look at the controls for much of the Mughal era there were relatively few places when it came to the issuing and control of money. Money could be weighed and tested for metal fineness (silver and gold) reasonably accurately. The conversion ratios between the four classes of "coins" (humble, copper, silver and gold) were relatively well known and the clipping etc was controlled by weighing and re issuing (wear was thus controlled as well). So the system was relatively complex but flowed well when looked at from most angles.

Offline cmerc

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2013, 09:39:45 PM »
That's certainly interesting.  However, as you say, shroffs will find a way to exploit people.  This is a good article which discusses some of these issues:

Herril, H. (2013).  Ways and by-ways of Indian numismatics: aspects of money circulation in the Bengal and Madras Presidencies, JONS, 214, p.20. 

One example I remember is workers in Bengal using cowrie shells as small change.  When they exchanged it for silver rupees at the end of a day, the cowrie/rupee rate was high.  But if they needed to exchange rupees for cowrie, the cowrie/rupee rate was lower.  I am sure you can think of more ways to exploit the system!

To recap, I mentioned shroffs to explain why the date part of the die was more important -- tax purposes!
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akona20

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Re: General question on old Indian minting practices
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2013, 09:50:59 PM »
"To recap, I mentioned shroffs to explain why the date part of the die was more important -- tax purposes!"

Was the reminting of the coins due to the batta system a tax or was it protection for everyone against light weight coins due to wear or clipping?

This is a fundamental question.