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Is this the first British EIC Pagoda from Madras?

Started by gsrctr, September 30, 2020, 08:16:11 PM

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The Jan 1979 "Spinks Numismatic Circular" article by J.Lingen identified the first coin below as the first pagoda coin minted by the British EIC at Madras c. 1643 - 1677 (also at with convincing proof. Though the specimen was in poor shape, the numismatic community more or less agrees now with that identification.

Recently I purchased a coin that (two of the top auction houses in India claimed) was similar to the above one (pictures 2 and 3), but in much better condition. I have not had the chance to verify the gold content etc yet, but it does seem to match. Pls take a look and appreciate any comments.


This is definitely Madras Presidency Pagoda. Not sure if I would call the one from the recent auction as the first issue from Madras. Also, there were couple of really big Pagoda lots recently found mostly Madras Pagodas and Vijayanagara issues. So, you will see many more in auctions and with dealers soon. There are way too many die varieties in these European pagodas that it is difficult to definitely say which European power struck what Pagodas and the chronology itself, though Jan has done the most research in this field.


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


Thank you, Peter. I requested Oesho. Hopefully he will find some time to respond.

Naabh4, I agree. There are too many varieties of colonial pagodas and this was not cheap either. However, both the auction houses that I respect said that they believed this to be the one. Hope to get it tested some time after the current covid crisis is over.

You may be right about the recent coin hoards. There were two other similar coins that came up for auction over the last one year (attached). Can you please share any information on the two hoards? I look forward to seeing more coins from those!


Another recent acquisition - and a potential candidate for the first version.
The coin is quite worn out but looks similar to the one identified by Lingen.

3.41 grams, 12 mm


Updating an old thread with two more acquisitions.
Hopefully one of these will turn out to be the first British EIC Pagoda!


The next coin I recently bought is also similar - single deity on the obverse and a plain reverse.
But the design is different from the previous ones.


Jean Baptiste Travernier, a French merchant, travelled in India between 1651 and 1655.
His rough sketch (top picture below) was the only known illustration of the first Madras BEIC pagoda.
The reverse is plain and obverse has a single deity with prominent lines all around.
Lingen describes the prominent lines as radial die flow lines.
However I have an alternate theory based on a coin (second picture) I saw recently.
The lines could be part of the design itself.
What do you think?


I guess you mean attributes on the side, like in your picture Madras 1 Swami Old 1.jpg  This is a distinct possibility on the coin, but you need implicit assumptions for the Tavernier drawing, like an untrained eye or a strong Western bias. Not impossible, but hard to show.

I see script on the left. Not sure about the right, but it looks like there's script on that side also. What i find bothersome, though, is that the script at first sight looks Arabic, which doesn't fit the design. Perhaps it is Kannada?

I discarded the possibility that the figure is surrounded by a wreath. That would be European symbolism. Even more important, the leaves of a wreath are usually drawn with more or less parallel lines.

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


Thank you for your response, Peter.

The lines you see on the left and right of the deity are probably not script - I have never seen or read of a porto novo type pagoda that has script (except maybe MM pagoda - but no one has seen it). Typically this deity (Venkateswara) is shown with a conch and chakra, ornaments, garlands and flowing dhoti. All those symbols end up as lines in a small coin such as this.