Of rarity and uncertainty

Started by asm, October 22, 2017, 04:00:32 AM

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Quote from: Figleaf on October 21, 2017, 12:36:56 PM
I like your guess, Amit. It does bring up the question of what was used for small change. I remember reading that almonds were. Possibly seeds also.
Various things were used in different areas. Bengal had the 'cowries', Bitter almonds in the west........... but I believe that barter was the biggest commodity of trade. I am told that a very similar system exists in the hinterlands even today. A farmer who has a land parcel (but is away from his village - to work in a city) fixes up with other villagers to help till the farm, cultivate it and reap the crop. The produce is then divided in pre-fixed measure between the three. In some areas, I am told that a person who grows wheat will exchange it with a guy who has milch cattle for milk and milk produce, with vegetable growers for vegetables etc. A servant of ours told me that as a tradition, he does not sell the produce he does not need but 'exchanges' for the other grains / cereals etc that he does not produce. Even in case of milk, in areas where co-operative dairy farming is not there, people barter milk produce for grains.

Quote from: Figleaf on October 21, 2017, 12:36:56 PM
I also take your point on the neglect of copper. It makes the work of collectors like Abishek, you and other Indian copper coin collectors even more important, but it should caution against calling any coin scarce or rare. I prefer "hard to find", as it is more vague and more circumstantial.
I have been advocating this for some time now. It is impossible that only one or say a few score of copper coins were minted.(unless a die broke and there was no second die of the type). The output of one die would be 8,000 to10,000 copper coins. ... and I am sure, that to mint copper, more than one die would have been produced. So it is definitely not possible that there would be just one ot two or three coins produced. Few of some types may have survived, but definitely not made. So, the word unique, extremely rare are words that I would not use to describe copper coins............

"It Is Better To Light A Candle Than To Curse The Darkness"


Coppers were definitely produced as small change is a necessity.. There is no doubt that some of these coppers are very scarce /rare.. Most of these mints are listed almost a century ago and if still only a handful is known , then one has to term the coin scarce/rare. Social media has connected a lot of collectors and most good and large collections are known (baring a few non social media connected individuals and those who do not like to show their coins). Now more than ever , more coins have turned up and even small time dealers/collectors are connected. If still some coins are not found in any collection, then I have to term them 'scarce/rare'
Gone are the days when coin collectors of Delhi did not know what lies in the collection of collectors in Mumbai.


The reason for rarity /scarcity is yet to be certained and probably the reason is multifactorial as Amit ji has points out. Many a times in rare coins too , there are die variations indicating that coins were produced from different dies for e.g qila mukam gwalior copper coin comes with atleast 5-6 die variations and one would expect a lot of copper coins but to date I could not document more than a dozen copper coin with that mint name. What could be the reason for it??


The major reasons are probably-
1) Copper survival is less due to it being a reactive metal in contrast to gold or silver.
2) Extensive destruction of copper coins even during Mughal times when older coins were molten and newer coins were minted using them. Mughal coppers were destroyed by many a princely states to produce their coppers and we are talking about more than 650 princely states. Even after these copper coins were not in circulations, tons of them are destroyed to make copper wires/utensils and what not!! The process continues to this day
3) It is true that due to extensive copper coinage by Akbar, his future generations did not feel the necessity to mint extensive coppers which were circulating in the markets. So for Jahangir and Shah Jahan , the copper were minted sporadically.
4) The number of mints minting copper increased during Aurangzeb mostly due to increased size of Mughal empire but the copper coinage was sporadic again


Modern risk management makes a difference between known unknowns and unknown unknowns. What we know about available copper coin types is mitigated by what we don't know, in particular, how many of them are still sleeping in the hoards of metal traders, as solitary lost or offered coins or even in treasures. A single hoard (e.g. the hidden inventory of a copper dealer who suddenly died centuries ago) can turn a rare coin into a common coin overnight. This is the known unknown risk of coppers.

The unknown unknown risk is that there may be something that distinguishes types we haven't found yet. As an example, suppose some clever scientist one day finds out that common coppers of type X from mint M usually have traces of metal A and B, but some have traces of metal C. Further study finds that coins X with traces of metal C are camp coins, struck during a military campaign and that they can identified by very subtle design differences. This would instantly create a scarce type Y. Most collectors would find that the coin in their collection is the common variant X, some lucky collectors would suddenly have scarce coin Y.

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


The uncertainty exists for any coin of any metal . There are chances that a coin may become common by sudden discovery of a hoard . But those are only probability. Many a hoards have been discovered since some of these coins were reported but if they still remain scarce/rare, there are more chances that they will remain so. That is of course my personal opinion!


Lenghty & interesting comments.

In my opinion there are handful of serious collectors for Mughal copper coins it is a fact no more new collectors are in competition.

So for these collectors existing coins are sufficient which is fulfilling their demand.

Regarding survived coins of few mints it is probability so nothing is certain.
Unique for copper is not appropriate I think so.
Rare and scarce are due to artifical scarcity imo if collector got coins in 70 s or 80 s and similar turned up in 2016 -17 is nothing surprising.
It is due to lack of interest from collectors or demand was less in those few decades.

I believe if someone investing in copper is a big gamble but for hardcore collectors these are priceless against passion.
Cheers ;D
Every experience, good or bad, is a priceless collector's item.