Saloon houses old coins

Saloon houses old coins

As a 15-year-old boy, when Yunus Savanur, a salon owner, visited a museum at Delhi in 1986, he barely knew that he would one day become a leading numismatist of North Karnataka.

Today, Savanur has an incredible collection of about 3,000 antique coins of gold, silver, copper and mixed metals, 700 currency notes of 100 countries and 300-year-old bond papers used 200 years ago.

If you visit his saloon near the tahsildar’s office in Dharwad, more than a hair cut, you can have a glance at his collections!

One of the oldest coins in his collection dates back to the period of Chandragupta Maurya. Coins minted during the period of Hyderabad Nizams, Mughal, Maratha and Vijayanagar empires, Tipu Sultan, Scindia, Rajput, Chola and Chalukya dynasties, besides coins and currency notes from South Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Japan, Kore, UAE, Germany, France, Bangladesh, Egypt, America, Portuguese find their place in his collection.

Among his collection of notes are the first Indian currency note of Rs 100 denomination printed in 1951, and the first currency note printed in Russian in 1950.

He recalls, “I often visited the residence of Bollywood actor Leena Chandavarkar’s father at Malamaddi. He was a numismatist and one day he showed me his collection. After seeing his collection, I decided to continue collecting coins.”

Savanur does not mind spending huge sums to buy rarities. “I was attracted towards a silver coin minted during Bahadur Shah Zafar’s reign in New Delhi. I had to shell out Rs 3,000 to take its possession,” he recalls.

“In early 2000, I was at Agra. While searching for rare coins near Taj Mahal, an elderly man approached me and handed over a coin of Emperor Akbar’s time and said it would take me to new heights. He denied any money when I offered him.”  Savanur considers this as a prize catch.

He recalls a similar incident. “When I was at Belagavi, Vernekar, a local numismatist gifted me a silver coin of the Mughal era. It was such a coincidence that the coin was in circulation during Akbar’s time. I have kept it safely.” There are instances when people offer him rare coins for free during his exhibitions. “This voluntary donation has improved my collection,” he admits.

Savanur had to visit Hampi to buy a coin minted during the Ashokan period. “My friend Bharat Kumar Songal took me to Hampi as I was told that a person there has coins minted during the period of Emperor Ashokan. I paid Rs 2,000 and bought one coin,” he says.

The two-inch vertical coin minted during the Adil Shahi period is one of his favourites. “I bought it from a numismatist in Belagavi about a decade ago and paid Rs 3,500 for it,” he points out.

He considers his collection invaluable. “For me, it is a passion, not business,” he says. However, he was forced to a sell about 5% of his collection to meet the academic expenses of his children.

The passion for collecting coins landed Savanur into a different hobby. He hit the idea of collecting old bond papers when he visited an exhibition in Mysuru 15 years ago. He bought 25 bond papers, paying Rs 300 each, and then went on to add more to his collection. 

“I have bond papers with seals and pictures printed during the period of the Maharashtra Peshwas, Wadiyar dynasty, Tipu Sultan, and the Nizams of Hyderabad.

Till date, he has participated in 24 exhibitions in places such as Dharwad, Belagavi, Dandeli, Hubballi and Shiggaon.

“Though it is a rewarding hobby, coin collection requires more investment and self-motivation,” says Savanur, who has spent over Rs 3 lakh so far on his passion.

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