History of Lakdiva Coins Collection

This is a family collection of coins from Lanka, was started by my grandfather late Mudliyer P. D. Ratnatunga in whose memory this site is dedicated. Some of the VOC and early elephant dumps are from that collection. My Grandfather seemed to have also had a habit of saving a few uncirculated notes, which are now some of the most valuable in the collection. Continued by my father who added a few pieces, I took over the collection in the late 1960's. Some of the coins were ruined at that time by my numismatic ignorance and teenage enthusiasm of trying to clean them.

At that time there were lots of Lankan coins available for sale in shops in Fort and Kandy. I can remember selecting a lot of coins and not having the pocket money to buy them for 25 rupees which looked outrageous at that time for these "copper" coins. I can remember finding the silver "Fanam" token which was also too expensive for me to buy. It was more than 25 years before I found another for sale at a coin show in Cleveland. By the mid 1970's most of the better coins had disappeared from shops in Lanka, purchased by the increasing number of foreign tourists visiting the island. I left the island for study in 1978 and the collection remained practically stagnant for the next 15 years except for the occasional coin I picked up while on vacation back home.

In 1993 at the Baltimore coin expo I found a few ancient Ceylon coins which restarted the collection. In particular a 11th Century Lankan Gold coin from Spink. I didn't know I could affort to own one. The coins that had been purchased by collectors and left the shores of Lanka many years ago were available in the US coin market for a price I could then afford. I picked a few at the occasional coin show but it was only after the start of online coin auction such as ebay, that finding these coins became a lot simpler. I got addicted to buy on ebay since 1997. Many large collections seemed to be breaking up when those that purchased them as an investment were retiring. The prices were much less than the cataloged values since there is less of an interest by the younger generation who have been trapped by the commercial market place to collect more modern plastic toys. I am buying on eBay coins that had left my homeland to take them back someday.

The Internet auction has also be great to establish contact with others with a similar interest. I established contact with Jim Farr of Tallahassee, Florida who has an almost complete collection of high grade uncirculated Ceylon coins from 1870 to 1951. Tom Mallon with a great web site on Asian Coins. He help sent me a lot of information about Ceylon coins. Dr Nupam Mahajan, who had created a site for Indian coins for similar reasons to mine. I met Arthur Strelick who was in Pittsburgh now retired and has now moved down to Florida. He worked at the American Embassy in Colombo in the early 1970's and had picked up a large collection of Dutch VOC coins are British copper which he was selling. I was able to get some coins for this collection from him.

Recently with the decrease in tourism to the island because of the civil war, and new finds from Ruhuna over the last two decades, I have been able to obtain ancient coins in Lanka, and afford to buy them only since I earn in US. This web page for Lankan coins was started in 1998 July, after returning from vacation in Lanka where I had picked up a few more interesting coins. A sampling of older version of the website are archived in the WayBack machine - 1999 Apr; 2000 Aug; 2001 Oct. 2002 Oct 2003 Aug 2004 Oct

During my next visit in 1999 November, I had just purchased a copy of a recent book on Some Old Coins found in Early Ceylon at LakeHouse Bookshop and had dropped briefly at NoorHameem's one of the oldest coin dealerships in Colombo, when by amazing coincidence K.N.V. Seyone the Author of the book and past president of the SriLanka Numismatic Society walked in. I visited him that evening and he put me in touch with Rajah Wickremesinhe and Tuan Sallay, both Authors and leading collectors in Colombo, with whom I had been unable to make contact. Rajah Wickremesinhe has contributed a lot to the ancient coins in this Collection some of which are Plate Specimens from his book Ruhuna. The Ancient Civilization. Tuan Sallay who is retired from the Central Bank is the leading expert on modern coins and currency. He has contributed very significantly. His personal records using which he published the book Sri Lanka Currency of Recent Times 1938-1985 are probably more complete than the Bank for this period.

In 2000 February Satya Bhupatiraju formed the SouthAsia-Coins E-group put me in touch with most of the leading collectors of South Asian Coins with Internet connectivity. Currently with over 400 members on a yahoogroup, it has been a great source of Knowledge, expert help and discussion.

During my following visit in 2000 August, gave a presentation on the Lakdiva CoinCollection web site to members of the SriLanka Numismatic Society (SLNS) at Freudenberg & Co office of the then President Brig. Munasinghe, who had also showed me part of his extensive collection of Ancient Coins of Lanka. I met O. M. R. Sirisena a leading collector and expert on gold coins. I obtained from him some coins which are difficult to find as well as a collection of Articles he has published in The Ceylon Daily News in the 1980's which I hope to put online. I also met Chrysantha Goonatileke, a collector of coins and books who was able provide me some items for this collection. Rudy Boekel the current secretary of SLNS showed me his very interesting collection of Dutch Era coins including some rare counter stamps he had collected from shops in Colombo in the early 1970's.

In 2001 I was able to buy some rare Lankan coins from the Baldwin's Auctions no 25 and 27. Jan Lingen of Netherlands sent me high resolution color images of rare Dutch and Portuguese colonial coins from his collection. Most of the coins still missing from my collection are now far more expensive than limits I placed when I started the collection and plan to stick with those limits, and get images to complete the site.

I made contact with editor Bruce Collins of Krause who invited me in 2001 to contribute to the pages on Lanka in the Standard catalog of World Coins. I was listed in Krause 19th & 20th century volumes as a contributer and they included images of two coins from the LakdivaCoin collection in the 19th, and many images of modern coins in the 20th.

Ms C M Ariyaratne, the current Superintendent of Currency, in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka has been extreamly helpful and in 2001 September sent me all of the mint details which has been used to update this website,

In 2001 December trip to Lanka, I visited Ruhuna and was able to get a lot of interesting coins and other ancient artifacts directly from farmers who are finding these items, and Mr A. Ratnayake a local trader who collects them and had supplied most of the items published in Rajah Wickremasinhe's book. In 2002 June I attended an Archaeometallurgy Research Group meeting at Lehigh University, PA-USA. In 2002 July I got access to the X-ray Fluorescence Spectrace equipment at CMU and obtained very interest results from observing some of my Coins. I have so far been able to do qualitative analysis, just detecting what elements I find in the coins. I hope to setup some calibrating standards to do quantitative estimates.

In 2002 September was contacted by SriLal Fernando in Australia, who had inherited his fathers collection which is illustrated in the Classic catalog of Lankan coins published in 1952 by T. M. De Silva Abeywardena. I saw the collection when I visited Melbourne in 2005 April and obtained scans of some of these coins from his collection.

One the 2001 trip to lanka I was able to obtain details of nine rare SriLankan Pattern coins which had not as yet been listed in Krause catalog. Interestingly there are US patterns of very similar type made around the same time. In September 2002 I was able win one of these rare TRIALs on ebay as well as Identify two other TRIAL coins made made at the Birmingham Mint.

In 2003 May I met Anula Radalage on my visit to Jaffna. She is former vice-president of SLNS and was a leading collector of Ceylon coins some of which are now on display in the Bank of Ceylon in Colombo. With her help I found a LTTE gold coin on that visit. I am very grateful to her contributions of few interesting items that remained with her to the Lakdiva collection.

Many visitor to the LakdivaCoins website have contacted me with comments, complements and questions. Some of the E-mail correspondence has led to friendships such as with Shehan Peterson of HongKong Shanghai Bank in Colombo who has enabled the website to post the latest coin issues.

I find it interesting that many of the foreign sources referenced in Pridmore for Ceylon, lived in Pittsburgh USA where I am currently resident. There was a lot of collecting of Ceylon Coffee Tokens by past members of WPNS, and I have been able to get some of them for this collection.

The collection of Lankan coins has grown very significantly over the last few years. The coins don't need to remain unseen while locked in a bank-vault, but could also be displayed on the world wide web so that any one interested can share in the fascinating Lankan history they reveal. Many of the image scans for these pages are by my son Rhajiv who will hopefully continue this collection in the future.