People's Bank 50th Anniversary Crown

By Kavan Ratnatunga

On 2011 July 1st, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the People's Bank the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, issued a Rs 1000/- sterling silver crown size frosted Proof coin with selective gold plate. This coin has already become a rare collector item.

Obverse : At center the crest of the People's Bank which is selectively gold plated, below which the years 1961 and 2011 on either side of a decorative 50. The phrase THE PULSE OF THE PEOPLE appear in Sinhala at apex and English and Tamil to left and right, within the annulus, with a ring of Lotus Petals along the periphery.

Reverse : At center within a frosted octagon the Face Value 1000 in numerals and THOUSAND RUPEES below in Sinhala, Tamil and English. The name Sri Lanka in Sinhala at apex, with Tamil and English to left and right, with 2011 at bottom. Four decorative designs along the diagonal corners of octagon, within a ring of Lotus Petals along the periphery.

The artwork was done by Central Bank artist Mr Kelum Gunasekera. The frosted proof coin has been struck with one ounce of sterling silver to the British crown coin size. Enclosed in a circular coin capsule it is embedded in black velvet inside a Burgundy leatherette covered 7.5cm square spring hinged Royal Mint presentation box. The Emblem of the Royal Mint is printed in silver on the white satin of the inside cover. A printed numbered Certificate of Authenticity contains the specifications and the text in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

The Rs 1,000 coin was officially handed over to Hon. Minister of Finance, H.E the President Mahinda Rajapaksa by Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabral, the Governor of the CBSL, at Colombo on 2011 July 1st. It was sold to public by CBSL from 2011 July 4th with a strict limit of one per customer for the issue price was Rs 8000/- (US $73).

This is the second Sri Lankan silver coin issued with selective Gold Plate. The first was the 2006 Buddha Jayanthi 2550 B.E. Rs2000 coin. It is not expected that the face value is now lower. Selective Gold Plating (SGP) is done by using a mask to expose on the coin blank, the area to be plated with less than 0.01 mm thickness of Gold, before it is struck. Since it is only selectively plated, these coins are not considered bimetallic like the 1998 Rs10/- coin still found in circulation.

The People's Bank (PB) is the first Public Bank in Sri Lanka to have a commemorative coin. There are two other state banks. The National Savings Bank (NSB), established in 1971, traces their origin to the Ceylon Savings Bank of 1832. The Bank of Ceylon (BoC), was founded in 1939. Maybe we will see a BoC coin for their 75th Anniversary in 2014.

This is only the 11th silver crown to be minted by CBSL, since the first commemorative was issued for the 2500 Buddha Jayanti in 1957, but the 5th in the last 6 years. 2011 is also the first year that CBSL has had more than two commemorative issues and that too in just 6 months. I hope it does not reflect an increase in number issues. Together with the increased sale price it is clearly hard on the wallet of most collectors, who would like to keep a complete set.

I hope CBSL issues more commemorative as circulation coins to keep costs manageable, with a limited Proof or Brilliant Uncirculated coin of same for the collectors, like what was done for the Air Force 60th Anniversary Rs 2 coin.

CBSL sells some of the commemorative coins on-line with payment accepted via a credit card. Unfortunately, none of the circulation coins and none of the commemorative coins minted on the proposal of a state institution and limited to under about 4000 coins are sold on-line. This limits the usefulness of this on-line store to foreign collectors of Sri Lankan coins.

The increase in CBSL sale price of these silver coins have been necessitated by the rapid increase of price of silver over last few months to over US$48 per troy ounce on 2011 April 30th. At that price each of these crown size coins had Rs4500 of silver and some were sold by CBSL for Rs9550. As the International price of Silver has now dropped to under US$35 CBSL has decreased the sale price accordingly to Rs8500/-.

Of the very limited 2300 coins minted, 2000 were given to People's Bank and about a third of them were distributed at the Golden Jubilee celebrations and another third to the best customer in each of it's Branches. People's Bank has stated that in view of its exclusivity, a limited number will be made available to customers interested in securing this 'must keep' souvenir. However I was told that even officers of the People's Bank had come to CBSL to buy coins.

Only about 200 were available at CBSL for the Public and despite the high price they sold out within the week. This has become a very difficult collector item. When this happened to the Customs and Sambuddtva Jayanti silver coins the institutions that got the bulk of the order put them on public sale and there is no scarcity. The peoples bank has still not done so, and it is uncertain if they will. It is a pity that the People's Bank coin will be out of reach of most of the People it serves.


Author maintains an educational website on Lankan coins at http://coins.lakdiva.org/, and is President of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society.


An edited version of this article People's Bank 50th anniversary crown- out of reach of most people By Kavan Ratnatunga appeared in Sri Lanka SundayTimes online on 2011 August 22.