Summary of discussion on southasia-coins eGroup.
From: Rick Bilak
Date: 2000 Aug 21, 3:19pm
Lately there seems to be alot of these little gold coins posted on
the various e-auctions. What I have observed has been the following,
1. Shiva type
2. Tipu/Wodiyar type
3. A 1600's type with a fire alter
Not having the proper references some question have arisen:
1. Are these the only types?
2. How many different types are there and how difficult are they to
3. What is the best reference for researching these neat little coins?
4. Are there any other references for dealing with the tiny coins of
SouthAsia besides the 3 vols of Krause?
From: Alan VanArsdale
Date: 2000 Aug 21, 3:59pm
There are hundreds of types of AV Fanams. I have not even begun to
study these, though like many types of coins I should. Many of them
command high premiums, up to hundreds of dollars each for rare
ones. Even so there are at least 200 types under $50 each.
I will leave the references to the experts on the list. In closing
most of the fanams appearing on the internet are types everyone in
South Asia collecting such coins already has, so in low demand
there. The result is an interesting and low cost collectable is now
finding its way in large numbers to the internet markets. I expect
this process will continue for some time, and as a result many new
collectors of South Asian coins will be recruited internationally.
I am told by reliable sources common fanams have not been
counterfeited for some years now in India in any numbers (of dangerous
quality at least), so fears about fanams expressed on this list in the
past may not be current at least for freshly imported fanams. Forgers
can not sell common fanams in large enough numbers now, with the
demise of unsolicited mail order offers for them about 1985, to make
the forging of common fanams as profitable as the forging of rare
ones. As the fanam market rebuilds in Western countries, there could
eventually be a shortage of fanams again, and the problem could
reemerge. Hopefully this is still at least three years off as the
invention of metal detectors has made it possible to create large
enough supplies of fanams for the time being.
From: Jan Lingen
Date: 2000 Aug 21, 2000 5:41pm
It must be very confusing to read all the different attributions of a
coin-type, which looks one and the same. Particularly when persons,
lacking historical or numismatic knowledge, only using their
imagination for the coin description.
The AU fanam you're referring to is the so-called Kanthiraya fanam,
lateron called "Canteroy"or also "New Canteroy" fanam by the British.
It was an extremely popular coin in South India (particular along the
Coromandel Coast) and struck by various dynasties.
The earliest issue was probably struck by the king Kantivara Narasa
Raja Wodeyar (1638-1659) of Mysore. After the dead of Tipoo Sultan
similar coins were still struck by the Diwan Purnaiya as regent for
Krishna Raja Wodeyar (1799-1812). They may have been struck at Mysore
right up to about 1850. It is reported that around 1800 these type of
fanams were also issued by the Nayaks of Sira.
The so-called (New) Canteroy fanam seems also to have been imitated by
the British at Madras and perhaps even by the Dutch at Pulicat,
Negapatnam and Tuticorin.
De obv. of the Canteroy fanam shows the figure of Narasimha, the god
with human body and lion face. He is regarded as the 4th incarnation
of Vishnu. The reverse shows part of a degenerated legend, which
originally should have read the name "Shri Kamthirava". It is presumed
that in the 19th and 20th century similar (rather crude and debased
issues) were also privatly struck by goldsmiths.
As this type of fanam was struck over a long period of time by various
dynasties and trade companies, it is virtually impossible to atribute
them correctly. One can only collect a few different types (older
types with much detail and decent inscriptions as well as more recent
issues, which are much cruder, with a legend consisting of circles
only) and attribute them accordingly.
I hope that this description may be of some help, but it also shows
the complexity of these fanams. Moreover it doesn't apply to this
serie only, but also to most other gold fanams. Particularly the Vira
Raya fanam (which was mostly used on the Malabar Coast of India) has
been struck over a very long period and the number of different types
result in several dozens. However, don't get frustrated because these
coins are still inexpensive and very attractive to collect.
From: Scott Semans, Seattle, WA
Date: 2000 Aug 22, 8:35am
As Jan Lingen noted, these little gold coins have been issued and
imitated by many rulers, and by private goldsmiths. When I sell them I
divide them into two categories, the ones that I saw in great quantity
in the 1970s which can reliably attributed to Bangalore gold
merchants, and what I call "original" fannams which appear to be
older, though it's often difficult to be certain. I would not call
any gold fannam "counterfeit" unless it is a gold-plate, since they
have always been issued for small-time gold hoarding and whether they
were produced by rulers or merchants was of no consequence to their
I usually sell the "new" types at $13.50-$15.00 regardless of type,
but have been cleaned out by the promoters in recent years. I've been
hoarding the "originals" and worked up a price list, with rather
tentative attributions and catalog references. I've classed them by
the four major types: Ikkeri (Vijayanagar style), Vira Raya, Kali
("Gully"), and Kanthiraya (New Canteroy). I still have to do some
drawings for it, but anyone wishing a copy, send me your mailing
address if I don't already have it, and be patient! I sell these at
$25 up. What you will find in Ebay-type auctions will almost certainly
be the new ones, but at $12-14 or so, they are not a bad buy even so.
Krause, Mitchiner OC&V series, and some of the old-time South India
references such as Elliot and Jackson have a scattering of these, but
probably not reliably attributed. Mitchiner's new two-volume series on
South India has a goodly number of them, probably more reliably
From: Alan VanArsdale
Date: 2000 Aug 22, 2:06pm
It is inaccurate to say that on eBay the fanams now are the newer
ones. In fact from dealers lists, which tend to be older stock than by
internet, it is more likely to encounter newer coins.
This is because during the large promotions starting in the 1970's
many counterfeit and newer coins were put on the US market. The newer
merchant coins because they tended never to be lost, and still in
human possesion so available then for export. The counterfeits because
it was then profitable in the US and India to counterfeit common
types. In this period there was market for up to 100,000 fanams or
more per year in Western markets. Now the Western markets may take up
to 40,000 fanams per year, I doubt even that many.
With the advent of large dish metal detectors of good quality,
available in Asia widely starting about 8 years ago, the Western
demand for newly found common gold fanams is about at par with new
supply. Internet markets are highly competitive. Margins are narrow,
and distribution chains have few steps. Freshly found fanams in India
are now more competitive on the internet market than existing dealer
accumulations in the US, in terms of price, even though they are more
desirable they are cheaper on the open markets. Very few of the fanams
I receive from India are later (post 1850 AD) merchant copies. I have
yet to find the same die twice, most of the coins are obviously old
and from the ground.
The gold content is not so high that they do not undergo any changes
during burial. Since fanams on the internet have gone from domestic
sources mostly over to integrated import, prices have fallen from
about $25 per coin to as low as $9.50 per coin. Raja Wodeyar Shiva
fanams can now be had, good strikes, pre 1840 manufacture, for $10
each. The common 17th century and Tipu Sultan fanams for only a
little more. The reduction in prices is mostly due to the increased
distribution efficiency of the internet, that is the internet allows
wholesale to the public.
Only about 1% of the population is actively buying by internet still,
so dealers can obtain up to $40 each for the same coins from their
shops, though sales are visibly declining. As shop sales decline, shop
wholesale purchases decline, so the internet takes up the surplus as
it grows. Previously on the internet, more than a year ago, there may
have been many merchant and forged fanams on the internet as dealers
unloaded their less desirable stock. Now that this trade is mostly in
the hands of specialised professional internet dealers, most coins are
freshly imported, and so almost entirely of pre 1880 AD manufacture.
I have tested a large number of fanams for gold purity. I have found
only a small number of coins I could identify as being made after 1900
AD. All of these were below carat, under 14K. The fanams I obtain
directly from India are all over 14K, usually over 17K. Field prices
in India are about 25% over bullion value for fanams as found,
unpicked for rare coins. Field buyers then bring the coins into large
central distributors. These distributors remove the coins they have
market for at high premium, and are just about stuck with the
remainder as far as selling them in South Asia. So the price is then
determined by the Western market places, and nearly the entire surplus
is now exported.
There is no profit to forge common fanams in India for sale at 25%
over bullion value, the new coins mostly come from the field, so the
vast bulk of the common fanams coming out now are old ones. I am not
expert in the identification of fanams. I am trained in systematics as
part of my UC education, and am expert in the identification of
forgeries, contemporary copies, and imitative issues by a variety of
methods. I base my conclusions on the examination of thousands of
freshly imported fanams, and many hundreds of fanams from the US
market. I will debate this issue with anyone who wants, I doubt anyone
in South Asia involved in these markets will contest what I have
written here, except maybe to make some minor adjustments in my
From: Scott Semans
Date: 2000 Aug 22, 4:12pm
My own designation of new vs old fannams is based on a large reference
collection, and style comparison. Many of them were attributed by the
late Charles Panish using the ANS's collection as reference. However,
I have not kept up on what is coming out of India in the last ten
years or so, and have not paid attention to what appears on Ebay in
this category, and I've never done metal analysis on them. I'm curious
how you identify something as being post-1900 - are you equating lower
fineness with more modern issue? If so, why? I'd be grateful for more
information on dating these by fineness, as I've never been
comfortable with judgments made by style and provenance, or
attributing by photos in references. Also, do you use acid for
Does anyone know of published assay figures? As hoarding units more
than circulating coins they may not have been of great interest to the
European trading companies, but still, someone must have done an assay
In the 1970s my India suppliers told me that the "new" pieces were
made by Bangalore merchants to satisfy local demand, and that these
were the same merchants (or family) that produced coins on order for
local rulers prior to the 1940s or so, when there were such sovereign
rulers. 100,000 yearly exported to the West is probably in the right
ballpark, as I would get them in 5000 lots and was not the largest
dealer in these at the time. However, this must have been just a
fraction of what was made, as (according to my suppliers) the main
demand was local. There are endless die varieties in the 1970s pieces,
as one would expect with such large mintages.
As to pricing, up until 4 or 5 years ago I could sell any gold fannam
at $10 to delaers who sold to promoters, though now these same dealers
are offering them to me at $10 (tho I haven't seen them, whether "old"
or "new"). This is why I set retail prices on 1970s ones at
$13.50-$15, depending on quantity purchased. I've regularly paid
$12.50 or more for lots of "old" ones, pulled out "new" intruders
upping my net cost, so I won't try to compete with Ebay sales at
$9.50! Again, unless you have samples of the 1970s pieces for
comparison, or there is really some nondestructive assay test and
solid information relating assay to period of issue, you're taking a
chance on what you get in venues like this, but at that kind of price
you won't lose money regardless.
From: Alan VanArsdale
Date: 2000 Aug 22, 8:49pm
I am using electronic gold testing, on the edge and using an eraser to
take off the spot or I just leave it. I have tested gold of known
purity, marked carat and acid tested, and find that with the correct
technique electronic testing is very accurate from 12 to 18 carat
purity (if the gold is uniform throughout the coin, there are methods
to discover if the coin has deep plate by electronic testing, an
internal plug of base metal can only be found by specific gravity
testing or cutting the coin).
As to determining which are the merchants copies, I am not sure how
anyone can condemn clean gold coins as forgeries with certainty by
ordinary methods especially if high carat. I have found one plated
forgery, and found other new looking coins which appeared to be of the
same manufacture to me. Also I have found some which appear to use
technology not used in the older types, at least the Raja Wodeyar post
1799 AD Shiva types and older. In my estimation low carat gold, cut
with copper and silver to maintain color, should undergo some changes
I am more accustomed to ancient coins, but I have in the past worked
with a lot of 17th-19th century European coins. The main basis of my
considering some coins to be modern issues are they are in about
uncirculated condition, have not been cleaned or dipped, and yet do
not show the amount of oxidation I would expect of coins over 150
years old of such low gold purity (more like coins of the 1970's). So
certainly higher purity forgeries/merchants copies might get past me
by this method. The others in that they are milled using modern
machinery, as still is plain even after striking. If someone were
using the old methods, then on very clean coins I could have serious
trouble with them.
However, many of the coins I am getting are not clean. They are from
buried hoards (potted and loose in the dirt) and stray finds. It is
generally considered that, though it is an art and not easily
quantified, some individuals can distinguish between coins which have
been buried for many years and those artificially aged. Perhaps it is
vanity to count myself amongst these people, and I certainly have been
fooled a few times, amongst the hundreds of thousands of coins I have
handled. The groups of coins I am receiving in the mail look authentic
to me, I would even go so far as to say I am certain at least 60% of
them are more than 100 years old.
As to the rest, I have seen uncleaned ancient gold coins in museums
from excavations I could not authenticate, so for me at least the
cleaner ones (likely from potted hoards), are problematical though I
think most are old. With carefull analysis I can have some chance at
discovering their age roughly, by examination inside of flan cracks
etc.. I am informed by sources I consider reliable that there are
persons in India who can distinguish between modern imitations and the
real items fairly reliably, and the astute Indian coin collecting
community is paying high premium on certain rare fanams on this basis.
The coins I receive are checked by one of these experts. Still I can
admit to the likelihood that as many as 20% of them, no more, are
modern, though I doubt it is more than 5%, I am told less. Any dealer
is more likely to make a mistake on a cheap coin than an expensive
one, I am sure nobody is checking each of these carefully under a
microscope. Still I have checked many of them as to gold purity, and
found them consistent in that aspect at least. Also they do not seem
to be struck with modern high speed equipment, which does leave signs
(this is a complex topic). In my opinion, which is arguably expert,
these are primarily field coins newly discovered.
It is certainly possible field coins could be from the 1970's, and it
is also possible coins never leaving human hands from the 1970's could
be getting mixed into these at some point. It is a common practice by
some exporters to mix a few forgeries in to increase margins. In this
case it would not serve to increase margins by much. If anyone wants
to examine some of these and try to determine which if any are post
1850 AD, I can send some samples for evaluation, to be returned to me
later, you may cut one of them. Contact me off list at barnowl@s... ,
you may post your findings to the list. I will send examples which are
fresh looking, and one that is not fresh looking (fresh as in not
greatly altered since striking, all the uncleaned examples appear to
be oxidised to the amount expected for coins over 100 years old, the
older types more oxidised than the newer types).
Coins can be oxidised by a number of artificial methods, but this is a
long topic as to how to distinguish these methods from the real thing
I will not get into here. Some of these coins appear to have
circulated, but under conditions more like being in the mud in some
road, or in flowing water, than passing in human hands.
From: Scott Semans
Date: 2000 Aug 23, 11:02am
Where can I get more info on the electronic testing? What does the
equipment cost, or is this something to be found in a lab?
One thing I forgot to mention is all of the animal types that showed
up in the 1970s - actually late 70s, early 80s as I recall - these are
all modern designs, some vaguely based on copper kasu. Comparison of
these, as a group, with the traditional designs is a good way to
identify modern pieces.
I'm wary of putting too much weight on surface features such as
toning, wear, deterioration. It's nothing I've researched, but my
impression is the Vijayanagar, Ikkeri, and some others that were not
imitated later were circulated, and are found worn today, but at some
point these became a gold-hoarding unit rather than a circulating coin
- the poor Indian's equivalent of a Krugerrand. I've seen many pieces
that I know from flan characteristics are old, in UC. But, perhaps
Alan can spot oxidation factors and other clues that I would
miss. There's guesswork involved in dating these no matter what
factors are considered.
Yes, soil adhesions and the like would incline me towards believing a
piece was old. I never saw any attempt to make these appear older than
they were. What I got from India in the 70s-80s were 100% newly made,
and nobody cared at the time. All of the ones I consider old, I've
gotten from US/European sources. It could well be that what comes out
of India today is largely old pieces found by metal detector. I'd want
to do some comparisons with my reference collection before I offered
them as old myself, but Alan has much more recent experience in the
field than I do, and sounds quite capable of distinguishing these.
I resist use of the word "counterfeit" in this series, and use
"imitation" to mean a later issue, by a different issuer, trying to
copy faithfully the design. According to my suppliers at the time,
these were made by gold merchants even in the 19th (& 18th?)
century. Whether it was to the order of a princeling who wanted some
earlier princeling's design copied, or by order
of a merchant or the gold merchant himself seems of little import and
probably impossible to determine today. I suppose some could have been
made from 1948 to ca.1975 and thus, technically, private issues,
tokens, or whatever. Perhaps new batches have been made in Bangalore
since the early 80s but I'm doubtful there were very many unless quite
recently, given the market demand in the 90s and the lack of new
varieties (that I've seen, anyway). I think what matters to collectors
is whether they are pre-1970 (and thus likely 19th c. or earlier) or
not. This is why I divide them, as best I'm able, into two categories
when selling them, and price accordingly.
From: Alan VanArsdale
Date: 2000 Aug 23, 2000 4:33pm
I have used two types of electronic gold testers. The first was very
advanced for being so early (I bought it in about 1987), but seemed to
always go haywire with time. I sent it back once and they fixed it, but
within a few months it was given false positives for gold again. My
current one I have had only about a year, but it seems reliable. As with
any tester you need to have good contacts, and to follow standard
methods. Thin plate can be detected by an eraser (taking progressive
readings after erasing, the indicated purity will fall), thick plate or
gold dipping by using a file instead by the same method. I put a dollar
sign in the title as I am going to give the company of the gold tester,
I have no affiliation with them.
Tri Electronics, INC
9561 Ridgehaven Court
San Diego, California (USA)
phone toll free USA only 1-800-445-4241
I have the GT-3000 which is billed as being good only under 18 K and
down as low as 6-7 K. I find I can extrapolate some to lower or higher
purities, but metals like platinum and silver likely can throw the
results, so if present at ranges outside recomended some fudge factors
are needed using numbers generated by gold of similar alloying and
purity as the test example. From 8 to 16K I find it to be accurate
within .25 carats (about 1%) if you just go by the number and divide out
in the given range on the face of the machine. There are models which
will test accurately at higher and lower purities, but for some reason
they are pretty expensive, and not needed for my purposes.
Personally I consider the post 1970 coins to be fakes, whoever made
them, and those before to be either official issues or something like
merchant tokens. This is an arbitrary definition, but fits the history
of them well, given the rise in the price of gold about then and the
dumping of huge numbers of old and newly made coins on the US market
starting after 1970 AD. I have sold most of my US bought fanams, but
have a couple of examples still which are suspect though purchased from
reliable sources. One is small diameter and thick, low carat, with deep
striations on the edge. It looks well toned, and has hard deposits.
These deposits are remarkably similar under the microscope to those I
have seen on high quality forgeries in a Bactrian silver coin likely
purchased in South Asia, possibly applied by shaking in a bag while the
deposits were still plastic. The other is in about mint condition, good
gold, but appears almost cut out, though the flan looks good otherwise.
It is one of the about 17th century types. In all the freshly imported
coins of this period not one has this octagonal type flan, which in my
opinion has been roughly cut out of a milled sheet with some type of
modern hand assist equipment. Whether done in Asia or the US I do not
know, I suspect Asia, I am informed these were made both in India and
the US in the 1970's in large numbers to meet the demand by unsolicited
offer mail order dealers (who sold at very high margins, some becoming
quite wealthy even, something internet dealers of coins like most South
Asian coin dealers have yet to accomplish).
My problem is lack of certain authentic (old) pieces and lack of
certain forgeries (post 1970 AD) pieces. I can form some pretty strong
opinions, but to develop a really strong approach I need to develop a
large sample of known forgeries and known authentic coins. Otherwise I
am risking having new coins down as old for comparative purposes, or old
which are remarkably well preserved (such as potted in anaerobic
conditions) down as new coins.
In regards to animal fanams I have purchased a group of them freshly
exported. These I have sent to several international experts without
any complaints. I am informed, by an expert dealer, that they are
Kadba or maybe Karba writing is hard to read, probably 11th or 12th
century. That they are known from only one hoard of about 800
coins. That it is debated as to what type of animal is on them. I have
two types. I bought 40 of them originally, and found no die
repititions, I could have missed one or two, there are no repititions
in the 10 I have now. Upon microscopic examination they look like
potted hoard coins of great age to me.
I have not tested them for gold content, it is visibly high at least
17K. Some are of fine engraving style, some not, I estimate the dies
were cut by different persons. They appear very similar in
preservation, which is to be expected in a potted hoard, or in a
forgers lot. More toning near raised images at low points indicating
light cleaning or wear. The finer engraved coins are not recutting of
the dies of the weaker examples. Rather it looks like a tradition
wherein the style has degenerated over time.
If these are forgeries, and it can be determined by this list that
they are conclusively, then these coins will make a very good
reference regarding current high level forgers art in South Asia, and
be very usefull for study in regards to this art. I can not condemn
these coins as forgeries (at least without a lot of work), but I know
my skills in high carat gold are defeatable upon occasion. If these
are forgeries they are very sophisicated, and if determined as
forgeries I will run a series of tests on them to try and determine
how they were done. Results of analysis of forgeries should not be
fully released, as it aids forgers in their work (I have been guilty
of aiding forgers in their work before as exporters have demanded from
me to know why forgeries were forgeries, and the next tries reflected
my complaints to some extent). Exporters can be innocent or guilty,
one should always assume they are guilty as far as giving information
to them, and innocent as far as any blame for the deed, so long as
they are willing to take returns on forgeries, as it is
internationally the responsibility of the person up stream to take
From: Rick Bilak
Date: 2000 Aug 31, 5:08pm
After digesting all the info posted on the list and viewing several
different scans fo fanams. I have a couple of more questions for the
members of the list.
1. Of the Kanthiraya fanams ("Shiva Types") minted by Kantivara
Narasa Raja Wodeyar and Krishna Raja Wodeyar, do both types have the
obverse of Narasimha? Is there anywhere I can see the reverse legend
"Shri Kamthirava" before it degenerated into series of circles?
2. How many mints produced fanams for Tippu Sultan, I know of 4?
From: Shailendra Bhandare
Date: 2000 Sep 1, 11:31am
I have the follwing answers to Rick's queries -
1. Yes, both these types indeed have the Narasimha on obverse. He is
depicted in what is known as the 'Yogabandha' pose, i.e. with legs
folded inwards and a band going around both his knees, thereby
supporting the posture. Some pieces of superior workmanship and
showing a readable, albeit truncated, legend on the reverse do turn
up.These, I believe, would be the early examples issued during the
reign of Kanthirava Narasa Raja, before the type got degenerated.
2. The well-known mints producing fanams of Tipu Sultan are Farukhi,
Nagar, Patan and Kalikut. However other mints do exist but their
issues are exceedingly rare. They are Dharwar, Khaliqabad and
Gurramkonda. I have seen only one piece of the mint mentioned last,
whereupon the mintname appears as 'Gurramkonda' and not 'Zafarabad',
the name by which it was later known. While we are on this subject,
especially about forged fanams, I remember a group of fantasy issues
that appeared on the market in the west perhaps in the early
eighties. Some of these issues are listed by Mitchiner.They have
strange designs such as an elephant with a 'Howdah' on its back and
some of them imitate designs of Tipu's copper coins.
As rightly pointed out earlier in the discussion, there are enormous
numbers of fake Fanams available. They mainly belong to two categories
- the 'Vira Raya' fanams and Tipu's issues. I believe that the spurt
in production of spurious fanams can be attributed to, amongst other
reasons, to a surge in their use in jewelery.
From: Manuel X. Rajesh
Date: 2000 Sep 1, 2:39pm
How many mints produced fanams for Tippu Sultan, I know of 4?
I know of 5 mints for Tipu Fanams : Patan, Nagar, Kozhikode (Kalikut),
Farrukhi & Khaliqabad. Perhaps there are more ? Fanam, the lowest
denomination of Tipu's gold coins, was called Rahuti by Tipu. It is
1/10th of a Pagoda or about 1/40th of a mohur. But neither the word
Fanam or Rahuti is seen on the coin.
The Khaliqabad Fanams are now found mostly in Madurai district. The
best places to see the Tipu gold are the Bangalore Museum (43 gold
coins) and the Madras Museaum (21 gold coins). The Bangalore museum
still sells the 1914 book by Rev.Geo P Taylor "Coins of Tipu Sultan" !
The other book I look up is by J.R.Henderson Southern Indian Coins of
Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan 1763 to 1799. Originally printed in 1921.
The tipusultan.org has a nice online gallery of gold coins :
From: Kavan Ratnatunga
Date: 2000 Dec 19, 6:34pm
Subj: Hoysalas gold fanam ?
Recently I obtained from VanArsdale a Fanam which looks like the
Hoysalas gold Fanam and wrote up a webpage for it at URL
Elliot calls the side with 3 rows of 4 dots which is convex in
this coin the obverse, different from both Mitchiner
and Codrington who call it the reverse.
Which is the Obverse on this coin ?