History of Coins and Currency in Sri Lanka

by G. P. S. H. de Silva

This book published in 2000 August in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Central Bank was written by an archivist and historian who admits in Preface that he is neither a numismatist nor a notaphilist.. This fact is clearly reflected in the errors and omissions through-out the text. This book clearly requires very significant re-editing and correction and careful proof reading by an expert numismatist on Lankan Coins.

The only positive feature is the layout of the book, particularly the inclusion of images among the text which makes the presentation much better than typical books numismatic books like Codrington which uses plates at the end of the book.

Starting with the illustration used for the cover of the book, this is very poor ans misleading since it pretends to be a mosaic of Lankan coins and currency, but all of the items are to widely different scales. It reflects the same error made in the images in the book which have been printed to different scales often with no indication that the coin is not to scale or it's actual size.

The newsprint (85 dots per inch) quality of the grayscale coin and currency images makes them not attractive since no detail is visible. In some cases it is apparent that printed images of coins have been poorly scanned without de-screen leading to the very ugly patterns such seen on page 91. The Art magazine (175 dots per inch) quality as used for the color currency images should have been used, although engraving such as used in the 1924 edition of Codrington is what is ideal.

The color images of the currency is nice quality printing. However it is a pity that the word SPECIMEN and the punch holes used to deface the currency notes covers so much of the design, that makes them very non-attractive. The non-engraved printing is surely sufficient defacement of the currency notes for security purposes. The much better choice would have been to use a fixed smaller scale such as say 70% or even 40% as used in the Pick standard catalog of currency published by Krause.

A brief chapter on the "Beginnings of Currency and some early coinages" is outside the book title description also since this is too vast a field to even summarize in 4-pages.
On the other hand there is only a very incomplete discussion of Foreign coins used on the island which is far more important to include in the this chapter on Beginnings of coinage in the island.

It is important to also illustrate all of the different types of notes and coins not a random selection with some duplication of the same images for some types. Table-2 which maybe interesting for Ancient coinage is meaningless for modern or even medieval coins. There are many errors in the table entries under British era, reflecting the errors in the text. 2000 is not 21st century :-)

For modern coins and currency detailed lists such as given in Sallay is most useful and that information particularly for currency needs to be udated since 1985 when Sallay's book was published.

I have not proof read the book very carefully. I purchased 3-copies to give as gifts before I realized how bad it was and decided I couldn't possibly give them. I left two of the copies in Lanka leaving one with Mr O. M. R. Sirisoma a leading collector in Colombo to proof read the section of Ancient and Medieval coins.

I note the following by a quick look at colonial and modern period.

Some of the Text errors. I will add to this list as I notice them.

There are many blatantly obvious wrong captions on some coin images.

Many of coins are obviously not to scale and scale not mentioned

For British Era it is easy to find high grade specimens of these common coins to illustrate with proper type all of the Victoria, Edward VII, George V and George VI coin types and list the weights, size dimensions, metallurgy and complete list of years they were minted.

For Post independence era it is useful to illustrate all the different definitive types including George Sixth (1951), Elizabeth II (1955-1957), Lanka(1963-1971) and SriLanka(1972-2001) issues without duplicating the commemoratives are already illustrated separately.

It would be also useful to illustrate the different edge types. Including the types with characters engraved on the Rs 5 and Rs 10 coins.

Errors in number of commemorative Proof issue.

The obverse and reverse labels on some are confused and in many cases obverse and reverse of different coins have been illustrated. In some cases the obverse or reverse are not illustrated.
An uniform figure style needed to be adopted and used throughout the book. Such as for example all coins to actual size with the obverse side on left and the reverse on right placed next to each other, like in many but not all figures. For non-machine minted coins it is best not use the obverse of one coin and the reverse of another unless this is noted in caption.

Page 169 list of signatures on currency since 1948
1988 M. H. M. Nainamarikkar & W Rasaputram

It is no point having multiple specimens of same type unless image resolution is sufficient to identify varieties.

Above are suggestions and some of the errors. I have already pointed out most of them to the Author when I met him in 2001 December. I hope it serves as a preliminary errata sheet for this book. I point them to also illustrate that the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is currently selling a book on the History of Coins and Currency in Sri Lanka with a lot of errors and wrong information which needs to be completely revised at soon as possible.