Lanka Coin Collections in Museums

A brief summary of major collections of Lankan coins in museums.
Please E-mail to me any comments, corrections, updates or additions. Museums of National Museum, Sri Lanka.

Museums of Archaeology Department.

  • Kotte Museum 622/01, Bangala Junction, Kotte. No Phone. Opening/Closing Times : 8.30 am to 5.00 pm except Tuesdays. Free Entrance. Established : 1990/91 with the collection of Douglas Ranasinghe and run by the First Visited 2006 December. An OK collection of coins in gallery, badly arranged and labeled. Includes a significant collection of clay coin moulds from department. When I visited in 2015 the display had improved very significantly.

  • Abhayagiri Vihara Museum, Anuradhapura. A significant collection of medieval gold coins and clay moulds found on site.

  • Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Currency Museum, Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka, opposite Central Bank and near LightHouse clock tower.
    The Currency Museum was at the Centre for Banking Studies, 58 Sri Jayawardanapura Mawatha, Rajagiriya (Tele: 011-94-11-2873243).>

    It's strength is in recent issue of coin and currency notes. It is the only place which has on display the off metal Gold and Silver strikes of the one rupee presidential coins. The collection older than 50 years is not as good as could be expected. I remember seeing it first in the early 1980's when it was in the old central Bank building. It was moved after CBSL HQ building was Bombed by Terrorists in 1996 January. I saw the collection again at the current site in 1998 June. When I visited Last 2001 December some slight improvements had been made. A few older coins added to the collection mostly from gifts. I saw photographs of some of the gifted coins which didn't look too real. They have also got a nice gift of 75 items from Rajah Wickremesinhe's Collection from Ruhuna which is yet not on display even 6-years later when I visited in 2006 December. Noticed that the two 1947 Rs10000/- specimens have been glued on to the poster and had faded. The two 1942 25 cent patterns were in very poor condition.

    A new Currency Museum was planned on the ground floor of the rebuilt Central Bank Building in Fort. The major exhibit which was planed in consultation with Rajah Wickremesinhe on the ground floor of the rebuilt Central Bank Building in Fort has now been abandoned.

    In 2006 December the CBSL Museum is in charge of Mr K Ratnasekara Tele: 94-11-2477809, and under Mr Dammika Gunarathna who is the Deputy Superintendent of Currency, Central Bank of Sri Lanka Colombo, Sri Lanka (Tele: 94-11-2477355 FAX: 94-11-2477726). Note: The CBSL Museum website has very many mistakes such as wrong image labels, and has not been corrected despite informing them of the errors few years ago.

  • Dept of Archaeology Museum, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
    A small impressive collection from Ancient to early British colonial issue housed within the Archaeology department as a part of their research museum. The University of Peradeniya is a few miles from Kandy. Open only with prior arrangement. Visited briefly in 1999. I looked through the collection again in 2003 and was less impressed with it than I had been in 1999 when I was just begining my own collection.

  • National Savings Bank Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
    A small collection housed in a room on the first floor of the NSB Head Quarters on Galle Road at the Kollupitiya junction. The emphasis of the museum is the history of the Savings Banks in Lanka. Setup by Daniel Rathnapulige, former curator of the Colombo Museum, who I also met during my visit in 2001 December. No significant change since then.

  • Bank of Ceylon Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
    A small collection housed in the 28th floor of the Bank of Ceylon, Head Quarter tower in Fort. Setup for the 50th Anniv of BoC in 1989 with a collection from Frederick Medis, a collector in Colombo. I visited it in 2003 May. It is a nice collection Some of the coins had been wrongly labeled. Hardly any change since then. Another great reason to visit the museum is the open air balcony right round the building. The highest in Colombo with a great 300 degree view. All directions except towards the World Trade Center which is taller and adjoining.

  • Peoples Bank Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
    A collection housed on the ground floor of Peoples Bank Staff Training Building on south side of road between LakeHouse and Maradana. Visited in 2004 November. Opened only by appointment. Good secure room laid out like at the Colombo Museum on tall tables with tilted glass toped cases. Nothing of exceptional interest. Few forgeries I request them to remove. Needs to be rearranged and labeled properly. It had started with a collection of a member of staff and subsequently added to by the Peoples Bank.

  • Hatton National Bank Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
    A new museum with a small collection displayed on the third floor of HNB head Quarters on Darly Road Visited in 2004 December when it was still under construction by with Colombo Museum assistance. Emphasis as expected on the history of the bank.

  • Dutch Museum Galle Fort, Sri Lanka.
    It pretends to be a world heritage site which however is the Galle Fort. This is Museum not worth listing except to warn that it is tourist trap. There are some common or low grade coins in a very poor display. Also a lot of cheap copies of the Dutch dumps and bar coins mixed-in. An obvious attempt to give credibility to perpetuate the fraud of selling fakes to gullible tourists on the beach near the Galle lighthouse. A similer website with obviously fake Dutch items can be seen online.

  • British Museum, London, United Kingdom.
    Holds a fantastic collection of over 1000 Lankan coins from the major collections of the early 20th Century like those of Rhys Davids, Biddulph, Jack etc I had a quick look through the collection on 2001 November 13th. However the perfect Security system as needed for a collection like this puts a real strain on looking through too many coin trays. The ancient Lanka is housed in over 25 trays with about 40 coins. The Colonial Ceylon coins are housed in separate trays. with most of the rare patterns from the early 19th century. Recent finds from Ruhuna are not represented in collection

  • National Numismatic Collection - Smithsonian Museum of American History, Washington DC, USA
    Has a small collection of under 100 Lankan coins, from medieval to early British era coins, a few of them rare. Includes a gold "SahasaMalla kahavanu" which is unlisted in Codrington which needs study. The Gallery displays mostly US-coins which is the focus of the Museum, but does also show the development of coinage in Europe. Saw only one coin from south-Asia a British-Indian rupee in a display of different currency names.
    Visited on 2002 May 13th, when I got the opportunity to view the Lankan coins in the storage vault.

  • American Numismatic Society (ANS) South Asia Coin Cabinet, New York, USA.
    The online catalog list 1610 records with keyword Ceylon of which 1480 are coins (42 gold; 614 silver), 130 currency notes. The highlight of the collection is the Gampola Larin Hoard accounting for 470 of the coins. The modern collections ends around 1972.
    Visited on 2002 June 19th, when I got the opportunity to view the Lankan coins in the storage vault and do a lot of reference in the Library.

  • Indian Institute of Research in Numismatic Studies (IIRNS), Anjaneri, Nashik, India.
    Situated in a tiny village in Maharashtra near Mumbai, it is the best known Numismatic destination in India. Founded by Lal Gupta in 1984, it houses a gallery of coins and an extensive Library. They hold regular workshops/conferences and has many useful publications for sale.
    Visited by me in 2001 December 9-10th. Few modern items from Lanka on display.