The Sri Lanka 2009 25 cent and 50 cent coins

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka which markets high value commemorative coins ignores the need of coin collectors to get regular coin issues. CBSL rarely issues year sets and it is not easy to get uncirculated specimens of new circulating coins. If you are interested in collecting a compete set, with every year of issue, even the information of what was issued is not publicly announced in any document or Annual Report, since the Royal Mint stopped doing so in the late 1970s.

In 2005, when new smaller coin types were issued there, was a lot of printed press and electronic media attention. In 2006 CBSL issued a year set, which included the 25 cent and 50 cent coins of that year. In 2008 the issue didn't include the 25 cent and 50 cent coins.

In 2009 one Sri Lanka rupee is equivalent to 0.87 US cents and so the Sri Lanka 25 cent and 50 cent coins are only worth less than quarter and half of a US cent. By 2009 coins of less than a rupee were hardly used in any transaction. Even the Rupee was considered valueless and change of a Rupee was rarely given and a shortchange of a rupee was ignored. The cents coins were hardly visible in circulation. For reasons they only know, CBSL decided to mint 25 cent and 50 cent coins in 2009, while introducing the new Rs10 coin as a replacement to the Rs10 currency note.

The two coins ordered with cent denominations came in only in 2011 long after the other higher denomination coins of 2009, which were issued around 2010 April. Despite many requests to CBSL for a Mint bag of the 2009 25 cent and 50 cent coins, I was unable to get one. Specific requests via my bank was declined by CBSL. Finally CBSL said there were none left of that year in the CBSL Vault. In reality they can't confirm. These low denomination are packed in transparent plastic bags each with Rs1000 of coins, and 5 bags put in a box, and 30 boxes to a pallet. A box is labeled only by denomination and needs to be opened to find out what year it contains. Boxes are sent by CBSL to Banks without opening.

In 2011 Dec, Shiran Cruse a leading coin collector found a 2009 50 cent coin in Kandy, and I found one in Colombo by chance in 2012. However the 2009 25 cent coin had not been found by any collector I know, nearly 2 years after it was issued in 2011. Shiran who had gone through a bag of 1000, 25 cent coins from circulation, and not found any of 2009, was convinced they did not exist, despite what we understood from CBSL. Although unlikely, maybe the Royal Mint sent coins with 2006 year for the 2009 25 cent order.

On the suggestion and introduction of Mr Wijesingha of CBSL, on 2013 February 19th, I went and picked up sorted lots of circulated new type 25 cent and 50 cent coins from the famous Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. I was given a bag with Rs874 of 50 cent coins and a bag with Rs345 of 25 Cent coins for which I gave them Rs1300/-. I was told that it was from about 2 to 3 months collection, since these low denominations are now a very small fraction of the coins put in tills.

After going through over 300, 25 cent coins and not finding any of 2009, I was almost convinced of Shiran's conclusion. It was a real thrill to find a 25 cent coin with year 2009. It did exist. Ultimately after nearly 7 hours looking at the year on over 1400, 25 cent and 1700, 50 cent coins, I found just four 2009 25 cent and thirty five 50 cent coins. It took me on average about 8 seconds to look at year on each coin with a magnifying glass.

There were 13 Foreign coin among the 25 cents included 5 Euro cents, 4 Singapore cents, 3 Thai 25 Satang and 1 UAE 5 Fils. The 2 Foreign coins among the 50 cents were a 50 ore from Norway and a 1 Sen from Malaysia.

Far more Foreign coins than 2009, 25 cent coins in the same lot is very surprising. I agree Foreign coins are probably over represented in temple tills of a Vihara frequented by Foreign Tourists, but I assume these were just few that missed detection, when the coins were sorted.

Number of Coins Minted in Millions
Description 50 cent 25 cent
Year 2005 20 10
Year 2006 10 5
Year 2009 5 5

Based on mintage figures in a well mixed sample 1 in 4 (25%) of the 25 cent and 1 in 7 (14.3%) of the 50 cent coins should be 2009. The observed 1 in 350 (0.3%) of the 25 cent coins and 1 in 50 (2%) of the 50 cent is extremely far from that expectation.

A Rs1000/- 25 cent bag has 4000 coins. So statistically it appears that only about 2 boxes of 2009 25 cent coins or about 40k have gone into local circulation.

A Rs1000/- 50 cent bag has 2000 coins. So statistically it appears that about 2 pallets of 2009 50 cent coins or about 600k have gone into local circulation.

Getting into circulation requires the CBSL to get a now rare request for these coins from a bank. The coins being issued from the bank to a merchant, and a customer being given the coin in change, and then using it. Merchants no longer use or give cents coins and even if someone gets one, will it get used or thrown. It is now of no value to even give a beggar or put in a collection till. The 25 cent will now get thrown more often and may explain part of the under representation of 2009 year coins in any circulated lot.

Coin Value in Millions of Rupees.
Description 50 cent 25 cent
Minted since 2005 17.5 5
Minted 1996 - 2004 42.5 25
Total Minted since 1963 207 125
Circulation 2004 End 167 116
Circulation 2005 End 173 118
Circulation 2006 End 181 119
Circulation 2008 End 183 120
Circulation 2010 End 186 121
Circulation 2012 End 185 122

Only coins issued after 1963 circulate, and those issued before 1995 which were made of Cupro-Nickel have practically got removed since the scrap metal value is far more than face value. I am told that CBSL themselves recycled some of them.

The table indicates that very few of these coins have gone into circulation in last few years. Practically all the 25 cent coin issued after 1963 are considered as circulating, when in reality most of them have probably scraped or thrown away in household hoards.

There are also probably unopened boxes or bags in some branches of local Banks all over the country, stuck in some vault and forgotten. So until such a bag can be located, it is tedious job to find any 2009 50 cent or 25 cent coins from circulation.

My current cost estimate including travelling back with 15 pounds of coins and time spent sorting is, Rs700 for a 2009 25 cent coin and Rs100 for a 2009 50 cent coin. This rarity will disappear instantly when an unopened bag of each 2009 coins are located. Please contact me at 0717072020 if you locate such a bag.
The joy and pain of collecting modern Sri Lanka coins :-)

So while high value NCLT (Non Circulating Legal Tender) commemorative coins have become too expensive for most collectors, the low value regular coins that don't effectively circulate are almost impossible to find.

The coin was scanned at 600 dpi. I thank Mr Sunil of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara for his assistance.

PostScript: I have seen an Unc 2009 50 cent coin in a Coin pack of Sri Lankan coins issued by a foreign Dealer. Could it be possible that much of the two 2009 cents denominations got sold somehow to foreign coin dealers and never got put into local circulation. My search continues.