Hailed as the largest collector of Indian currency, Rezwan Razack has opened South India’s first currency museum in Bengaluru. “I am so happy that the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, C. Rangarajan inaugurated the museum,” says Razack.
Razack, co-founder and joint MD of Prestige Group, is the Chairman of the International Bank Note Society, India Banknote Collectors’ Chapter, and is recognised for his contribution to the advancement of numismatic knowledge. Razack, who built his collection over 50 years with exhaustive research, enjoys sharing his knowledge with students and encourages budding collectors to promote numismatics as a hobby.
He has co-authored The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money in 2012, and in 2017 wrote One Rupee One Hundred Years 1917-2017 to mark the centenary of the issuance of the one rupee note. “Rezwan Razack’s Museum of Indian Paper Money will not only be the first of its kind in India, but also the world,” says Razack.
The museum at Prestige Falcon Towers on Bruntun Road, has trained guides to take visitors through the history of currency in India. “The story of money is woven into our very being, uniting us, dividing us, giving us a sense of identity and mapping people or the nation’s power, crises and triumphs. I consider it a comprehensive restoration and preservation of an important national heritage. It is also something that numismatists worldwide will benefit from.”
The initiative, he says, is to help educate, inform and entertain. “The rupee is one thing that is ever present in our lives but never seen as a source of history, information and national pride. I hope visitors understand, enjoy and value this museum of our collective economic heritage.”
The museum displays a diverse collection of Indian paper money and the related material drawn from the Indian subcontinent. “While the concept of money has existed since almost the beginning of civilization, the invention of paper currency is more recent,” says Razack. From the early barter systems and the use of coins as currency, the museum introduces the visitor to paper currency, its origins and its use.
Apart from its selection of banknotes dating back to the early 1800s, an auxiliary collection has also been put together to explain the inspirations and techniques of making paper currency. While original hand-painted essays, patterns, proofs, trials, specimen notes, autographed notes and a rare Star of India Medal demonstrate fascinating aspects of money, meticulously sourced cheques, stamp papers relating to Indian paper money, booklets and banknotes help decode the world of money.
“This museum has been planned meticulously over three years to conform to international standards of lighting and climate control,” says Razack, adding that people don’t often retain paper money“My visits to cut-note dealers in Chickpet and in Fort Bombay gradually increased my collection,” he says, acknowledging that his persistence paid off.
Razack says his collection includes the oldest surviving note from 1812 of Bank of Bengal right up to the notes of 2017 of all denominations. The rare ones are the early Presidency Banknotes of Bank of Hindostan, Bank of Bengal, Commercial Bank, Calcutta Bank, Bank of Bombay, Bank of Western India, Asiatic Bank and Bank of Madras; British India’s Portrait Notes of Queen Victoria, Portrait Notes of King George V and King George VI; and Indian Notes used in Burma and Pakistan; Notes of Indo-Portuguese and Indo-French Territories and Indian Notes since Independence, also used by Haj Pilgrims and in Persian Gulf States.
There is also a lot of importance behind his book dedicated to the One Rupee note. The first One Rupee Note in India was issued on November 30, 1917. “To celebrate 100 years of the one rupee note in India, my book focusses on the origin and journey of the smallest existing denomination through the century, while examining its genesis. As the general population in India were unacquainted with paper notes until 1917, one of the methods adopted to increase the popularity of the one rupee note was to print a picture of the silver one rupee coin on both sides of the note.”
At Prestige Falcon Towers, 19 Brunton Road, Bengaluru; 10-30 a.m. to 5-30 p.m.; closed on Mondays and public holidays;entry ₹100
The collection includes banknotes from the early 1800s, early private and presidency banks, including the uniface or one-sided notes attributed to the colonial Government of India. The portrait notes of British monarchs such as Queen Victoria, King George V and VI are also present, while India’s colonial history has been documented in the notes from French and Portuguese India. From the princely states of Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir and Indian notes issued in the 19th century, to the Saurashtra and prisoners of war cash coupons, the museum maps the shifting kaleidoscope of history in the Indian subcontinent. Indian Notes used in Burma and Pakistan and rare notes used in the Persian Gulf States and by Haj pilgrims are valuable additions.
The journey of collecting paper money for Rizwan Razack began 50 years ago. It all started with the ‘cancelled’ stamped on some Reserve Bank of India banknotes kept in an iron safe at his ancestral family home in Bengaluru. The children were at times privileged to open the iron safe to keep the day’s collection of their grandfather Hajee Abdul Sattar Sait, a trader who ran a lucrative retail business. “The privilege of safely keeping the money packed in a cloth bag was a joy, because, we also discovered other belongings stored in the big iron safe. I remember seeing a few RBI notes with the portrait of King George VI that were cancelled with a rubber stamp which read “Pakistan Note Payment Refused.” I wondered how Reserve Bank of India notes could be Pakistan money and my question remained unanswered for many years.
Collecting, observing and studying them became Razack’s hobby. And in 1971 during his holidays to Coonoor in Nilgiris he saw his cousin, Sadiq Haroon with more such Indian Banknotes at his oak writing desk. One of them read “Rupees Two Annas Eight” or two and a half rupees that he grabbed from Sadiq, amazed at a banknote of a fractional denomination. “After I returned to Bangalore, I pestered my grandfather to give me all the antique banknotes that he had,” says Razack.
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