Do you know what numismatics really is?

Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. A broader study like a particular country’s cultural background, history, language and other major information. Coins are one of the most important sources of information from which archaeologists and historians can try to interpret the past. This is partly because, unlike most other ancient artefacts, they are often stamped with words and images. It is also because they are hard-wearing and survive in large numbers.

Coin collecting is one of the oldest hobbies in the world. There are many facts of numismatics but I would like to share 5 which I believe is worth sharing:

  1. The first city in the world to mint its own gold coins was Florence,
    situated in Italy. This significant event took place in 1252.
  2. In Britain, the oldest Roman coin was found which was about 2,224
    years old. This coin was minted in 211 BC. On one side of the coin,
    there is the image of Goddess Roma while the other side has the image of mythical twin horses Pollux and Castor
  3. In ancient India, cowrie shells were used as an important economic tool instead of coins. These had great value at that time. In fact, Veda has the earliest reference of coins in India.
  4. The largest numismatic organization in the world is “American
    Numismatic Association” was founded in 1891. This Association has the largest circulating numismatic material in the world. Its headquarters includes the “World Money Museum”.
  5. During the rule of Ming dynasty, China issued the largest currency note in the world. In 1917, Romania issued the smallest banknote in
    the world.

I would like to compare by sharing a few differences of what actually a numismatist is and what a few collectors do in this vast hobby. Let me start by talking about myself. When I started in 1997, I started off with stamps and the love for them started off due to the beautiful designs and colours on them that attracted me towards it. And then when I left India and went abroad, in 2001 there the love for coins started and then banknotes thereafter, having the same reason but the twist was i was curious about knowing about the history of why such and such note was made and what was the reason behind it the history etc., I started to buy books on them to learn more and found a very deep history behind this ast hobby. And that was the secret of my interest in this hobby.

Unlike the current generation collectors’ most of them collect just for the sake of the looks or interest but they do not go in details or at least the stick to one particular form like just let’s say the local country banknotes nothing more than that, so their information and knowledge is limited to that level.
Therefore, I would like to conclude by saying that no numismatist is an expert in all the felids of this vast hobby, but if they are focusing on one particular area, they must gain more and more knowledge on that particular chosen area of interest. There are different types of numismatists in the world.

My suggestion would be for young/future numismatists to first choose
an area that interests you the most and makes a deep study about it by
reading relevant authentic books, attending exhibitions, coordinate with experts, go through blogs and have a collection of your own.

All the best!

Courtesy: Sulaiman Sameeh

VISION 2020 – What do the Malaysian banknotes say about it?

The third series of Malaysian banknotes are released by the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to raise awareness about a transformation plan called Vision 2020.

Before I share a brief history of Malaysian banknotes, let’s look at what does the pictures on the banknotes signify. Colours and pictures on the banknotes are not meant to enhance its beauty and make it more appealing. They carry with them a meaning and a purpose in the greater sense of the nation. The pictures are carefully chosen to educate, inform and promote the nationalism among the people. The overall appeal of the banknotes is carefully crafted to instigate the emotional side of the nationals to their country, signifying their belonging to their nation and evoking the feeling of self-sacrifice and loyalty.

The first series of Malaysian banknotes were released in 1967 and they featured the portrait of Yang Di-Pertuan Agong(it means the supreme head or the head of the state of Malaysia) on the front and Kijang Emas (the official gold coin of Malaysia) on the back.  They were based on the geometric concept. Another series, the second series was released in 1982 with the banknotes featuring artefacts (traditional ornaments) and national heritage on the front and back while it retained the photo of Yang Di Pertuan Agong. The third series of banknotes were issued in 1996 which convey the idea of Vision 2020 in the form of pictures. The notes featured images of tourism in RM1, telecommunication in RM2, transportation in RM10, oil and gas in RM50 and car production in RM100.

The visuals on the third series signify the journey of Malaysia from a developing to a developed country. The third series also has the image of Yang Di Pertuan Agong and the BNM logo but as opposed to first and second series, it has introduced Jawi script on the back side.

Another important and interesting thing about the third series is the use of ‘RM’ as against ‘$’ signifying Malaysia’s economic liberty and its appeal as establishing itself as an independent currency.

Appointment of Dr Zeti Aktar as the governor of BNM symbolizes the achievement of women of the Malaysian nation. The images of car vision on the banknotes come from the vision of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, who aims to transform it into an industrialized nation.

The Largest Banknote


We discussed the world’s first largest banknote in the previous article. Let us share about the largest banknote of today’s time. RM600 measuring 370 by 220 mm holds the record for world’s largest commemorative banknote ever issued in the history of banknotes.

Bank Negara Malaysia issued RM600 in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary of the Signing of the Federation of Malaya Independence Agreement. This commemorative banknote was launched by His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong XV Sultan Muhammad V at the Museum and Art Gallery, Sasana Kijang, Bank Negara Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. This banknote commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the Federation of Malaya Independence Agreement signing in the year 1957. 

The observe of the banknote symbolises Malaysia as a constitutional monarchy, placed in the middle is the majestic royal throne encircled by the portraits of 15 Yang di-Pertuan Agong who have reigned from 1957 till the present day. 

The reverse of the banknote features Portraits of the nine rulers signing the Federation of Malaya Independence Agreement, the silhouette of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, National Palace, Perdana Putra, Parliament building and Palace of Justice. These reflect the four pillars of the nation: the institution of the Monarchy, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary respectively.

Only 6000 pieces were printed and were put to sale for 1100 ringgit more than it’s face value. The note was released for sale on 29 December 2017 along with RM60 and Uncut 3-in-1 RM60, all three at a premium. The picture of the Uncut sheet is attached for your reference.

RM60 has the same design as that of RM 600, the only difference being in their sizes measuring 162 by 84 mm. 60,000 pieces were printed and were sold for RM120 each. 

The First Largest Banknote

100,000 Philippine pesos

When we talk of largest, we could obviously be talking of the size or dimension of something. Yes! We are talking of the largest banknote of the world ever issued by any country. Banknote by nature tend to be of  pocket friendly size for the ease of storing and carrying it in our pockets. These large sized banknotes are intended as a commemoration specially issued in limited quantities for a limited time to honor or feature someone or something. And so it follows that the world’s largest banknote are not intended for practical everyday use.

This banknote is slightly larger than the A-4 sized sheet of a legal paper having dimensions of 22 cm by 33 cm printed by the Philippine government in 1998 is claimed to be the largest piece of paper money in the world. It was issued by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to commemorate the 100 years of Philippine independence from Spanish rule in year 1998.  

The observe of the banknote features “Sigaw ng Himagsikan”, a scene that brings to mind the struggle for independence and the cry of defiance against Spanish tyranny by Andres Bonifacio and his Katipunero on 24 August 1896.

The reverse of the banknote features the glorious and triumphant scene of the Proclamation of the Philippine Independence by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on 12 June 1898 in Kawit, Cavite. It was on this occasion that the Philippine flag, made by Marcela Agoncillo, was unfurled while the national anthem, composed by Julian Felipe, was played.

Only 1000 pieces were printed and was put to sale for 80,000 pesos more than it’s face value.  It was recorded as the biggest note during that time in the Guiness Book of World Records. Now the Malaysian 600 ringgit has taken over the place of largest legal tender banknote with size slightly larger than Philippine 100,000 pesos on which we will discuss about in later articles.

MMM Banknotes Result of the biggest ponzi scheme ever


In 1990s, when the communist rule was over in Russia and the economy was trembling and people were looking for a ray of hope in capitalism, which was also failing them, Sergei Mavrodi had some plans. Sergei, along with his brother Vyacheslav Mavrodi, and friend Olga Melnikova created a pyramid corporation named MMM (the name came from the initials of three founders) in 1989. The purpose of MMM in the beginning was probably not to cheat people but be a genuine corporation in the business of importing electronics goods in Russia and selling them. What inspired Sergei to cheat millions of people is still unknown.

The pyramid scheme started taking shape in early 1994 when the company announced that it will be offering a much better interest rate to its investors as compared to public and private banks in Russia. Initially, they convinced a few people to invest small amount in the company. And their money got doubled in a very short period of time. The returns on the investment were made in days’ time. The news of the corporation and its generosity spread like a wildfire through the word of mouth. Russians were already confused about how to save their money or attain economic stability amidst the economic turmoil plaguing the country. A lot of people decided to invest money in MMM to see it get doubled or tripled. Along with the popularity through word of mouth, MMM started running ad campaigns in Russia’s leading newspapers and on state television. Soon, each and every Russian knew what MMM was and what they do.

With lucrative interest rates and returns, nobody bothered to ask how MMM was making profit. In reality, they were not. They were just taking money from one investor and giving it to the investors who invested earlier. The only people getting rich with this scheme were Mavrodi and his family.

Soon, the shares of the company hit the skies. By July 1994, an estimated 5 to 10 million people had invested in MMM. The rate of interest at that time was 10% a week. But this mammoth growth of the corporation in such a short period of time rang alarms with the government and in the month of July, the finance ministry released a statement asking people not to invest in companies like MMM who does not offer any insurance on the money invested. Meanwhile, the shares of the company rose from 1600 Rubles in February to 115,000 Rubles in the month of July. That’s when Mavrodi came up with the idea of “biletov” or “Mavrodki”, or as referred in the modern day world, “MMM banknotes.” Mavrodi started offering part shares to the investors in form of biletovs where 1 biletov was equal to 870 Rubles and 100 biletovs constituted 1 share of MMM.

There were three series of biletovs printed, all bearing the image of Mavrodi in the front and with the text “MMMBILETOV” repeated in Russian. The first series of biletov consisted of 7 denominations, 1, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. The second series consisted of 4 denominations viz., 1, 100, 1000 and 100000 biletov. And the third series also consisted of 4 denominations of 10, 50, 500 and 1000 biletov. Biletovs were designed in the shape of banknotes. The paper used in some of the denominations was similar to that of normal banknotes while the paper used in some was cheap. Some of the higher denomination banknotes also had a few security features. Since the stocks of MMM were not listed on any exchange market and the company used to decide the price of its shares, the value of biletovs used to be flexible all the time.

In mid 1994, biletovs became an unofficial currency in Russia and people used to even transact using biletovs. Some of the 500 biletovs notes from the last series contained a stamp saying “Not convertible to cash” in Russian. Even though no hard evidence exists, it’s believed by many that Russian government either asked MMM to put this stamp on the bond or they did it themselves so that people cannot use them as a mode of transaction and hoarde them in the form of black money. At that time, 500 biletovs were equal to 475,000 Rubles.

In August of 1994, Mavrodi, who was the sixth richest man in Russia at that time, was arrested by the government for tax evasion. MMM shareholders, many of who were people with power, wrote petition to Russian prime minister to release Mavrodi so that he can compensate the people of Russia whom he defrauded. He was subsequently released, but the amount of money refunded was meagre as compared to the amount lost. MMM owed an estimated 100 billion to 3 trillion Rubles to approximately 5 to 10 million people of Russia. No official data of the exact number of people and the exact amount of money owed exists. The Russian court could only fine him for 100 million Rubles.

Biletovs are still fairly common in numismatics market as Russian who were defrauded decided to keep the bonds in the hope of getting their money back in the future. But nothing was returned to them. In the aftermath, at least 50 of the investors in MMM corporation committed suicide. After this scandal, Russia stock market became stricter with more regulation on any joint stock companies but the harm was already done.