Oriental Numismatic Society Events        News        Members articles
Publications        Book reviews        Site search        Internet
Membership        About ONS
Parmeshwari Lal Gupta. Paper Money of India
Kishore Jhunjhunwalla. The Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money

Parmeshwari Lal Gupta, Paper Money of India

published by Kishore Jhunjhunwalla, Currencies and Coins, 53 The Arcade, World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, 400005, India, 2000, 112 + 464 pages, ISBN 81-901068-0-5, $100 Kishore Jhunjhunwalla (Academic Consultant and Editor, Shailendra Bhandare), The Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money Kishore Jhunjhunwalla, Currencies and Coins, 53 The Arcade, World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, 400005, India, 2000, 464 pages, ISBN 81-901068-1-3, $80

       These two volumes mark a magnificent starting point for the collector and student of Indian paper money. The two volumes represent several decades of research and collecting. The first volume is designed for the academic presentation of the subject, while the second volume is a handbook for collectors and dealers, based on the same research as the first volume. The first volume includes the full listing of Indian paper money presented in the second volume, but it is preceded by a 112 page historical introduction by the late Dr Gupta. This review will focus on the version published in the name of Dr Gupta and therefore covers the contents of the volume published in the name of Mr Jhunjhunwalla.
       The coverage of the volume is the full history of paper money issued in India from the first issues made by the Calcutta-based Bank of Hindustan in 1770 down to the Reserve Bank of India notes being issued when the book went to press. The introduction and the catalogue are similarly structured into 14 sections. After a general introductions to the subject matter, the first section covers the notes of the private and semi-official banks of the period before 1861. The next four sections cover the issues of Imperial India: section 2 deals with the Government of India uniface notes, issued from 1861 until 1927, section 3 the portrait notes of George V, introduced from 1917, section 4 the continuation of such notes under George VI until Independence, and section 5 reaches outside of India to look at imperial issues used in Burma and in the Republic of Pakistan. The next section 6 covers the issues of the Republic of India since Independence, both Government and Reserve Bank issues. The next part of the book covers post-1871 non-national issues in five sections: section 7 deals with the notes of Hyderabad State issued 1917-1952, section 8 the rare Jammu and Kashmir notes of 1877, sections 9 and 10 the state notes and small-change coupons of western India, during the First and Second World War periods, and section 11 the currency notes issued for use in prisoner of war camps from 1901 until 1971. The next two sections cover the non-British colonial issues of India: section 12 on Portuguese and section 13 on French issues for their respective Indian territories. Section 14 discusses the evidence relating to non-surviving notes issued for the Indian National Army in 1944, and to later fantasy notes purporting to be the Indian National Army issues. The introduction is followed by two appendices: A on an abortive attempt at note issue by the State of Mysore in 1918 and B on the small change paper tokens issued on the Andaman Islands in 1860. The catalogue is completed by a section 15 listing private notes issued in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
       In the introduction Gupta has assembled a narrative of the political, administrative and economic context of note issue, together with details of the designs and security measures adopted. He also describes the formation and internal arrangements of the note issuing authorities, and the security printers involved in the production of notes for India. He outlines the circumstances in which Indian notes have circulated outside India - in Burma, Pakistan, the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia. He also provides the same range of information for local paper currency, both in the form of notes and coupons. In so doing he has brought to this new subject the same research and analytical skills he applied to his study of Indian coins.
       The catalogue presents a detailed listing of all documented note issues, illustrating in full colour all the types of which examples are known. Each note is described, in terms of its design, its watermark, its colour, its known dates of issue, security number pre-fixes and authorisation signatures. The notes are arranged within the sections outlined above, according to the issuing authority, denomination, phase of issue, issue office, signature, security number prefix and date. The layout of the listing is made clear by the use of colour coding for the different sections, and by graphic representation of the scale of the illustrations. A numbering system specific to each denomination within each section makes the listing of each sub-group of notes very easy to follow. Each section is headed by a one page summary and a map showing the issue offices or local circulation zones. Where information can be easily presented in tables it has been done so, such as the lists of officers making the authorisation signatures, together with the dates of their office, or the lists of the denominations on which their signatures can be found.
       In his introduction, Dr Gupta describes the moment of conception and gestation of this detailed study. While visiting the United States his imagination was fertilised by the probing questions of American collectors who quizzed him about the history of paper money in India. From this he came to realise the importance of paper money in the monetary history of modern India and started to collect information. With the aid of collectors, such as Mr M.M. Navati and Mr K. Jhunjhunwalla of Mumbai (Bombay) and Mr W. Barrett of Montreal and researchers such as Dr S. Bhandare, he was able to push the project through to its completion in 2000. His receptiveness to this initiative has borne fruit. The resulting volumes provide us with the first detailed and accurate account of paper money in India. The seeds have now been sown for paper money studies to stand alongside more traditional numismatics in India. On the basis of this comprehensive account, collectors will be able to fill the gaps, and scholars will be able to explore the minutiae of the subject.
       I would only make one criticism. It would be very useful, particularly for the rare nineteenth century material, as well as for the local notes, to know where the specimens illustrated are held, so that future research can progress ( a few sources are indicated for copyright purposes). Some of these early notes need first hand examination in order to reveal their secrets. Research into the role of security printers, the production of printing plates, the use of security numbers and signatures and the size of printing batches all have much to add to the study of nineteenth century paper money. The resources from this research are so scarce that it is always useful to know where the surviving specimens can be studied. This, however, is a very small criticism for what is a gigantic achievement, a true credit to the late Dr Gupta, who was without doubt the giant of twentieth century numismatic research in India. How fitting to end his career with a work of this stature to stand alongside his Coins, his Ancient Indian Silver Punchmarked Coins and his The Imperial Guptas. Credit is also due to Mr Jhunjhunwalla and Dr Bhandare for the support they have given him in the achievement.

       Joe Cribb

© 1999-2023 ONS