Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rebuttal to Article in IBNS Journal Vol 54:3 titled “The Facts on High Denomination British India Banknotes with Burma Overstamps”


Vol. 54:3 of the I.B.N.S. Journal carried an Article by Anil R. Bohora  (LM 199) titled: The Facts on High Denomination British India Banknotes with Burma Overstamps”. 

As a student, I read the Article very keenly with expectations of a well researched and properly documented treatise on the subject. As I went along, I soon realized that the Article lacked any factual basis, is misrepresented and perhaps the Conclusion was first written and the Article was built around it.

Bohora’s article written backwards:
The Conclusion and its preceding paragraphs disclose the real purpose of the Article.  The rest of the Article very clearly discloses that, rather than a bonafide treatise, it is an exercise in fiction to target imaginary vested interests allegedly Dealers and Auction Houses whom Bohora accuses of selling genuine British India banknotes with fake Burma overstamps, to enhance their value, for inflated prices over € 20,000 and for this castigate I.B.N.S. and its Ethics Committee (for dereliction of duty) and Authors of a well researched and informative book.  This is of course a very serious charge – unfortunately not backed by any facts.

Bohora lost sight of the perils of writing a conclusion and then writing an Article to serve the Agenda and justify the conclusion.  The result is only natural – an Article based on surmises and conjectures which are wholly devoid of merit and fact and passages which are baseless.

The confusion in Bohora’s mind is about Overprinting of Bank Notes  vs.  Overstamping of Bank Notes.
Everybody from the fraternity is aware of the difference between ‘overprinting of bank notes’  and ‘overstamped bank notes’. 
However, in the first para of his Article, Bohora discloses that this basic difference is lost on him.  In this para Bohora states : “ … and auction houses are capitalizing on this activity by offering higher denomination British India banknotes with Burma overstamps at very high prices. The question is are these high denomination overprinted notes genuine?”  Thus Bohora uses the different terms overstamps and overprinted interchangeably. 

He claims that on a closer study of the overstamps used on British India Bank Notes of Rs.1000 or Rs.10000 (of value higher than Rs.100) reveal the following facts:

All lower denomination banknotes (Rs.100 or less) have overprints which are lithographed. 
It’s a mystery of how Bohora’s close study of Rs.1000 or Rs.10000 Bank Notes  (of value higher than Rs.100) revealed that Rs.100 notes had overprints which were lithographed. 

Nonetheless, Bohora’s tirade is confined to high denomination Indian bank notes of Rs.1000 and Rs.10000 which he contends were not overprinted for use in Burma.  He has not given any reference or provided an image of which Auction House has listed The Government of India Rs.10000 overstamped notes and the notes he closely studied.

Pre 1937, British India included Burma but thereafter Burma ceased to be a province of British India and was a separately administered British Colony.  Government of India bank notes printed pre 1937 for British India vs. RBI printed Burma specific bank notes (peacock notes) post 1938 for Burma a separately administered British colony.  RBI overprinted notes for the Military Administration of Burma and the Burma Currency Board in 1945.

Bohora is oblivious to the major difference between the   Government of India Bank Notes printed pre 1937 for British India, of which Burma was a Province vs. RBI  Bank Notes printed post 1938 for Burma a separately administered British colony and  RBI overprinted notes for the Military Administration of Burma and the Burma Currency Board in 1945.

Had Bohora known the difference, he would not have claimed Smoking Gun evidence based upon the proceedings of the British Parliament or RBI’s letter dated November 23, 1970 being the correspondence between Mr. C. M. Nielsen and the RBI.  This correspondence clearly pertains to RBI notes for “British Military Administration of Burma, etc. Notes”, which event transpired 8 years later than 1937 i.e. in 1945.

The extract of the letter from Reserve Bank of India:
Reference : F.No./298/12-70/71 dated November 23, 1970.
British Military Administration of Burma, etc. Notes
2.  No notes of denominations higher than Rs.100 were overprinted for Burma.
3.  We confirm that our records differentiate between overprinted notes of “Military Administration of Burma – Legal Tender in Burma Only” and “Burma Currency Board – Legal Tender in Burma Only”.
4.  “Thus overprinting of BMA and BCB was also done in the above Press.”
5.  “Regarding supply of overprinted notes, we are unable to assist you in the matter”.

The difference between the Government of India Bank Notes for British India and RBI Bank Notes for  Burma as a separate British Colony  are :

Government of India:
·      Circulated Govt. of India bank notes with portrait of King George V with circle of issue Rangoon which were in use until 1937.
·      Circulated an urgent interim issue of Govt. of India bank notes with ‘Legal Tender in Burma Only’ overprinted / overstamped on portrait of King George V with circle of issue Rangoon for denominations Rs.100, Rs.1000 and Rs.5, Rs.10 (without circle of issue) in 1937.

Reserve Bank of India:
·      Printed Burma specific bank notes (peacock notes) with portrait of King George VI for denominations Rs.5, Rs.10, Rs.100, Rs.1000 and Rs.10000 in 1938.
·      Overprinted ‘Military Administration of Burma Legal Tender in Burma Only’ on Reserve Bank of India notes with portrait of King George VI for denominations Rs.100 (circle of issue Calcutta), Rs.5, Rs.10 (without circle of issue) and for Re.1 Government of India bank notes with portrait of King George VI  in 1945.
·      Overprinted ‘Burma Currency Board Legal Tender in Burma Only’ on Reserve Bank of India notes with portrait of King George VI for denominations Rs.100 (circle of issue Calcutta), Rs.5, Rs.10 (without circle of issue) and for Re.1 Government of India bank notes with portrait of King George VI in 1947.

From the facts above, it is clear that the letter from RBI refers only to the KGVI portrait notes issued in 1945 / 1947 and is indeed true that “No notes of denominations higher than Rs.100 were overprinted for Burma” as they pertain to the BMA and BCB. Thus, Bohora’s reliance on RBI’s letter, dated November 23, 1970 – which only reiterates the obvious and is misrepresented in his article.

In the proceedings of the British Parliament, Mr. A. Henderson states :
"Mr. A. Henderson .... As regards the large notes, those of 1,000 and 10,000 denomination, it is, as the Order indicates, the fact that those notes are not to be regarded as legal tender. That, of course, does not mean that they will not be legal; but it will mean in practice that the onus will be put upon those who have them in their possession to establish that they came into their possession by lawful means. .... " In other words, high-denomination notes did exist.

In para 1 and subsequent paras of Bohora’s Article it is discernable that his grievance is that fake high/higher denomination British India banknotes with Burma overstamps are offered at very high prices.  It is trite to say that any price for a fake or tampered note is too high.  A fake or tampered Note is worthless and a source of trouble.  This relative concept of very high price for a fake or tampered note – whether overstamped or overprinted is another instance of confused thinking.

Bohora is also confused between a Note being a fake because it was never printed and put into circulation and that of a genuine bank note being printed and put into circulation but subsequently being rendered a fake by tampering with the Note by overprinting or overstamping it.  

Bohora closely studied a particular Bank Note of Rs. 1000 with a Burma overstamp and had a very strong center fold which he accepts is very common on a Note of its age.  As part of his DNA study, he noticed that the Letter “I” from the text “LEGAL TENDER IN BURMA ONLY” overstamped  on the center fold of the Bank Note is intact and not worn out.  If looked at closely, the Letter ‘I’ has been subject to wear and tear.

I am enclosing images of the following note numbers of Rs.1000 KGV Rangoon with overstamp. 
1.    Note with Serial Number X/6-094996.
2.    Note with Serial Number X/6-095146.
3.    Note with Serial Number X/6-095958.
4.    Note with Serial Number X/6-097133.
5.    Note with Serial Number X/6-097172.
6.    Note with Serial Number X/6-097173.
All the fonts of overstamps on these notes are identical.  I have yet to observe even an image of a Rs.1000 Government of India banknote with KGV portrait of Rangoon circle without any overstamp.  Any such note would certainly command a far greater value than the notes with the overstamp. 
Why would anyone want to deface and devalue any Rs.1000 bank notes of Rangoon with rubber stamps, which are RARE?

I have also enclosed the image on page 53 in the RBI Book ‘Mint
Road Milestones RBI at 75’ released by RBI in 2010.  The Rs.1000 KGV bearing serial number X/6-097172 is featured.

Bohora should refrain from passing dictums and statements like “IBNS members should not be fooled by fake Burma overstamps on Rs 1000 and, maybe Rs 10,000 British India banknotes and should not pay large sums of money for them”. 
I am sure IBNS members are knowledgeable and will not part with their money for fake notes.  The listing 5-3-A.1 in The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money by Kishore Jhunjhunwalla and Rezwan Razack is legitimate and correct.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Story of Twenty Rupees

Every Note Has A Story To Tell
The Story of Twenty Rupees

- by Rezwan Razack

Government of India – Rupees Twenty

After the early issues by Presidency and Private Banks of 1770-1861, the Government of India introduced the denomination of Rupees Twenty in 1861 after the Indian Paper Money Act of 1861 came into existence.  The first series had the Portrait of Queen Victoria.

Government of India - Portrait Note of Queen Victoria – 20 Rupees

The most intriguing part of the Uniface Portrait Issue of Queen Victoria is the watermark on Portrait Series First Issue Notes.  They have the signature of Sir James Wilson, The Finance Member along with Lord Canning, The Governor General.  Sir James Wilson died in 1860 and the Queen Victoria Portrait notes were first issued in 1861.

The practice of serial numbers on either side of the note was prevalent in early banknotes because they were cut in half and sent by post for security reasons.  And on acknowledgement of the receipt of the first half, the second half of the note was then also sent by post.  Both halves were then joined together and presented for encashment.

Some notes were for dual Circles and these notes were signed by two Signatories.

Uniface Notes – Rupees Twenty

The design of Queen Victoria Portrait notes was changed afterwards to an Uniface Underprint Series due to its simplistic nature.  The system widened its basis through important structural changes such as introduction of a fiduciary component and “Universalization” of notes that effectively increased their circulation.  These notes were printed and supplied from England.

Government of India – Uniface Green Underprint 20 Rupees

The Rupees Twenty in the Green Underprint Series were printed until 1910.  Rupees Twenty were never universalized and there was no Rupees Twenty denomination in the Red Underprint Series.  However, printing of Rupees Twenty as a denomination was discontinued thereafter as it was not popular with the people and this denomination was not considered in the Portrait Series of King George V and King George VI.

Reserve Bank of India – Rupees Twenty
The Reserve Bank of India reintroduced Rupees Twenty for the first time after Independence on 1st June 1972 and this denomination has been in existence since.  This denomination was issued to contain the volume of note pieces in circulation and to some extent provide a substitute for the Rupees Ten notes.
  Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees obverse

Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees reverse

The reverse of this series of notes was with the vignette of the Parliament House in the centre.  The Parliament House of Delhi, commonly known as the Sansad Bhavan is situated at the end point of the Sansad Marg in New Delhi.  The Parliament House is a circular structure designed by Herbert Baker and was opened in 1927.  The huge structure of the Parliament House has 247 pillars with a broad corridor.  The Parliament House of New Delhi is the Legislative Assembly of India.

The article titled “The colour of moneydated 3rd September 2010 in Business Standard written by Mr. Dilip Chaware, Mumbai makes interesting reading on how the colour of the note was finalised.

Notes from the Mint” (August 28) by Gargi Gupta and Manojit Saha reminded me of a story about the Rs 20 currency note I had heard several years ago.  The article makes a passing reference to the orange colour of the Rs 20 note. This colour and shade selection has an interesting background.  How was this colour combination finalised and who selected it?

Maharashtra’s former Chief Secretary P. D. Kasbekar told me this story. It has been recorded by me for audio-visual documentation.

The story relates to a meeting then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had convened to launch the Rs.20 note.  Several top officers of the ministry and the mint attended the meeting, carrying bulky files and different sets of designs for Mrs Gandhi to see and finalise one. 

As a joint secretary in the banking department, Kasbekar also attended.  Those who are now over 60 years old will remember that nylon was quite popular in those days. In fact, for certain classes, it was a status symbol. Kasbekar was wearing a nylon shirt. Suddenly, Mrs Gandhi looked at his pocket and her gaze stayed transfixed there. Kasbekar and others grew uneasy, suspecting that something had displeased her. To everybody’s surprise, Mrs Gandhi ordered Kasbekar to take out a colourful envelope from his shirt pocket.  At a loss to understand why, Kasbekar gave it to her with trembling fingers. Mrs Gandhi’s face lit up and she said, “This is the colour scheme and design I like.” That was the end of the meeting and the selection had been made. With a twinkle in his eye, Kasbekar told me, “It was a nimantran patrika” (wedding invitation). 

In Maharashtra and adjoining Karnataka and Goa, the colour orange, with a dash of red and saffron, is considered auspicious. Almost all wedding invitation cards are printed using differing combinations of these colours.  The otherwise excellent article is marred by one mistake. The authors have used the verb “forge” with respect to currency notes. The accurate verb is counterfeit.

This Series of Rupees Twenty with the vignette of The Parliament House on the reverse was replaced in 1975 with the vignette of the Chariot Wheel of the Konark Sun Temple on the reverse and the obverse also had a new design.  

Interestingly, the vignette of The Parliament House was incorporated on the reverse of the new series of Rupees Fifty in the same year.

  Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees obverse

Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees reverse

Konark is a small town in Puri district in the state of Odisha (Orissa), India, on the Bay of Bengal, sixty-five kilometers from Bhubaneswar.  It is the site of the 13th century Sun Temple, built in black granite by King Narasimhadeva-I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.  The temple is a World Heritage Site.  It takes the form of the chariot of Surya (Arka), the Sun God, and is heavily decorated with stone carving.  The entire complex was designed in the form of a huge chariot drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels.  The entrance is guarded by two lions, which are each shown crushing a war elephant.  Each elephant in turn lies on top of a human body.  The temple symbolizes the majestic stride of the Sun God.
The new design of Rupees Twenty depicting a chariot wheel from the Konark Sun Temple, Orissa built in the 13th century, an UNESCO World Heritage Site on the rivers.  This was first issued in March 1975 signed by the Governor S. Jagannathan.

Mahatma Gandhi Portrait Series – Rupees Twenty

  Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees obverse

Reserve Bank of India – 20 Rupees reverse

The reverse has the vignette of the seashore with palm trees in the foreground and a lighthouse amongst the trees in the background. 

With the advent of reprographic techniques, the traditional security features of Indian banknotes such as the watermark, intaglio print, guilloche patterns, and the security thread were rendered inadequate.  A new series of banknotes, the Mahatma Gandhi series, was issued in June 1996 with additional security features.  The watermark was changed from the Ashoka Pillar to a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Gandhi series Rupees Twenty denomination was issued in August 2001 even though the denominations of Rupees 10, 50, 100 and 500 were issued earlier in 1996.  All the banknotes of this series have the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi on the obverse, in place of symbol of Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar, which has also been retained and shifted to the left side next to the watermark window. These banknotes contain the Mahatma Gandhi watermark as well as Mahatma Gandhi's portrait.

I read this interesting online article with photographs by Arvind Passey titled “The lighthouse on North Bay Island on a twenty rupee note”.  Some excerpts from this detailed below of the author’s visit to Andaman Islands, which confirm that the vignette on the reverse of the Mahatma Gandhi Series Rupees Twenty is of a location in the Andaman Islands:

It was when we had reached almost halfway to Mount Harriet that the driver Mohan stopped and asked us to walk across the road with him. We were puzzled, but did as he said.  ‘Do you have a twenty rupee note?’ he asked.

This was getting more intriguing and though my wife gave me a glance that said ‘Be careful now’, she opened her purse and took one note out and handed it over to Mohan.

‘See this lighthouse here?’ Mohan was obviously enjoying himself now and continued, ‘No one will tell you this story. But I know all about it and I will tell you.’
The lighthouse was certainly there on the note and when I looked towards where he was pointing, I nearly choked with excitement, ‘Hey! This is the same lighthouse that is there on the note.’

The lighthouse on North Bay island is the one on our twenty rupee note!

A close-up of the distant lighthouse...

‘And we’ve never known this fact though we’ve been using this note for all our lives now!’ chipped in my wife, ‘This is incredible.’ 
‘Yes, incredible indeed,’ I said and examined the lighthouse on the note carefully before comparing it with what was there in front of my eyes, ‘This is making me feel like an explorer now. I’m thrilled.’
Mohan then told us that the spot where we stood was the place where the actual photograph was taken. ‘There is another spot on Mount Harriet where other tourists who are aware of this fact generally go to take snaps,’ he said, ‘but they go to the wrong spot. I know this because my father told me so. He was with the forest department and was there when the photograph was taken.’
We were in the presence of a man whose father had witnessed history being created! This was fascinating!!

Forthcoming Rupees Twenty: Change in design being contemplated

A new Series of notes is contemplated by the Reserve Bank of India and is pending approval. The vignette on the reverse for the 20 rupees is rumoured to be changed to Red Fort at Delhi. 

The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal Emperor of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857.  It is located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums. In addition to accommodating the Emperors and their households, it was the ceremonial and political centre of Mughal Government and the setting for events critically impacting the region. 

Constructed in 1648 by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the palace of his fortified capital Shahjahanabad, the Red Fort is named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone and is adjacent to the older Salimgarh Fort, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546. The imperial apartments consist of a row of pavilions, connected by a water channel known as the Stream of Paradise (Nahr-i-Behisht). The fort complex is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity under Shah Jahan and although the palace was planned according to Islamic prototypes, each pavilion contains architectural elements typical of Mughal buildings that reflect a fusion of Timurid and Persian traditions. The Red Fort’s innovative architectural style, including its garden design, influenced later buildings and gardens in Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir, Braj, Rohilkhand and elsewhere. With the Salimgarh Fort, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 as part of the Red Fort Complex.


·       Mint Road Milestones RBI at 75
·       Wikipedia
·       passey.info
·       Business Standard
·       Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money

Rezwan Razack
co-Author – ‘The Revised Standard Reference Guide to Indian Paper Money’
Chairman - IBNS India Banknote Collectors’ Chapter; IBNS # 9733

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