Money Matters – A visit to the RBI monetary museum -8.3.2020

Money or currency is an integral part of our day to day life. But money as we know today, as a long history and a past. From the earlier barter system to the plastic currency of modern times, the history of money is as old as the civilization itself.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is the nodal authority in India that manages the cash flow in the the country. This is the only institution in the country that can print notes and mint coins. RBI is not only responsible for printing currency but also for maintaining the regular flow of cash through the economic system.

The history of money is very old. Money came in to existence because of the social nature of human beings. Its quite befitting then that the RBI has a museum dedicated to the history of currencies.

Getting there.

The museum is located in Amar building in the Fort Area. It is well connected by taxis and buses. It is at a walking distance from Churchgate station on the western railway.

Inside the museum.

Entry to the museum is free. No bags are allowed inside. There’s a locker room to keep your bags safely. Even though mobile phones are allowed, photography is strictly prohibited. A casual search on the internet threw up many photos of the museum (I feel that these pics were taken earlier and the no photography rule must have been implemented recently). I’ve used these pics in this post. All copyrights duly acknowledged.

The museum is divided in to 6 sections. Each section deals with a particular aspect of currency. The sections are all well arranged and there are arrow marks on the floor to guide you from one part to another. The museum is smaller in size but the area is well utilised. Most of the exhibits are brought from the collectors around the country. The museum also has an interactive kiosks that has money games to test the knowledge of kids.

Section 1:- Concepts, Curiosities & the Idea of Money.

This section deals with the origins of money and discusses the evolution of money from concrete to abstract. Before the concept of money came in to being, Barter system was followed. As time went by this system was found to be inadequate with the changing and growing needs of the human beings. Then started the early idea of money. Did you know that most of the items that were commonly available at those times were used for transaction? Cowri shells, Neolithic stone, axes, silver bar money, knife money and beads were some of the earlier items that were used as money. These items did not have a fixed value and were largely dependent on the needs. This section also displays the weighing instruments that were used to weigh the money. (Remember that currency in those times did not have a fixed value. The value largely depended on availability and the people who were involved in the transactions)

Section 2:- Indian Coinage.

Did you know that we Indians were the first few in ancient times to have minted our own coins? This section talks about the gradual movement from the Barter and early currency to the coinage. This section has display of coins from 6-4 century BC right up to the Independent India. Out of the six sections, this one takes maximum amount of time to cover

Section 3 & 4:- From Coins to Bank notes and Indian Paper currency.

Necessity is the mother of inventions and it is rightly so. The coins, though, presented some form of unification in the day to day transaction, moving them around was highly cumbersome. The coins were made of metals and alloys. So naturally, the next evolution of money came in the form of paper currency. When printing press was invented, this was the natural step to follow. This section displays transition from coins to Bank notes. It also displays Promissory Notes, Cheques, Bills of Exchange, Hundies and Early Bank Notes.

Did you know that during British India, notes and coins were printed in almost all the princely states? Can you imagine the confusion caused? This changed with the Paper Currency Act of 1861, which gave the then British India the right to print money. Notes issued by the Bank of Bengal (Unifaced, Commerce and Britannia series), Bank Of Bombay, British India notes with hand-made paper of denominations of 10, 20, 50,100, 500 and 1000 have been displayed.

Section 5:- Know your currency.

This section talks about how currency is managed in India and the features of the contemporary Mahatma Gandhi Series of notes. Very informative section on how to identify fake notes and what security features are incorporated to prevent counterfeiting of the notes.

Mahatma Gandhi Series Notes.

Section 6:- RBI and you.

All you wanted to know about the Reserve Bank of India and did not know where to look for. It tells you the importance of RBI in our lives and how the central bank is responsible for maintaining the economy of the country. This section also has portraits of all the governors of the RBI since 1935. Their signatures is what makes the notes a legal tender.

Portraits of the governors of RBI

End Note

If you are intrigued by the history of currency then this place is a must visit for you. Not many people know about this museum. This means not much rush. I visited this on a Sunday and surprisingly had just 3 others for company. The staff is well mannered and they do not disturb you. You can just spend hours admiring the collections and soaking in the knowledge.

The museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays between 10.45 am to 5.15 pm. It remains closed on Mondays and Bank Holidays. Until next time we meet, please leave your comments and feedbacks .

Found this site on the net. Click to know more about the history of currency in India.

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