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Coined in the Games

At the edge of the sprawling campus of Mumbai University in Kalina lies a nondescript single-storied structure where few students venture — the Dinesh Mody Numismatic Museum.

Not many are aware what Numismatics — the study and collection of currency — is all about. An energetic middle-aged man, Mahesh Kalra, often spotted in the vicinity, is the curator of the museum that has amassed, among other rarities, a small compilation of coins which is highly relevant to the 2012 London Olympics.

Kalra enthusiastically recounts the collection of coins that are available for viewing with the Olympics theme in mind. “Our Museum Gallery boasts of a collection of commemorative issues of past Olympics, including the Seoul Olympics 1988 and the Sydney Olympics 2000. In fact, the concept of minting coins commemorating the Olympics was a concept which stemmed from the Greeks. The belief was that apart from the medals, coins are probably the most enduring representation of the spirit of the games.” The fact that there are a couple of coins which he claims are from the earliest Olympics which took place in Greece is probably a standing testimony to the theory of the ancients.

Another interesting set is a series that was minted in Nuremburg, commemorating the Summer Olympics at Barcelona. “The Barcelona set is actually a demonstration of the extent to which the Olympics affect people around the world. Although the only time Nuremberg was associated with the Olympics was before the World War, they have still made these coins to bear some sort of affiliation to the games of the time,” explains Kalra.

His favourites are the somewhat nondescript coins in the collection. “There is hardly any documentation available about the 13th Pan European Olympics of 1982 in Greece. But we have a few coins from that event. We also have a coin from the Winter Olympics held in Albertville in France in 1992, which is quite a feather in our cap.”

Almost all the coins in the collection have been provided by Dineshbhai Mody, a senior Mumbai-based advocate, avid numismatist and the person who established the museum in 2002.

“Most of these coins,” Kalra says, “...haven’t been circulated, or are Proof Sets. They are usually kept as mementos and rarely used. They also have a greater silver or gold content than more easily available copies.” However, when prodded further on their actual value, he is less forthcoming. “Their monetary value is of less concern than their historic significance. The coins are a source of inspiration for everyone who comes to see them and a tribute to Olympians.”  

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