Coin trade in Tranquebar.




                                               Tellerlunds map of Tranquebar from 1733


In Tellerlunds map you can see that Tranquebar has been bigger.  The sea has eroded the coast, especially north of Dansborg; it is to the left on the map. The black line on the map indicated where the coast is today. The coastal erosion has caused the sea to move 100 meters closer to Dansborg. In the northern part of town and beyond the old fishing village, the sea has moved more than 200 m into the country.

Before the tsunami in 2004 one could see the coastline as a slope about one meter high all the way from Dansborg and north past the fishing village. It is seen in the photo of Arumugam and a fisherwoman on their way to the fishing village in 1979.




Arumugam and a woman on their way to the fishing village.         Arumugan and the author in 1979.


Here the sea waves against the coastline in stormy weather eroded 0.5 m to 1 m into land every year. In the slope, you could see layers from different times with different waste. There was also black layers from fire, so you could see that parts of the town had burned. It was here where the sea had washed parts of the coastline down that the fisher families could find coins and china. In years of heavy storms there could be many coins. In other quieter years, the number of coins was less. After the tsunami I 2004 the shore has been protected by large stone blocks, so the coast in the future should not move. Therefore, in the future coins will not be washed out of the slope of the coast. 


Coin dealers in Tranquebar.


Just over a hundred years ago, there was no great numismatic interest for the coins in Tranquebar.

Lead and copper coins were sold for re-melting. Lead coins were also used for sinkers on the fishing net.

Silver coins and the very rare gold coins had some interest among missionaries. Thus a missionary should have brought a C7 gold pagoda to the museum in Leipzig.


The first coin dealer, who is known in Denmark, is S.C.Abel. In The Royal. Coin and Medal Collection there is a letter from him dated 18/12 1919. The Royal. Coin and Medals buys from 1922 to 1937 five lots from Abel with an increasing number of unique lead kas. The museum is very happy with the very rare coins. The unique lead kas later prove to be fake. 2)

Abel also sells unique and fake (engraved) lead coins to the Government Museum in Madras and Axel Wahlsted in Stockholm .

The unique fake lead coins are still in the three collections. I have no information about them ever been in the market, so they have not created ravage in the trade of Tranquebar lead coins. On the other hand, they were included in catalogs in increasing numbers. First at H.H. Schou in 1926, then at Chr. Funck-Rasmussen in 1948, so with John Gray in 1974 and finally at Uno Barner Jensen in 1978.


The next coin dealer is the serious numismatist, S. Arumugam , who has sold many of the Tranquebar coins found in Denmark. 3) He sold coins to Olav Bonefeld and me in Denmark , to Brian Hanon in the United States and J.F.Gray in Canada . 

I visited Arumugam in 1979 in Trichy, where he lived, and I was with him in Tranquebar. Here I got a good insight into how the trade in coins took place. We went to the fishing village and were immediately surrounded by women and children. A few chairs were set up for us, and then women and children began to bring coins. Arumugam assessed the coins and set the price. For me it was low, but it must be higher than the price they could get from the merchants in Tranquebar. Arumugam had a client relationship with its suppliers. He always had a big bundle of 1 rupee banknotes in order to give to all his connections. They regarded themselves as his people and expected help from him. He told me that when he could not afford to help, he had to stay away.




Arumugam examining and buying coins


Arumugam had a great knowledge about Indian coins. He was reliable and enganging

to trade with. He taught me a lot about Tranquebar coins and other Indian coins

His great interest was coins from the ancient South Indian dynasties Chera, Chola and Pandya. Here he had a large collection, which contained several unpublished coins. It was his intension once to publish articles about these coins. His too early death in 1984 prevented this.

Arumugam was followed by his son A. ManoharanManoharam has sold some coins to Uno Barner Jensen in Denmark


My next coin connection in Tranquebar was for a number of years the dwarf M. Murugesan . I met him during a visit to Tranquebar around 1990. He had many coins and many potsherd of Chinese porcelain. He was reliable, but a little difficult to trade with, as his English was not very good. He sent me sometime coins stored in hollowed books.




Murugesan looking for coins and china.                                        Murugesans china.


My last coin connection in Tranquebar is R. SankarHe is a valuable assistant for the Association Tranquebar and looks after the Flora Cottage guesthouse. He also let out rooms. He is in charge of the Maritime Museum. His main job is his work for Best Seller.

I visited Sankar in January 2013. He had many coins, but they have been examined by many, so they were not very rare or good, and they were rather expensive. He was well aware that his prices were at least as high as in Denmark, and therefore he did not sell much. But he will save his coins. He believe that coastal protection has stopped the sea eating into shore. Therefore, there will be no more coins from the shore in the future. So Sankar saves his coins and expects prices to rise. He is probably right.

He nevertheless sold a single coin to me, a Fr. 4. 4 kas. which was just found in the bastion by the beach. A rare coin, but it was not cheap either.

He was with me on a trip to find and photograph what may be left of former Danish gardens. Somewhere we met an old woman, whom Sankar knew. She brought him a little new worthless European coin. Sankar bought it, and I asked him why. He explained that she was one of his vendors, and she was expecting to get something from him. It reminded me of the client relationship that Arumugam had to the fisher families.




 Coastal Security North of Dansborg.                 Sankar in Missions garden in Ohrugamangalam


Coastal protection has meant that there is no longer a danger of flooding in case of a tsunami. Coastal protection also mean that the sea will no longer interfere with what remains of Tranquebar.  The coast will not be eroded in the future. Therefore, in the future coins will not be washed out of the slope of the coast. 



The Bungalow on the Beach.


Previously it was difficult to find accommodation in Tranquebar. Now there are several options. The best and most expensive is The Bungalow on the Beach. It is a Neemrana hotel, in the former English governor's residence. Neemrana hotels are a chain of hotels situated in large old historic houses with an atmosphere from the glory of the houses past

There are now also more and cheaper accommodations. They are mentioned on the website of the Association Tranquebar. (