On the money

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coin collecting

Some of the ancient coins belonging to Dr Saurabh Rai of Tandara Dental Centre in Gosnells, WA, are over 2000 years old.

“I collect ancient Roman and Indian coins. The theme for my ancient Roman coin collection is silver denarius of the first 12 Caesars—from Julius Caesar to Domitian. The period includes famous and infamous emperors such as Augustus, Nero, Tiberius and Caligula. Seutonius wrote a biography called The Twelve Caesars in AD 121 and that’s the inspiration behind my collection. 

“I have two coins in my collection that are my pride and joy: the Elephant denarius, the first coin minted by Julius Caesar under his own name in 49 BC, and a tribute penny. In the Bible, Jesus is given a denarius with Caesar’s inscription on it. Jesus then says, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s’. It is accepted that the tribute penny is a silver denarius of Emperor Tiberius from AD 14. 

“My Indian coin collection’s theme is silver rupee coins of the Mughal line from Babur to Bahadur Shah Zafar II. I have the complete set except for one coin I’ve been chasing for the past two years. It’s a coin of the last Mughal emperor and is extremely rare as only a handful were minted. I also collect ancient and medieval Indian coins of the Magadha, Western Kshatrapas and Kuninda empire, and of famous Indian kings and Maharajas like Maharana Pratap, Rana Sanga, Shivaji and Prithviraj Chauhan.

“I have about 60 coins in my collection and it’s a work in progress. Some people like to get their coins slabbed which involves authentication and sealing the coins in hard plastic. I have refrained from that. To hold something in your hand that was minted in the time of Julius Caesar is pretty special. I only started collecting about six or seven years ago but I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. 

“As well as coins, I also collect antiquities and have recently acquired two terracotta vessels from the Indus Valley Civilisation, one of the three oldest civilisations in the world. The vessels date from between 3000 and 2000 BC. 

“What I love about collecting is that you become intimate with history. You can hold a vessel or a coin and imagine yourself in the time they were created. It’s also a great way to unwind after a day in the practice. When I’m heading home, I look forward to checking the websites to see if anything I want has come up for sale. Instead of spending my evenings thinking about work and patients, I’m indulging myself in ancient history.” 

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