Malaysian Numismatic Books by Saran Singh (1974-2017)

Mr. Saran Singh, Writer, Numismatist & Collector
Mr. Saran Singh, Writer, Numismatist & Collector
For those of you who collect Malaya/Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei coins and banknotes, you must have heard of the name "Saran Singh" before. He is perhaps Malaysia's most prolific numismatic writers. His books are more than just catalogs of numismatic collectibles, they chronicle the historical aspects of the numismatic artifacts as well, which makes all the difference as a result his books are highly sought after by serious collectors and numismatic researchers.

To honor his achievements and contributions to the numismatic community, we have compiled the full list of his books on Malaysian numismatics for your reference. For those who collect numismatic literature, this will be a useful guide on what's out there. There are a total of 8 books listed, arranged in chronological order and we have assigned reference numbers GC1 to GC8 for these highly sought after items.We have included useful information such as release date and the price of the book at the time is was issued. Other key data such as size and dimension and weight of the books are also included.

All of these books are available for reference at the alphaNumis Coin & Banknote Library and Gallery, Shah Alam, Malaysia. These took us several years and with the help of fellow collectors from around the world to assemble the complete set of these books. In fact 2 of these books were acquired overseas - one from the United States and another from Switzerland.

If you wish to visit the library, do feel free to contact us at or message us at +60 12 318 3042.

Note : Special thanks to Mr. Saran Singh himself & Mr. Steven Tan for graciously allowing me to interview both of them in September 2017. 

alphaNumis Coin & Banknote Gallery & Library
Fig. 1 : alphaNumis Library in Shah Alam, Malaysia

Book Title & Details


The Catalogue of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Coins (1700-1974)

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh
Publisher      : Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS)
Pages            : 92 pages, paperback
Dimensions   : 23.6 x 19.3 x 0.6cm
Weight          : 217g
Printer           : International Cultural Enterprises, K.L.
Notes            : 

While the book itself was ready to be published as early as March 1973, financial constraints had delayed its printing to May 1974 with some portions of the book had to be left out due to the high printing cost. Eventually only a paperback/soft cover edition was released in December 1974. The book was sold out in in 1976.

The Catalogue of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Coins (1700-1974)





Standard Catalogue of Coins and Banknotes of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (1700-1976)

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh, Mohd Kassin Haji Ali, CC Low & Tony Lye Fong Nge
Publisher      : Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS)
Pages            : 403 pages, hardcover
Dimensions : 26.8 x 19.3 x 2.8cm
Weight          : 1.08 kg
Distributor     : World Monetarium, K.L.

Notes            :

Better financed (private funding rather than from the MNS) and this time complete with standardized reference numbers, the book was released on 3 October 1976. It was sold out 5 years later.

Standard Catalogue of Coins and Banknotes of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (1700-1976) by Saran Singh





Pictorial Guide to Grading of Malaysian Coins & Banknotes

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh
Publisher      :  Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS)
Pages           :  143 pages, hardcover with dust jacket
Dimensions  :  25.0 x 17.5 x 1.5 cm
Weight          :  380g
Printer           : Academe Art & Printing Services Sdn Bhd
Notes            : 

Officially released on 2nd December 1987 at the MNS 10th Anniversary Dinner at the Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The mid to late 1980s was the start of the numismatic grading era, the timely release of this book provides a guide on the grading of coins and banknotes. It also covers coin cleaning and preservation as well as how to identify fakes. The book was sold out in 2 years.

Pictorial Guide to Grading Malaysian Coins and Banknotes by Saran Singh





Standard Catalogue of Coins and Banknotes of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (1786-1980), First Edition

Author(s)      :  C. C. Low & Saran Singh
Publisher      : World Monetarium, K.L.
Pages           : 100 pages, paperback
Dimensions    : 21.7 x 15.5 x 0.5 cm
Weight          : 217g
Distributor     : World Monetarium, K.L.
Notes            :

A smaller sized book that covers the coinages with a distinctive red colour paperback with gold hot stamped title and embossed company logo of the late Mr. C.C. Low’s World Monetarium, Kuala Lumpur. This is somewhat a lesser known book and rarely seen.  

Standard Catalogue of Coins and Banknotes of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (1786-1980), First Edition by Saran Singh





The Encyclopaedia of the Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei 1400-1986

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh
Publisher      : Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS)
Type              : 696 pages, hardcover
Dimensions : 29.8 x 21.0 x 3.0 cm
Weight          : 2.08kg
Printer           : United Selangor Press Sdn Bhd, K.L.
Notes            : 

This book was officially released on 28 September 1986 to coincide with MNS Auction Number 69 at the Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. This is by far the most comprehensive book on Malaysian numismatics, dating back to 1400; with 21 chapters and 4 appendices. It took Saran 4.5 years to research and write.

The most notable fact of this book is that it contains illustrations of 1,500 coins and token of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei issued in the last 500 years in ACTUAL SIZE.  For numismatic researchers and writers, it is advisable to obtain this edition for your reference. Subsequent editions may not illustrate the coins in the actual dimensions.

In addition, a separate volume of “Price Guide” was issued free along with the book, 58 pages, 29.8 x 21.0 x 0.6 cm, 193g. As of end of 1989, there were only 30 copies left for sale.

The Encyclopaedia of the Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei 1400-1986 by Saran Singh

The Encyclopaedia of the Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei 1400-1986





Malaya & Sarawak Coupons

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh
Publisher      : Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS)
Pages            : 39 pages, paperback
Dimensions    : 29.8 x 21.0 x 0.3 cm
Weight          : 178g
Printer           : The Pepin Press, K.L.
Notes            : 

The contents of this book was an extension of what was published in the Malaysia Numismatic Society 21st Anniversary Souvenir Book (1969-1989).

Malaya & Sarawak Coupons, First Ed, By Saran Singh

350 with hand written serial #




The Encyclopaedia of the Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei 1400-1967

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh
Publisher      : Malaysia Numismatic Society (MNS)
Pages            603 pages, hardcover
Dimensions    : 26.5 x 19.3 x 3.5 cm
Weight          : 1.75kg
Printer           : International Stamp & Coins Sdn. Bhd.
Notes            :  Book production by Mr. Steven Tan
                        Released in Feb 1997

The Encyclopaedia of the Coins of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei 1400-1967, 2nd Ed by Saran Singh





The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons of Malaya, Netherlands East Indies and Ceylon (1922-1942)

Author(s)      :  Saran Singh
Publisher      : Kelab Warisan Numismatik Malaysia 
Pages            : 302 page, hardcover
Dimensions    : 29.0 x 22.5 x 2.5 cm
Weight          : 1.70kg
Printer           : Percetakan Osacar Sdn. Bhd.
Notes            : Book design and layout by alphaNumis
Copies          :  700 printed, with serial number on the 
bottom of inside cover
ISBN              :  978-967-14658-0-6

Released in 16 December 2016, the research for this book took 2.5 years to complete. It is a follow up 2nd edition of the book with the similar title published (GC6 above) in 1990.

Officially launched on 8 January 2017 as a KWNM publication at the MNS auction, this edition covers the detailed history of rubber export coupons for Malaya, Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) and Ceylon.

The book also documents and catalogues petrol ration coupons, share certificates and government bonds. This book went on to win the prestigious International Banknote Society (IBNS) Book of the Year 2016 award, the first Malaysian publication to do so. Mr. Saran Singh was assisted in the research, book design and layout by Gilbert C for this ground breaking book.

The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons of Malaya, Netherland East Indies and Ceylon (1922-1942)


S/N : 000 to 699

Dec 2016


Bank Negara Seminar on Numismatic Grading [ 20 May 2017 ]

Fig. 1 : Sasana Kijang, BNM  Kuala Lumpur
Back in mid April 2017, I was contacted by an official from Bank Negara Malaysia (the Malaysian Central Bank). The call was from none other than the curator of the Numismatic Museum of Bank Negara himself, inviting me to conduct a seminar on numismatic grading. Of course I agreed to do it without any hesitation whatsoever! Mainly because it is indeed an honor and privilege to receive such an invitation from the best numismatic museum in the country! 

The event was scheduled for 20 May 2017, 2:30 p.m. at the auditorium at Sasana Kijang, Kuala Lumpur and the duration is expected to be 2 hours. With about 6 weeks to go I immediately set about preparing the content of the seminar.

For a start - why talk about numismatic grading and not any other topics? For most people numismatic grading equals to graded coins or banknotes stored in slabs of plastic with the grading company logo and a number between 1 to 70 indicating the grade. But grading is much more than just a number, it is a important aspect in determining the value of the collectible that every collector and numismatist must learn and understand. Failure to do so will increase the risk of overpaying for something, especially when acquiring ungraded / "unslabbed" items.

Fig 2. Opening slide for the seminar

The main objective of the seminar was to provide a high level view of the numismatic grading and its origins, while trying to keep the technical aspects of it at a minimum - which many perceive to be difficult to learn. It is hoped that attendees will come away from the seminar being able to make sense of grading and what it means to the collector.

Fig 3 : Grading a coin ....

Fig 4 : Relationship between grade and value

Fig. 5 : BNM's invitation letter & momento.

Asia School of Business (ASB) Commemorative silver coin 2016 - Obverse
Fig. 6 : The very "rare" Asia School of Business commemorative silver coin
(Although not officially stated I have been told that there are only 100 minted)

Asia School of Business (ASB) Commemorative silver coin 2016 - Reverse
Fig. 7 : The reverse of the commemorative coin
With a total of 126 presentation slides, packed with vital information, the seminar did generate some interest in grading, resulting in a question and answer session which lasted more than 1 hour. We wish to record our thanks and appreciation to Bank Negara Malaysia Numismatic Museum for organizing such an event that promote the hobby of numismatics. It is indeed a honour to be amongst the select few who has been invited to speak at the MAG Theatre of Sasana Kijang.

Fig 10: Technical specifications for the Asia School of Business (ASB) Commemorative silver coin 2016.
Fig. 9: Technical specifications for the Asia School of Business (ASB) Commemorative silver coin 2016.

Fig 8. Logo of ASB. Source :

To top off this honour, I was presented with a momento from BNM as a token of appreciation - and much to my surprise it turned out to be the much sought after "Asia School of Business" commemorative silver coin. This coin was never issued to the public, which makes it difficult to obtain for the average collector. While not officially stated, I have been told that only 100 of these coins were minted. It was released on 23rd February 2016 to coincide with the ground breaking ceremony for the new campus building that was officiated by our then BNM Governor Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz. The Asia School of Business is a collaboration between BNM and MIT Sloan School of Business, one of the top business schools in the United States.

The Asia School of Business offers Master in Business Administration (MBA) courses here in Kuala Lumpur - being one of the top schools in the world, its fee is certainlynot cheap! This world class 20 month full time course will set you back by RM265,000 for Malaysian students and RM365,000 (USD85,000) for international students.

The official press release from BNM for the ground breaking event can be found here.

And of course it does not end here, we are planning for more seminars in the near future. The new seminars will be announced via our Facebook page at

In the meantime, HAPPY COLLECTING !!!

First Malaysian Book to Win the IBNS Book of the Year

The September copy of the International Banknote Society Journal was just released yesterday, 20 September 2017. 

I have been eagerly awaiting the official announcement of the winner and indeed, Mr. Saran Singh's book won the prestigious IBNS Book of the Year Award! 

The award was first given out as far back as 1979. Recent winner include "Banknotes of British Malaya: The Frank Goon Collection by Frank Goon" published in 2011, by Spink & Son, UK. 

For the 2016 submission, there were 20 books in the running, from various countries such as USA, the UK, Uruguay, Argentina to name a few. "The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons : Malaya, Ceylon & Netherlands East Indies 1922-1942" was the ONLY submission from Asia / Malaysia.

This is the FIRST time a Malaysian numismatic has won the IBNS award !!! 

Error Note with Missing numbers? Think again !

The world of numismatics is never boring, in my opinion that is.

This piece that just came in for "an inspection" made my day. This is an 11th series Malaysian banknote of 10 Ringgit issued in the year 2000 duly signed by our governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

At first glance it definitely looks like a genuine error note with 4 missing digits on the reverse right corner. The serial  number format for these notes is a 2 letter prefix followed by 7 digit numbers.

But upon further inspection on the problematic area  ......

Fig. 1 Malaysia 11th Series 10 Ringgit Reverse side

Unlisted Rubber Coupon & the Economic History of Rubber in Malaya & Singapore

Fig 1 : Singapore Botanic Gardens
Shortly after Saran Singh's "The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons : Malaya, Ceylon & Netherlands East Indies 1922-1942" was officially launched in January 2017, I received an email invitation from Mr. Y. H. Hsien expressing his excitement about the book and invited Saran & myself to visit his exhibition titled "Ridley & the Rubber Industry" at the library of the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG). After several email exchanges I decided to make a trip to SGB while I was in Singapore for the Singapore International Coin Fair 2017 (24-26 March 2017). Unfortunately Saran could not make it for the trip due to some commitments.

Mr. Y. H. Hsien is a private collector of stamps, coupons and ephemera related to the economic and social history of Malaya and Singapore for over 30 years. He is the council member of the Singapore Stamp Club and an active volunteer of the the National Library and National Archives of Singapore.  This exhibition is a collaboration between SBG's Library of Botany & Horticulture and and Mr. Y.H. Hsien.

Queen Elizabeth II Portraits on Banknotes - An Overview

Of all the dignitaries throughout the entire human history, Queen Elizabeth II's portrait has appeared on the most number of banknotes from countries across all the continents on this planet. Her image appear on Canadain banknote when she was as young as 8, then Princess Elizabeth, before her uncle abdicated, making her father the King of England, hence making her the next in line for the throne.

The Washington Post did a wonderful piece on QE2 and the author summarized it rather neatly in an infographic potraying the countries and years of which QE2 appeared on their banknotes. All in there are 33 countries involved since her ascension to the throne in 1953. And today, less than half of those countries still retain her portrait.

The full article is here : Every Country that Feature Queen Elizabeth II on it Currency

So here's to all you collectors of QE2 banknotes.

A numismatic story of the Chinese New Year

Ang Pow or 紅包

he 2017 Chinese New Year is just around the corner. We wish all fellow collectors and numismatist a very prosperous new year ahead and may you find what you seek for your collections.

The Chinese New Year (of the Lunar Calendar), also know was Spring Festival (春節) in China, is widely celebrated throughout East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. In Malaysia, we get 2 days off and most ethnic Chinese folks will travel to their home towns for the reunion dinner with their families on the new year eve, followed by 15 days of celebration, visiting friends and relatives, with lots of feasting and gift giving.

Speaking of gifts, one of the most prominent practices during this period is the giving of  紅包 (hong bao) or "Ang Pow" meaning "red packets". These are essentially decorative red colored envelopes filled with money, given to unmarried children by parents and also to all the children of  their friends and relatives whom we visit or even bumped into!  As a child, we all grew up looking forward to receiving them during the new year and would most probably spend them on sweets, toys and fire works, despite our parents advising us to save the money!

Curious as to where and how did this practice came to be, we did a little research of our own.

As expected, there are several versions as to the origins of Ang Pow.

It is commonly believed that during the Sung Dynasty ( 宋朝) era in China (A.D. 960-1279), in a village called Chang-Chieu a huge demon used to terrorize the villagers once every year. No warrior can defeat it. Then along came a young orphan, armed with a sacred sabre inherited from his ancestors fought this evil demon and defeated it. Grateful for this noble deed, the villagers presented the young lad with red packets filled with money in it as a reward.

Interesting no doubt but some how it does not sound very convincing, the story is far too simple to be believable right? ....  the good news is that there is an alternative version to this, which happens to be our favorite,  the story goes like this :

In ancient times, they were not called Ang Pows, the name only came in to use only in the last century or so.  During the early Ching Dynasty era (1644 - 1911), they were called 壓歲錢 (ya sui qian), translated it means "lucky money" but the literal translation sounds more intriguing -  壓 (ya) means to press or put pressure on something,  歲 (sui) means age in years and 錢 (qian) means money.

So why such a weird name you ask? Legend has it that in ancient times, there were little demons called 祟 (sui), with dark body and white hands that goes around harming little children during the night before the Chinese New Year. Note that the sound of the word 祟 (sui) is akin to 歲 or 睡 also pronounced as sui, meaning age or to sleep.

These little demons (and mind you there are hundreds of types of demons in Chinese mythology) would roam the cities and villages late at night, they put their hand on a sleeping child's forehead and a bout high fever will ensue and they will be eventually become mentally ill for life.

Needless to say, parents are worried about these little creatures, they encourage their kids of stay up all night since the demons can only harm sleeping children. One family strung together 8 pieces of coins for their child to play in attempt to keep him awake. Unfortunately the child was too tired and fell asleep and the parents put the string of 8 coins under the child's pillow and decided to stay up all night with candles lit to keep watch over their precious little one. But they too, fell asleep ..... a gust blew off the candle.

A string of ancient Chinese coins

The little demon sneaked into the room with glee and as its white hands reaches out to touch the poor child's forehead, the glittering coins startled the little devil which shrieked and ran away as fast as it could, thus the coins have saved the child from harm.

Those were obviously brilliant uncirculated coins!

It was later revealed that the coins were a physical manifestation of the famous 8 deities or 8 immortals (八仙) in Chinese mythology. And so word got around that we should put a string of coins under the pillow to protect our children from harm. So giving coins to children is to protect them from sickness and we've been practicing it ever since.

The glittering coin scared off the little demon 

Nice ending right ?

Do note that in the story, the glittering coins that the parents used must has been in Brilliant Uncirculated condition! Which also explains why til this very day we insist in getting uncirculated banknotes to put into our red packets!


恭喜發財  紅包那來!

Translation : Happy New Year, Can I have my red packet now please? 

The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons : Malaya, Ceylon & Netherlands East Indies (1922-1942)

Breaking News 22 Jun 2017 

IBNS Book of the Year 2016
This book was just won the IBNS Book of the Year 2016 award from the International Banknote Society (IBNS). This is the first time a Malaysian publication has won this prestigious international award. Hearties congratulations to Mr. Saran Singh and the publication team. 

After about a year of working closely with Mr. Saran Singh, the book is finally launched, much to our relief. The episode started when I met with Saran quite by accident and he was talking about the book project he was working on and he need some assistance with researching on certain area of rubber export coupons. So one thing led to another and we ended up doing not just the research and fact check but also designed the entire book and its layout.

Now everyone who is into numismatics will know who the man is. For the uninitiated, he is a well known numismatic writer who as published no less than 6 books on Malaysian numismatics. His earliest publication going as far back as 1978.

Below are some of the slides displayed at the book launch event along with some of the pages of the book, including the table of contents.