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 !!! 

IBNS Book of the Year Selection Criteria

According to the IBNS website, the selection criteria are base on the following : 

The IBNS Book of the Year is awarded annually to an outstanding publication related to paper money. The following criteria will be used to select the award-winning publication:
  • The book must be published in the year of the award
  • The subject of the book must be paper money
  • The book should contain original research and comprehensive information on the topic it covers
  • Quality presentation of the book will be well regarded but the most important factor is the knowledge the book brings to the note-collecting community
Note : The author(s) need not be members of the IBNS

The list of past winners can be found here.

Congratulations to Mr. Saran Singh for a book that is of international standards. 

alphaNumis was responsible in the book design, layout and editing. We were honour to have been given the opportunity to work with Mr. Saran Singh and assisting him in research, review and scanning of the artifacts. All of the works were done on a voluntary basis, we did not charge anybody any money for our service.

Special thanks to Dato' Sharuddin of Kelab Warisan Numismatik Malaysia for being the official publisher for the book. 

Fig. 1 : The Certificate for the Literary Achievement Award from IBNS
About the Book

Details of the book can be found at our previous blog entry here :

The 320 page hardcover book is priced at RM300 / USD75. Interested buyer can email us at OR Whatsapp to +60 12 318 3042 to purchase.

You can also buy them at alphaNumis Coin and Banknote Gallery in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Google Map location here.

About the IBNS 

The International Bank Note Society (IBNS) was founded in 1961. It operates as a non-profit educational organization and in furtherance of such purpose, its objectives are to promote, stimulate, and advance the study and knowledge of worldwide banknotes and paper currencies and all matters related thereto along educational, scientific and historical lines. Currently the IBNS has over 2,000 members in more than 90 countries.

IBNS in Malaysia

At the time of writing, there are 13 IBNS members in Malaysia, of whom Mr. K. N. Boon is one of them. We have created a Facebook Group for fellow members which is located here : 

Those of you who are keen to join, you can email us at OR visit the IBNS membership web page.

Annual membership fees is only US$36. 

Fig 2. The Cover of the IBNS Journal, Sep 2017
Fig 3. Announcement page for the winner of the award

Fig 4. : Official letter from the IBNS President

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.

Straits Settlements 10 Dollars - A Contemporary Forgery

We're back!  From a long absence because we were working on a book project with Mr. Saran Singh. Now that the book has been published and launched, we can do go back to our usual "business".

For our first blog posting of 2017, we have a interesting piece of a forgery note - a Straits Settlements $10 note, dated 1 January 1935. We believe is may be a contemporary forgery (due to the apparent ageing of the paper), which means that it as created at the time when these notes were legal tender and in active circulation.

Take a look :

Fig 1. : Straits Settlements $10 - Obverse (Counterfeit)