The Oriental Numismatic Society

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by Joe Cribb, new Secretary General of the Oriental Numismatic Society

May 31, 2012 – In 2009 the Oriental Numismatic Society published its 200th quarterly volume, rebranded in 2006 as the ‘Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society’. The decision to change the newsletter’s name was made in recognition of the growing status of the newsletter as an important and authoritative publication. In 2010 the Society also celebrated 40 years since its foundation by Michael Broome as a mutual association of coin collectors, curators and historians focused on the coins of Asia and North Africa. From the beginning the Society was established as an independent and informal organization, relying on its enthusiastic members to carry forward the Society’s aims to promote Oriental numismatic research and collecting and improve communications between all interested in the subject.

The Society is coordinated by a central committee based in the UK, but is run on a day-to-day basis by its members around the world. There are sections based in Europe, North America, India, Pakistan and the UK. Members in East Asia and Australia belong to a General section. Meetings are organized by the local sections. The most frequent meetings are in the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, USA, India and UK. Meetings are open and informal, non-members are welcomed and tea/coffee breaks and lunch or supper are normally involved. Those attending have the opportunity to meet and exchange views with fellow enthusiasts and to hear illustrated talks on recent collecting activity and research. Novice collectors and researchers present alongside experienced collectors and leading academics, without any distinction being imposed.

At our AGM on 26 November last year, we remembered our recently deceased Secretary General Nick Rhodes, with papers on topics he had been engaged in. Amongst other our committee member Paul Stevens talked about Nick’s Kashmir collection, covering a millennium and a half of coinage.

Ujwal Saha and Akshay Jain presenting their lecture on Gupta coins at the ONS meeting at the British Museum, London, November 2011.

We also welcomed Ujwal Saha and Akshay Jain, two members of the South Asian section, who presented a joint paper on a new hoard of Gupta coins. However, not all the talk is of coins, as everyone has good fun meeting old friends, having a laugh at our struggles to manage the technology of PowerPoint and often sharing holiday snaps on screen during the lunch break. We are looking forward to shots of our secretary’s Galapagos trip at the next meeting! At some meeting auctions are organized for the benefit of the society. The central committee’s role is to keep the society in funds (donations always welcome), oversee its publications and to promote its activities.

Members are encouraged to share their news, discoveries and research in the Society’s publication, which began as a one page newsletter in 1970 and is now a Journal of up to 64 pages, published four times a year, occasionally with a supplement featuring research articles. For the last twenty eight years the Journal has been edited by the Society’s Deputy Secretary General, Stan Goron, co-author of the standard catalogue of Indian pre-Mughal Islamic coins The Coins of the Indian Sultanates, New Delhi 2001. More recently he has been joined by an assistant editor, Robert Bracey, an expert on South and Central Asian coins in the British Museum’s Department of Coins and Medals. Stan’s predecessor as Editor was Michael Mitchiner, the author of many books on Asian coins, most recently his two volume study of Ancient Trade and Early Coinage, London 2004.

Recent volumes of the Journal have featured reports on Society meetings and relevant conferences, reviews of new publications, news, obituaries, articles on new discoveries and research papers. Recent issues have featured research on early Islamic coins in the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, India and South East Asia, on ancient, medieval and modern coins of India and other parts of South Asia and on East Asian coins from China, Japan and Central Asia.
The research involved took a wide range of approaches, looking at recent hoards, discussing problems of chronology, explaining coin designs, pondering the difference between obverse from reverse on oriental coins, identifying new rulers in ancient India or explaining the inscriptions on early Indonesian coins. As well as coins members also write about paper money, tokens and related topics such as seals. Whatever their area of interest members will find something to engage them. Some of the papers published have been read at members meetings, others are the result of more focused research from leading scholars in the field of oriental coins.

ONS Members Ellen Raven (Netherlands) and Michael Mitchiner (UK) at the joint Numismatic Society of India and Oriental Numismatic Society anniversary meeting, 2010.

Just over a year ago the Journal included a supplementary volume presenting papers read at a joint two day meeting of the Numismatic Society of India, the Oriental Numismatic Society held at the British Museum in 2010 to celebrate the NSI’s 100th and the ONS’s 40th anniversaries. The meeting and publication were supported by donations from A.H. Baldwin & Sons, Classical Numismatic Group and Simmons and Simmons Gallery.

The Numismatic Society of India Chakravikrama gold medal awarded to ONS members Ellen Raven and Michael Mitchiner in 2010.

Members from UK, USA, Netherlands and India presented papers at the meeting, which was opened by the ONS’s much missed former Secretary General Nicholas Rhodes and concluded with the presentation of the NSI’s award medals to leading ONS members, Nicholas Rhodes, Joe Cribb, Michael Mitchiner, Ellen Raven and Stan Goron by Paras Nath Singh, General Secretary of the NSI.

Membership of the Society is open to all. Applications are welcomed by the Society’s Secretary Peter Smith, who is also Secretary of the UK section, or by any of the Regional Secretaries: North America Charlie Karukstis, Europe Jan Lingen, South Asia Dilip Rajgor, Pakistan Shafqat Mirza, General Section Bob Senior. The cost per year at present is £25 (or 30 euros, US$35) The Society is in process of renewing its website and soon people will be able to join through it.

A recent edition of the Society’s Journal.

Members all receive four issues of the Journal each year, notices of meetings and access through a shared membership list to all other members. They are all welcome to attend meetings, which in UK take place on Saturdays at the British Museum, London and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Joint meeting of UK and South Asian sections at Ashmolean Museum, 2010.

The most recent meeting was at the British Museum on 17 March, on the theme of East Asia, featuring papers on the Chinese coin collections in Manchester Museum and the ancient coinage of Chinese Central Asia. The next UK meeting will be at the Ashmolean Museum on 9 June and October 20, details from Dr Shailendra Bhandare. The meetings are still being planned, but one will focus on coins in Indian Ocean trade.

For further information or if you wish to subscribe to the newsletter or adhere to the society, please visit directly the website of the Oriental Numismatic Society.