It is not easy to sustain hobbies without the element of friendship. It becomes dull without like-minded friends.
Our college lecturer was absent and so I had made a trip to nearby Sayyaji Rao Road to see if there are any interesting old coins on sale [out of the meager pocket money my father gave] with the pavement coin-seller. I was there standing with my bicycle looking at those old coins spread out on a sheet. I noticed a dhoti-clad bald and old man with a darkish complexion, hands on knees, next to me looking closely at some coin. Since I did not know many who collected coins, I was eager to know if there were any. So I asked. He said “Yes, I have a small collection. Do you also collect?’. I said yes, boasting about the 100 odd coins. My request to see his collection was honoured almost instantly and enthusiastically. He was going home from a short market errand. I went pushing my bicycle beside the walking old man to his nearby old house. His name was Ganjam Krishnappa, son-in-law of Banumaiah.
Waiting in his living room, admiring the beautifully framed old paintings all over the walls, I was imagining he would bring it in a box, or some bag. But no, he came out of another room with the clinking sound of a key bunch. He went to a wide table that was right next to me, leaned over and lifted hinged table top to expose his ‘small collection’ through the locked glass top! The sight of so many coins, meticulously labeled country-wise, had me awe-struck! It was a unique table-showcase that housed some thousand coins from 200+ countries. And he called that ‘a small collection’, so humbly! I was astonished that he had earnestly sustained his collection for over fifty years.
Little did I know that he was a renowned numismatist, having one of the best collections in the city. I came to know of this many months later. Further conversation at the time of my leaving revealed that I was the grandson of his family lawyer who had won many cases for them! He was so happy about this coincidence, what with a youngster interested in the hobby. The friendship was to deepen further and was to provide the impetus to our common hobby as well as fatherly affection. He was at least 40 years older than me. Soon, my visits became weekly, or whenever I felt like.
Krishnappa never commercially put a value to his collection, which he often emphasized and he collected purely for he enjoyment of the hobby. He bought coins, which he fancied without bothering about its ‘future value’. He also had a fancy for paintings and did the same when it came to buying them. Another great quality in him was his joy to show his collection to all those interested, but never exhibited anywhere outside. All these and much more impressed me.
Being his revered lawyer’s grandson, I got special affection. That also gave him much joy. He also showed my grandfather’s picture, which he kept with him! He used to tell me that the last pronote my grandfather wrote a day before his death was for his case.
I was never once sent from his home without any snack, food or drink. Later on, it was the affection that attracted me more than the coins. If I missed visiting for one or two weeks [due to cricket] he would ask me why I did not come. He used to encourage me with his extra coins and even empty album sheets. With the enthusiasm of a child, he would show me new mint releases and tell about new developments in the numismatic world – he was a member of the numismatic society. He would willingly help identify any old coins from his catalogue. One special privilege I had was seeing a couple of rare gold coins, which he showed from his iron safe – this he never did to anyone else.
On one of my usual visits I was shocked to see his daughter’s sad face – he had passed away just a few days before. His month-long fever had never subsided. He left behind his collection that is still preserved by his grandson.
Our friendship lasted just 8-9 years. It ended as abruptly as it began. My interest in numismatics waned off, with his loss, but not the memory of this simple, kind-hearted man. The generation gap was no matter at all.
Some links relevant to the hobby of coin-collecting: