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Coin Shopping Around The World

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 Posted 09/10/2016  2:02 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Time for a new post, and as I am in Sri Lanka right now, why not just post about this island country?

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is that tiny island country hanging just below India on the map. It's probably best known for it's tea production, mango juice, deviled chicken and enormous corruption. Seriously, I haven't met anyone here who didn't try to take advantage of me, up to the levels of far beyond annoying.

The local currency is the 'Rupee'. 100 cents go in one rupee. Not that you'll encounter any rupee cents in everyday life, though, as there are about 150 rupees in a dollar and the coins of 25 and 50 cents have pratically disappeared. The smallest denomination you'll probably encounter is a one rupee coin, if you're lucky: quite often a bill is rounded up the nearest 5 or 10 rupees, and never in your advantage (as said: beyond annoying).

Sri Lanka's history and monetary history are quite interesting and go back a long way. Despite the land having had to deal with three of the Big Four of colonization (the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British, but not so much the Spaniards), there is quite a bit to see and do here. Most tourists would probably fancy a trip to Kandy in the center of the country, or to Jaffna in Tamil area in the north. Also for example Trincomalee, Galle and Anuradhapura might be seen as interesting for a variety of reasons. Colombo, the biggest city of the country, has surprisingly little to offer, except from the relatively best hotels and restaurants in this country. The capital, Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, has absolutely nothing of interest to anyone who's not into the local politics.

The monetary history has been quite interesting, too, with having had a.o. the rixdollar, the Indian rupee and the British Pound as currencies. And of course the already mentioned Sri Lankan rupee. TO add extra spice, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (founded 1950) has issued a nice list of commemorative coins since 1957. The nice news is that a lot of these also can be found in circulation.

Banks around here don't seem to have any coins for sale. I entered a few and none had a clue of what I was talking about when I stated that I was looking for Sri Lankan coins, Ceylon coins, commemorative coins or coin sets. So either I had bad luck or it just doesn't work this way around here.

Sri Lanka is still recovering from a civil war and a few centuries of abuse as a colony. Recovery goes extra slow due to the huge amount of corruption. As such, there's not much to be found here of a numismatic community. Most of what's here is strategically located and aiming at tourists, it seems. So let's have a closer look!


Colombo

Colombo is the by far largest city in Sri Lanka and often mistaken for the capital of the country. It isn't. A suburb with the unpronounceable name of Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (or simply Kotte) is. Nevertheless, Colombo is the entry point for almost 100% of all foreigners into the country. Most points of interest are located in the historical area called 'Fort' and further down Galle Road, Viharamahadevi Park and Gangaramaya Park. Fort is also where you find the four points of interest for any numismatic cravings.

When your tuk-tuk (or the bus) has dropped you off near the clock tower, you advance into Chatham street. There are two coin shops (also selling a lot of other curiosities) right next to each other: at number 68 and 68B. They both claim that the other shop is their shop too, or that the other one is closed, or that the other shop has only fake coins... Oh well, you get the idea. And both offer you 'fantastic low prices for you, my friend'. The assortment doesn't vary much: a lot of circulated local coins and coins from the Indian peninsula. If you decide to buy here, then keep the local prices in mind. It may sound cheap to buy a coin for 150 rupees, but 150 rupees also buys you a new leather wallet, a belt or even a hot meal here. So make sure you haggle. A lot. As you are a tourist, don't be ashamed to start at 10% of what the merchant asks. That's most likely the price locals pay, so you pay too much anyway.

When you're done dealing with the two neighbors, you advance to York street, where you'll find a few merchants of lottery tickets, a few beggars and sometimes one old lady with some stamps, banknotes and coins. All coins are circulated in a variety of degrees. She's either in York street or in the adjacent Sir Baron Jayathilaka Mawatha street, somewhere under the concrete pillars. She has mainly old coins from Ceylon for sale, in all possible grades. Also haggle a bit here, even though her prices aren't that bad. I didn't see her around every day, so you may have to try again.

When you're done here, you continue the walk down Sir Baron Jayathilaka Mawatha street until you reach 1st Cross street: you'll recognize it by the chaos and pure traffic infarct that rules this part of town. walk it down all the way to Olcott Mawatha street and make sure that you buy a new wallet and belt on the way. A pair of new leather shoes should set you back no more than 1200 rupees, or $8. When you reach Olcott Mawatha street, turn left and head for 2nd Cross street. You'll see and old man here at about the beginning of the street who has a lot of things for sale, including circulated coins and bank notes. He seems to be doing good business, so you may have to use your elbows to get to the front and see what he has to offer.

When you're done, head for one of the largely overpriced restaurants or cafes near the Dutch Hospital for a well-deserved break with a glass of ice cold iced tea.


The rest of the country

Surprisingly (or maybe not really), the rest of the country doesn't have anything to offer. You won't be able to give in to any numismatic cravings when in, for example, Kandy, Jaffna, Galle, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Anuradhapura, et cetera.


Some more tips

As said, this country is as corrupt as it gets and it even became a big annoyance to me (and trust me, I've seen a bit of the world). If you decide to go here, then do a bit of planning ahead. No matter what, you're not here for the first time, you know all the rules, there's no messing with you, right? So if your tuk-tuk driver tells you that your hotel is closed, burnt down or that the attraction you intend to visit is closed or under siege by the government or aliens, but that he has a good alternative, just tell him to bugger off and find another tuk-tuk. Also, don't be surprised when people still try to intimidate or even threaten you to get money out of you. I'm 6" tall and about one foot taller than the average guy around here (and a tad broad shouldered), but still they tried.

Avoid anyone who approaches you. They all want money from you. One thing that really got them puzzled was when I started telling them that I am from Faeroe Islands. No one knows where it is, so they don't know how to continue their act and they just leave. Ignore all the thousands of tuk-tuk drivers who approach you. For an authentic experience, hop on a local bus (about 15 rupees for a short ride). I do hope that you have a good health insurance, though.

Food for locals is served in hotels: the definition of 'hotel' seems to differ quite a bit from the rest of the world: not all hotels offer a place to sleep. Hotels without beds do seem to be the right place to pick up an exotic disease for your digestive system, though. Better stick to regular restaurants.
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 Posted 10/10/2016  1:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It's been a while, so here we go with a new one.


Jamaica

Jamaica is one wonderful island in the Caribbean. Lots of friendly people, lots of good food and lots more to see and do than just laying at the beach at one of the resorts at the north coast. It's a country known for all the bad habits you might have: rum, pot and reggae. Ok, the last one isn't really a bad habit. However... it's also a country known for its harsh crime and poverty. In fact, it's so bad that even the grocery stores in downtown Kingston have all their stock and employees locked behind bars: you really buy your stuff by shoving money through bars and getting change and products back. And there's a huge level of inflation, currently more than 10%. Maybe their government should talk to the EU: getting a proper inflation has been a huge problem there for a few years now.

Jamaica uses the Jamaican dollar. Official rates state that there are about 120 of those in one US dollar. In the country your US dollar is also used in many places, but usually at a conversion rate of 1 to 100. So be aware...

Jamaica currently has four coins in circulation: 1, 5, 10 and 20 dollar. You may see a lot of coins of 10 and 25 cents around, but these are no longer used, really, and prices are rounded to the next dollar. Next to circulating coins, Jamaica has issued a few commemorative coins over the years. Most in silver and I do believe one in gold.

Jamaica is a bit of a strange country when it comes to coins. Despite the poverty over there, coins can literally be found by the dozen on the street. People simply seem to 'hate' them. Which is understandable: coins are practically worthless and just a 'burden'. I talked a bit to some locals and it seems that, as soon as a coin is dropped, it isn't picked up if you can permit it. Picking up coins from the street is something the homeless and beggars do, so people just leave them there for the really poor people to pick them up. Not that it helps: I didn't know about this and raked about 50 coins off the street (shiny ones, fresh ones, and true roadkill) and it got me no further than almost 30 dollars, or roughly a US Quarter. I stopped raking when I learned about the social status of coins around here and the system they provide.

Now... for coin shopping. A country that is so much 'against' coins (much more than for example Sweden, I'd say), despite being a country largely running on cash payments, surely doesn't sound good for the numismatist. And it isn't.


Coin shops in Jamaica

One of the reasons why I hadn't posted about this country is that I simply don't have any entries in my book. Which makes the country easy to overlook.

I can describe what I have done in an attempt to satisfy my numismatic cravings, so it saves you time later on.

First, Jamaica has quite a few places which buy and sell gold. These are not pawn shops, though, but jewelers. I asked around in a few if they have any gold or silver coins. Apart from a few 'no's, I even got a few blank stares, which triggered me to explain what golden and silver coins are and why I was hoping they'd sell. You can forget it.

Jamaica has a lot of good old-fashioned banks with teller counters. Lines are Soviet style in length and move as fast as an atom at 0 Kelvin. You can save yourself the effort, though: banks don't have commemorative coins and if they have them, they won't sell unless you have an account there.

The one exception is the Bank of Jamaica. You can order your coins directly at the national bank. The shop is located here: http://www.boj.org.jm/currency/curr...souvenir.php
Please be aware, however, that prices are absurd here. The coin prices are listed in US dollar, not Jamaican dollar.

So... now what?

The only thing slightly numismatic I can recommend to do in Jamaica is to start a game with your travel company: see who can find most coins on a single day. My record is almost 50 pieces. Just make sure that you donate all the coins to either a homeless or charity afterwards. I did so and I hope that that means that at least someone had a nice day.
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 Posted 11/25/2016  4:05 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
It's been so long since last update that I had to look on page 2 to find the topic again. Time for a new country and time for a new 'dark horse'...

Namibia

Namibia hasn't been an independent country for too long. It was a German colony, then a (British) South African mandate and then, after a long and bloody civil war, independence followed when the USSR couldn't support South Africa's cause any more. So while they eyes of the world were focused on East Europe, Namibia declared itself independent in 1990.

Namibia is one of the sparsest populated countries in the world. The capital, Windhoek, literally meaning 'windy corner' houses 250.000 citizens and is by far the biggest city in the country. Distances are vast and the roads are long, straight and empty. Don't expect many gas stations around either.

It has since issued its own currency, the Namibian Dollar, pegged to the South African rand on a 1:1 basis and in daily life both currencies are used there.

Namibia has only issued 17 different coins since independence. That sounds like an easy goal, until you realize that the platinum one only has a mintage of 15 pieces.

To my surprise, Namibians are actually quite interested in collecting coins and especially stamps. This might have something to do with having a lot of people around with roots in both South Africa (Krugerrand) and Germany. The main thing, however, would be to find a place in this sparsely populated country where you can get hold of stuff. I actually found a few places that might be of interest.

Just one warning: avoid trying to get money out of ATMs at the end of the month. That's when government employees get paid and there will be huge queues and the whole system goes down every now and then. Also, most banks explicitly advertise that they don't have cash in house. Despite being much, much safer than South Africa, Namibia has inherited some of the safety precautions and routines and kept them alive.

Windhoek
Windhoek is the capital of Namibia. It is the main point of entry for the vast majority of the visitors and usually also the starting point for a safari tour. As such, it has a tourist industry and when there's tourists, there's a bunch of souvenirs for sale of a wide variety. Coins included.

Windhoek basically gives you three opportunities to get hold of coins.
The first is a man who has a stand during daytime at Post Street Mall. He sells mainly stamps, but also has coins. Here you can get hold of the only official coin set issued by Namibia in 1993, plus some other circulation coins like the unpopular 10 Dollar from 2010. He also sells small bags with 'world coins' from the region, which look quite legit. However, when it comes to the 'silver' coins, I would think twice before buying: most looked fake to me.

Your second option would be pawn shops. There are a few downtown. Not all of them sell you things, but some will. We are talking silver and gold Krugerrands here.

The third option would be the Bank of Namibia. They will look strange at you when you enter, as it's usually for government employees only, but they are able to help you getting coins and commemorative coins.

You can forget the souvenir shops (if you want a souvenir, then look at the outdoor stalls on Independence Avenue and say 'hi' to the traditionally dressed Herero girls), as they won't sell coins. You might get advised the main post office: they can't help either.

Swakopmund
Swakopmund, or Swakop for short, is the favorite beach resort of Namibia. As such, it attracts a lot of visitors and thus opportunities for coins. There is one antiques shop, called Peter's Antiques, at Tobias Hainyeko street, who sells some coins (and stamps, lots of stamps). The rest of the shops and banks can't help you.

The rest of the country
Why not just take a break from coin collecting and go sandboarding, quad racing, whale watching, safari touring, paragliding, of engage in one of the million other activities you can find here? There are no people, there's just nature and fun.
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 Posted 11/26/2016  10:44 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Debrajc to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I enjoy reading these posts!

Thank you for taking the time to share these experience with us non world travelers.
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 Posted 11/26/2016  2:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add GR58 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I really do enjoy reading the adventures of a coin collector.

Thanks for posting them
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 Posted 12/21/2016  04:59 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Story time! This time I'll take you to

The Bahamas

The Bahamas is basically a bunch of islands in the Atlantic, east and southeast of Florida and probably one of the most visited and easiest accessible parts of the Caribbean.

The capital, Nassau, is a huge favorite with cruise ships and American tourists. It's very crowded, has a lot of tourist traps and it's also very expensive, also compared to the rest of the country. Most of interest is just inside or near the 'old town' part of the city center. Don't forget to buy a kitsch souvenir from the straw market or the market near the cruise ship docks, make sure you visit the cheesy pirate experience to practice your 'Arrrrrr''s and have a look at the wonderful pastel colored Caribbean colonial architecture.
Or just drop yourself on one of the many beaches around. Most are catered by small stands selling coconuts and alcoholic beverages, so you should be good!

The Bahamas has its own currency, the Bahamian Dollar, usually shortened to B$ or simply $. It's pegged on par with the US Dollar and, given the proximity to the US and the huge amount of Americans visiting, the US Dollar is also accepted as legal charge here.

Just like in the US, the most common coins are the 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent. The coins do look different and have different sizes compared to their US counterparts, though. For example, the cent is much smaller, the 10 cent coin is scallop shaped and so on.

In addition, The Bahamas also issue half dollar and dollar coins. These are made of cupronickel and only found in sets, really, not in circulation. And then there's the true rarity of the Bahamas: the rounded square 15 cent coin. It's still being issued and available in sets only. The 15 cent coin was issued at the time where the current currency was introduced. 1 Dollar was worth 7 old Shillings, making the 15 cent coin worth about 1 Shilling, which should help the locals to adapt to the new currency.

Numismatics seems to be a very tiny hobby around here. I haven't found people who were interested.

Now for coin shopping in this place.

Nassau
Nassau actually has a coin shop. Just one. And it's actually only worth a visit if you're into torturing yourself, as most coins there are mounted into jewellery... the horror.

It's called Coin of the Realm and it can be found at Charlotte Street. The place is basically a jewellery shop with a small coin counter. Coins can be found directly on the left of the entry. Use the buttons to scroll through their counter.

When I was there, they had a lot of commemorative coins on offer. Mostly Bahamian coins, also the ones weighing several ounces. The had a few coin sets on sale, too, and a big lot of shipwreck coins. What really was a bummer here was the prices they wanted for all the coins. There's not just a small premium there, it was huge. As such, I decided not to shop here: there's no way I'll spend $65 for a regular modern coin set or over $100 for 'a very old on e!', being from the 1970s. In-depth knowledge of coins wasn't their virtue, really. As said, the center of Nassau is one big tourist trap...

The rest of the country
The main issue with the Bahamas is that it's made of several small islands or largely uninhabited islands. Unlike Nassau, these aren't of interest for tourists, cruise ships and thus coin shops. As such, you can't really expect anything here. Which isn't a problem, as it gives you more time to just grab a coconut and a cocktail and set yourself under a palm tree on the white beach at the blue sea...
Edited by UltraRant
12/21/2016 05:00 am
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 Posted 12/21/2016  2:31 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Excellent update.

My brother went to the Bahamas for his honeymoon over twenty years ago. He brought me a set which included a 1992 one cent, 1984 five cents, 1989 ten cents, 1992 fifteen cents, 1991 twenty-five cents, and 1966 fifty cents. He also got me a 1966 one dollar, which was in a separate holder. The holders were most definitely made with softened PVC, so they were all moved to cardboard 2x2s and place in my miscellaneous Dansco.
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 Posted 12/21/2016  4:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Now that's a very nice gift of him!

I actually asked around in many of the souvenir shops if they sold souvenir coin sets like what you describe. Most looked as if I asked if water could burn...
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 Posted 12/21/2016  5:39 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Who knows. Things may have been different back in '96. I may have to ask him where it got it, if he remembers at all.
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 Posted 12/22/2016  3:13 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nevertheless, jbuck, it's a great addition for your dark side collection! I hope it encourages you to investigate that one more.
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 Posted 12/22/2016  3:47 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add jbuck to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
With my US collection coming down to the more pricey key dates, I think my dark side collection will find more love in the coming year.
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 Posted 02/02/2017  5:29 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add UltraRant to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Just making a bit of time for this. Next country is a big tiny one...


Iceland

Iceland has been a colony of basically every Scandinavian country in history. As such, they even still fight with Norway over the question whether Leif (Leifur) Ericson was an Icelander or a Norwegian. Icelanders believe he was an Icelander, Norwegians believe he was just a Norwegian living in Iceland... As such, Iceland didn't gain independence before 1944, and was part of Denmark before.

Iceland has roughly over 300.000 citizens, more than half of them living in Reykjavik (meaning 'Smokey Bay', nothing more fancy there) and suburbs. There are several small settlements around the island, almost all of them near or at the coast, leaving the inland completely unsettled (and completely inaccessible during most of the year, by the way). The most notable one is probably Akureyri, the second 'urban area' in Iceland with less than 20.000 citizens.

Arriving in Iceland most likely takes place in Keflavik airport, being 50 km (30 miles) outside of the city, as the airport inside the city limits is used for domestic flights only. You probably instantly notice, upon landing, that there are no trees, the surface is made of a black, rough substance and there's moss everywhere. Indeed, Iceland is purely volcanic and too young to have more natural vegetation than moss. All trees you see are imported and planted there. This was also one of the main challenges for the early settlers, as wood was (and still is) the main source for construction and heating. The heating issue is largely solved nowadays with geothermal heating: your warm water will most likely smell like rotten eggs and feel slippery, somehow.

As the island is still very young, volcanoes are still quite active, making Iceland a unique destination to visit. Especially Vestmanneyjar got a big hit in the 1970s due to a volcanic outbreak and more recently Eyjafjallajökull caused flight transport to be interrupted for weeks.

Now, for coins and so... Iceland is probably also notoriously known for hyperinflation in 1976 and the recent banking crisis, causing a huge crash of their Icelandic Krona and the almost total collapse of the country. They have worked hard and recovered from that, though and now they're on their way to recover their position again as 'most expensive country on the planet'. Expect, for example, to easily spend $30 to $40 on a simple one person takeaway pizza, or $20 on a simple Asian takeaway meal: rice and some chicken with sauce, nothing more. If you want a spring roll, add $10. A regular meal in a not too fancy restaurant will set you back at least $50 per person, just for the main course. It's generally good food, though.

Iceland automatically followed Denmark when they replaced their rigsdaler with the Kroner in 1874. The country gained autonomy from Denmark during World War I and used the opportunity to start its own minting. Until 1940 all coins still had the initials of the Danish king, though, which changed after independence in 1944. Severe inflation hit the country in the 1970s, leading to the New Krona, which was introduced in 1980: simply 2 zeros were slashed off the denominations, leaving 100 old Krona in one new Krona. Since Iceland reached independence, though, the Icelandic krona lost over 99% of its value to the US dollar.

Despite there being 100 Krona in a dollar, and one krona coins being completely useless and worthless in daily life, you can still get them in change everywhere. Other denominations are 5, 10, 50 and 100 Krona. All coins have the shield of Iceland and an Icelandic sea animal pictured on them. Iceland has also issued some commemorative coins, some in silver and gold, and mintage numbers are generally quite high given the small population of the nation.

Now, where to get them...


Reykjavik

As Reykjavik houses over half of the population, it's simply the most logical place to look for any numismatic activity. You have two options here.

The first option is the National Bank of Iceland, which hosts a numismatic museum. More information here: http://www.visitreykjavik.is/numismatic-museum
and yes, it's free. I didn't see a museum shop when I was there, but the exhibition was certainly nice.

For any trading activity... you can't find much here. Forget the many souvenir shops in main street. Yes, they used to have tourist coin sets in the old days, but no more.
The only option you have is to visit the 'flea market' on Saturday and Sunday. It's open from 10 to 17 and can be ofund near the old harbour, at Tryggvagötu 19. The thing is called Kolaportið. All numismatic activity (including coins, banknotes, medals and stamps) is located directly on the right of the rightmost entrance. I think there's about 2 dealers with coins there.
Last time I visited, I encountered a very old, very grumpy man who had by far the best selection, including a lot of coin sets, bags with old Icelandic coins, commemorative coins and official commemorative coin sets. He didn't have more than a few square feet and he wasn't directly at the main isle, so it's easy to miss. He takes cash only. And of course when I came back with more cash to buy a few more coin sets from the Danish time, he simply told me 'it's closed', despite the sets just laying there, the market still being open and him just sitting there doing nothing. So I guess you have to be a bit lucky, too.


The rest of Iceland

If you come to the rest of Iceland to do coin trading, then I have some bad news for you. Just forget it. Icelanders are very fond of their swimming pools (every village has one) but there's simply no commercial base anywhere else for numismatic activity. In fact, don't even be surprised if you don't find a gas station for 100 miles.

Just enjoy the rest of the country, forget about numismatics for a while. Iceland is simply stunning, unique and definitely worth a visit.
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