Long-time Dubai resident Ram Kumar Tolani, 63, is exhibiting his massive collection of coins and banknotes bearing the image of Mahatma Gandhi to commemorate 150th birth anniversary of India’s ‘Father of the Nation’.
On dsiplay at his private gallery in the heart of Dubai, Tolani’s Gandhi collection includes the very first Rs10 coin with Gandhi’s face on it. The Reserve Bank of India issued this commemorative coin to mark the birth centenary of Gandhi in 1969.
Commemorative postal stamps, post cards and inland letter cards bearing a variety of images of Gandhi issued by the Indian government are also part of his collection. These include first day covers of Gandhi centenary stamps of Rs5, Re1, 75paise and 20paise.
He has also collected stamps and coins released by other countries on the same occasion.
A commemorative stamp of Gandhi as a law student in London, which was released with a value of 2 cents by Mauritius, stands out among them.
Gandhi is also featured in gold and silver medallions minted by B.H. Mayer’s Mint in Germany.
Only 9,999 pieces of these medallions commemorating the Indian revolutionaries were issued in 2007.
The Gandhi series of notes may not enthuse Indian expats who have used them back home since its introduction in 1996 to replace the Lion Capital series that was in circulation post-independence.
However, Tolani has collected one bundle of each note in the series. These include the Re1 and Rs2 notes that were removed from circulation in 1995 and Rs500 and Rs1000 notes that were demonetised in 2016.
Two commemorative coins of the 75th anniversary of Dandi march (the Salt March, a non-violent civil movement against the British led by Gandhi) are also part of the collection.
The silver coin catches the attention with Rs100 denomination, 4.4cm diameter and 35g weight.
A special edition floating fountain pen from the Eternal Gandhi initiative of Aditya Birla Group is also in the collection. The black and silver coloured pen is named Ahimsa (Non-violence). It features Gandhi’s face on the cap’s finial and the caption ‘Non-violence-bravery at its peak’ on the barrel.
“We Indians have a lot of sentimental attachment towards anything with Gandhi’s face on it because we have respect towards what he has done for the country,” said Tolani.
It is part of the traditions in some parts of India for people to wear banknote garlands on special occasions like weddings. So, Tolani said, he made a small collection of such decorative garlands also.
“Some of the note garlands were bought from bridegrooms after their wedding ceremonies and some from priests at temple events in India.”
Tolani’s business card also carries a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, among those of three other world leaders: ‘The future depends on what we do in the present.’
However, he has a piece of advice for those stacking up notes with Gandhi’s images. “Let us not keep money hiding. Let it be in circulation, and spend it wisely.”
Located in Building 12 in Bay Square at Business Bay, the Goodwill Gallery is housed in the office room [No. 501] of Tolani’s Goodwill World Group of Companies.
Exhibition for charity
Tolani has offered to hold exhibitions of his huge collection of coins and notes of various countries to raise funds for charity through Dubai Municipality.
Tolani told Gulf News that he has proposed to the municipality that runs the Currency Charity Bank, where people can donate foreign currencies for charity, to use his collection to hold currency exhibitions and donate the proceeds from the sale of tickets to charity.
He said he was awaiting positive response from the civic body’s officials.
Tolani said he has a total collection of over 20,000 banknotes.
“I had counted the coins up to 280,000. After that I stopped counting.”
If weighed together, he claimed, the coins in his collection would weigh almost one tonne.
“I am focusing on limited edition coins, some of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.”
He said he had spent around $2.5 million (Dh9.17 million) to buy the collectables in his gallery within one year.
That was when his son Dr Sanjay Tolani, a well-known financial advisor, coach and author, encouraged him to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a collector of rare things.
“That was his way of helping me overcome the health issues I developed following a brain stroke exactly 10 years back. This hobby has helped me get back to normal life following the illness.”
He said he was also willing to help non-profit organisations to hold exhibitions of his collection.