Cars as Colourful and Pretty as the Birds of Cuba,

cuba carsHow did these cars get to the island and managed to stay put. From the discovery of Cuba by Columbus in the late 15th century up the Spanish-American War of 1899 the Spaniards governed the island with an iron fist from their grandiose palaces, gardens and assemblies. The lavishness of their life style can be seen and felt today on the streets of Havana when we look at the Colonial architecture that they left behind. The Museum in the Old Havana square today displays the stunning lavishness of the Spaniard Lords.


The Americans had a free hand in Cuba from 1899 during their own
administration until 1902 when Cuba gained its independence. The subsequent Cuban governors were partly stooges of the Americans and as result Americanism flourished in Cuba.

We mostly see the magnificent and colorful American mobiles from as early as the 1930s to late 1950s until Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara with the help of the Cuban people brought about the revolution of P11802211959. This is probably the reason we hardly see any American cars after the 1960s. Now that reconciliation may be on its way we hope that it comes on Cuba’s terms to preserve the integrity culture and not the least its old beautiful cars. We hope that the bea
ches of Cuba such as the Varadeo, the best in the Caribbean, remain as close to nature as it they are today and don’t become a tourist hub of ice creams parlors and touts.

History of Havana on Coins & Stamps


Poorest Country in the World, A Colonial Heritage

Kinshasa, Congo ….it is the poorest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is also the poorest country in the world, at a GDP of $55 billion.

Many of its residents live on less $1 a day.


 One of the most exploited countries in Africa by the west. Now they are the poorest

Belgian Congo, French Congo Belge,  former colony (coextensive with the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Africa, ruled by Belgium from 1908 until 1960. It was established by the Belgian parliament to replace the previous, privately owned Congo Free State, after international outrage over abuses there brought pressure for supervision and accountability. A rebellion broke out in several eastern districts in 1919 and was not suppressed until 1923. Private European and American corporations invested heavily in the Belgian Congo after World War I. Large plantations (growing cotton, oil palms, coffee, cacao, and rubber) and livestock farms were developed. In the interior, gold, diamonds, copper, tin, cobalt, and zinc were mined; the colony became an important source of uranium for the United States during World War II. In the late 1950s, France and the United Kingdom worked with their colonies to prepare for independence.  The first nationwide Congolese political party, the Congo National Movement, was launched in 1958 by Patrice Lumumba and other Congolese leaders. Riots broke out in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) after a rally was held calling for the independence of the Congo in 1960. Suddenly Belgium capitulated and Congo became an independent republic on June 30, 1960.


The Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979


Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980)

At the time of revolution which first took root in 1977 Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919 – 1980) was head of the state as Shah of Iran. However he was not of royal descent but a son of an army commander Rezā Shāh (1878 – 1944) who engineered a coup with the assistance of British, and deposed Ahmad Shah Qajar, the last Shah of the Qajar dynasty in 1925. Having established a constitutional monarchy Pahlavi was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on 16 September 1941. His son Mohammed Reza Shah followed as the next Shaw, and initiated a strong policy of modernization of Iran supported by the United States and the rest of the west.

IRAN 1912 225 Centuries of Iranian Empire

During Shah’s regime Iran marked the anniversary of 2,500 years of continuous monarchy since the founding of the Persian Empire by Cyrus the Great. The Shah also changed the benchmark of the Iranian calendar from the hegira to the beginning of the Persian Empire, measured from Cyrus the Great’s coronation. He also introduced the ‘White Revolution’, a series of economic, social and political reforms with the proclaimed intention of transforming Iran into a global power and modernizing the nation by nationalizing certain industries and granting women suffrage.

Final decisive Year of Revolution 1979

However as a secular Muslim, PERSIA GOLD 1882 2Mohammad Reza gradually lost support from the Shi’a clergy of Iran as well as the working class, particularly due to his strong policy of modernization, secularization, conflict with the traditional class of merchants known as bazaari, relations with Israel, and corruption issues surrounding himself, his family, and the ruling elite. In order to counteract the revolution additional controversial policies were enacted, including the banning of the communist Tudeh Party, and a general suppression of political dissent by Iran’s intelligence agency, SAVAK. According to official statistics, Iran had as many as 2,200 political prisoners in 1978, a number which multiplied rapidly as the evolution took hold.

Several other factors contributed to strong opposition to the Shah among certain groups within Iran, the most notable of which were United States and UK support for his regime, clashes with Islamists and increased communist activity. Demonstrations against the Shah commenced in October 1977, developing into a campaign of civil resistance by secular and religious elements intensified in January 1978. Between August and December 1978 strikes and demonstrations paralyzed the country. The Shah left Iran for exile on January 16, 1979, as the last Persian monarch, leaving his duties to a regency council and an opposition-based prime minister. Ayatollah Khomeini who was exiled for 15 years, was invited back to Iran by the government, and returned to Tehran to a greeting by several million Iranians. The royal reign collapsed shortly after on February 11 when guerrillas and rebel troops overwhelmed troops loyal to the Shah in armed street fighting, bringing Khomeini to official power.  Iran voted by national referendum to become an Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979, and to approve a new theocratic-republican constitution whereby Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the country, in December 1979.

The revolution was unusual for the surprise it created throughout the world as it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military, and blood shed). The revolution occurred in a nation that was enjoying relatively good wealth and prosperity.  The outcome resulted in the exile of many Iranians, and replaced a pro-Western semi-absolute monarchy with an anti-Western authoritarian theocracy  based on the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e faqih). It was a relatively non-violent revolution, and helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions.

History of Iran on Coins and Stamps


The Second Round of Exploitation? Congo

GORILLAThe oldest national park in Africa is the Congo’s Virunga National Park. It is home to rare mountain gorillas, lions, and elephants. The park is currently under threat by the UK oil company, Soco, which has begun oil exploration there. Despite heavy criticism SOCO is yet to relinquish its operating permits or commit to an unconditional withdrawal.

The First Round of Exploitation

LEOPOLDLeopold II (9 April 1835 – 17 December 1909) was the second King of the Belgians, chiefly remembered for the founding and exploitation of the Congo Free State as a private venture. Born in Brussels as the second son of Leopold I and Louise of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the throne on 17 December 1865, reigning for 44 years until his death. This was the longest reign of any Belgian monarch.

CONGOLeopold was the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, a private project undertaken on his own behalf. He used explorer Henry Morton Stanley to help him lay claim to the Congo, an area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, the colonial nations of Europe authorized his claim by committing the Congo Free State to improving the lives of the native inhabitants. Far from this intention Leopold ignored these conditions, and ran the Congo with mercenary Force Publique for his personal enrichment. The great sums of the money from this exploitation were used for public and private construction projects in Belgium during this period. He donated the private buildings to the state before his death, to preserve them for Belgium.



Central African Republic, The fallen President Bokassa

A Lesson in History, A fallen President,


Jean-Bedel Bokassa (1921-1996) distinguished himself in the war in Indochina and became a war hero. In 1966, Bokassa used his position and declared him-self president of Central African Republic. He then began a reign of terror and corruption, taking all important government posts for himself. He personally supervised judicial beatings and introduced a rule that thieves would have an ear cut off for the first two offenses and a hand for the third. In 1977, in emulation of his hero Napoleon, he crowned himself emperor of the Central African Empire in a ceremony costing $20 million, practically bankrupting the country. His diamond-encrusted crown alone cost $5 million. In 1979 he had hundreds of schoolchildren arrested for refusing to buy uniforms from a company owned by one of his wives. Bokassa was reported to have personally supervised the massacre of 100 of the schoolchildren by his Imperial Guard.

On 20 September 1979, French paratroopers deposed him and re-installed Dacko as president. Bokassa went into exile in France where he had a chateau and other property bought with the money he had embezzled. After his overthrow in 1979, Central Africa reverted to its former name and status as the Central African Republic. In his absence, he was tried and sentenced to death. He returned to the Central African Republic in 1986 and was put on trial for treason and murder. In 1987, he was cleared of charges of cannibalism, but found guilty of the murder of schoolchildren and other crimes. The death sentence was later commuted to life in solitary confinement, but just six years later, in 1993, he was freed. He lived a private life in his former capital, Bangui, and died in November 1996 at the age of 75 years.

central-africa-1975-1The French colony of Ubangi-Chari (Oubangui-Chari in French), part of French Equatorial Africa, had become a semi-autonomous territory of the French Community in 1958 and then an independent nation as the Central African Republic on 13 August 1960.

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo to the south and Cameroon to the west.



The Magic of South Pacific, the Fiji Islands on Coins

FIJI 1934 1Fiji  in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of over 300 islands  formed through  volcanic activity starting around 150 million years ago. The rugged landscape of blue lagoons,  palm-lined beaches, mountains and forests make it one of FIJI 1934 2the idyllic islands of the world. Fiji is believed to have been settled around 3500 to 1000 BC, although with sporadic influx from the Polynesian islands. Abel Jan Tasman was the first European to sight Fiji Islands on 1643 and Captain James Cook visited the island in 1774. Captain FIJI 1947 1William Bligh and his loyal members of the crew on HMS Bounty sailed through Fiji on their epic voyage to Timor in 1789.

Later traders and adventurers arrived in 1801 and by 1840 the islands had been surveyed while a cosmopolitan FIJI 1943population existed with Suva as capital. The islands were under King Cakobau who in 1874 sought help from the British to control the warring tribes.

British as they had done in their other colonies brought indentured labor from India which was to cause conflict later in 1970 among the original tribes and immigrant Indian people.

British coinage was used in the islands since 1881, and Australian coins were in circulation from 1910. The distinctive coins bearing the island’s name were produced in 1934 with effigy of King George V and an outrigger canoe.  Fiji was one of the first to issue coins of King Edward VIII in 1936. These coins were followed by holed half and one pennies of cupro-nickel and brass in 1942 and of bronze in 1949. The 12 sided nickel brass pence with the head of King George VI appeared in 1947.

The crowned effigy of British monarchs continued until 1969 when the denomination was replaced by the dollar. A year later in 1970 Fiji attained independence from the British.


The Legend of the Buffalo Nickel Coin USA

BUFFALO USA 1913 1Also known as Indian Head Coin, this piece was struck by the United States Mint from 1913 to 1938. Its engraver sculptor James Earle Fraser chose “Black Diamond” (1893-1915), a famous buffalo at the Central Park zoo in New York City to represent the
USA, and more BUFFALO USA 1913 2importantly on the obverse is Iron Tail, an Oglala Sioux chief, Two Moons, a Cheyenne chief, and Big Tree, a Kiowa chief.

Earlier in an effort to beautify the  historic series of US coins, five new designs were submitted between LIBERTY HEAD 1883 USA 11907 and 1909.  In 1911, Taft administration officials decided to replace Charles E. Barber’s Liberty Head design, sometimes referred to as the V nickel because of its reverse design, which had been in use since 1883 until 1912, with at least five pieces being surreptitiously struck dated 1913. The obverse of this coin fearured a left-facing image of the Goddess of Liberty.

The new design by Sculptor James Earle Fraser (November 4, 1876 – October 11, 1953) showing a Native American and an American bison impressed the treasury officials and the design was approved in 1912, but had to be delayed several months because of objections from the Hobbs Manufacturing Company, which made mechanisms to detect slugs in nickel-operated machines. The company was not satisfied by changes made in the coin by Fraser, and in February 1913, Treasury Secretary Franklin MacVeagh finally decided to issue the coins despite the objections.

Initially the American Mint tried to adjust the design, as the coins proved to strike indistinctly, and to be subject to wear—the dates were easily worn away in circulation. In 1938, after the expiration of the minimum 25-year period during which the design could not be replaced without congressional authorization, a new coin was substituted with the Jefferson nickel, designed by Felix Schlag. However Fraser’s Indian-Buffalo design is still admired and has been used on commemorative coins and gold bullion pieces.

Coins of USA from Antiques International

Paradise Lost, Our Ancient Isle

Milton’s choice, the utmost isle,
A paradise lost to a sinner’s vile
Eve’s tears of shame and guilt
Ample drops for lakes to brim,
Adam’s foot on the mountain top,
A reconcile to his mortal crave

Sumanakuta where pilgrims lay
At first man’s foot, do they pray
Heavenly clouds blur their eyes,
Sorrowful tears brim their brows
What heaven is this that reaches the sky?
Lost to man, forever for his sin and vile

Glittering pearls off Mannar Coast
Pandya king could never afford
The Madura princess for a trade
Kuveni to be cast aside
Vijaya to be the king of Isle

Kuveni’s wail for her master’s love,
No avail to the prodigal prince
Cast away from her den of love
Meant to die for her treacherous deed
To her brethren of noble creed,

For millennia did the Yakkhas rule
Almost since dawn of time
Sans vice or greed
Joyful in their wild abode
Oh! What a shame
To be deceived by their queen

Serendib, an Arabian dream
Of Aladdin’s Cave and Sinbad’s tales
A pledge of wealth most abound,
Twinkling pearls and sparkling gems
Nature’s den of assorted hoard
The ocean’s pride, a fantasy isle,

From far ashore, the navy came,
In quest of wealth for their Hebrew king,
Ophir, from the Book of Kings
A land of gems for Solomon’s queens,
Priceless stones for his shrine divine

A draught of arrack with a honey taint
A gentle snooze on the gold coast isle
Beneath the shadow of the palm tree trail,
Ocean waves for a lullaby tale,
And scented breeze of cinnamon wild,

Marco’s haven on the gem stud soil,
While his fame at Kublai’s aisle
With the spoils from Mahavamsa isle
A Persian queen for a romantic stroll
On the shores of the coveted shore,
Oh what a romance in royal style

From far away by sea they came
Spelling dome to the peaceful isle
Eating stone and drinking blood
Aiming guns and cannons, they did
Instil fear into native soil
Alas, an end to Mahavamsa Isle

A poem by Anton Sebastian

Author of A Complete Illustrated History of Sri Lanka MY HISTOTY

CEYLON 1805 SILVER 1Rare and Ancient Coins of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from Anton Sebastian Private Collection for Sale by Antiques International

SRI LANKA GOLDEN AGE OF SCULPTURE 1gRare Books of Ceylon from Anton Sebastian Private Collection for Sale by Antiques International












Australia, A Land of Condemned to the Land of Enterprise

The  Aborigines have existed as early as from 40,000 BC, throughout the mainland Australia,  which is the largest island in the world.

Although in the 16th to 18th centuries  the land was already known to the Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese it was first surveyed by Captain Cook only in 1770.  and was named New South Wales by him because of its similarity to the part of Britain with the same name.

The first settlement was established at Port Jackson with 800 convicts from Britain in 1788, brought by the British Navy captain Arthur Phillip in a  fleet of 11 vessels.  The Aboriginal population at the time is thought to number several hundred thousand.

Over the next two centuries this land for the condemned was to turn in to a nation of enterprise rich with resources and agriculture. By 1930 Australia’s animal husbandry alone was turning in over 75 million pounds, a large income by today’s standard.

The political system evolved rapidly following the establishment of colonies at New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land or Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland during 1823 to 1859. In 1901 AUSTRALIA 1951the above states joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Under the Democratic, federal-state system the British monarch was  recognized as sovereign.The Immigration Restriction Act in the mean time stops the non-white immigration. Canberra in New South Wales is made capital in 1911.

When the World War broke out in 1914 Australia committed hundreds of thousands of troops to the British AUSTRALIA 1914war effort.  Tragically 10,000 men of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) died during the campaign at Gallipoli Turkish peninsula in 1915. By 1918, the First World War had been in progress for over three years, and thousands of Australians had AUSTRALIA 1918already been killed or wounded.

Following The Northern Territory Acceptance Act 1910 Northern Territory from the control of South Australia was transferred to the Commonwealth. Separately King Edward VII died in the same year.


Parliament movds to Canberra in 1927 and pastoralism led the way to economic success.  Merino lamb for wool became a state icon on coins from 1938 to 1963.
In 1986 the Australia Act is passed which makes Australian law fully independent of the British parliament and legal system.
Visit Australia on Coins


Gods and Coins,

PALA DHARMAPALA COINThere are more animals and immortals depicted on coins than Gods.  Yet religion is the oldest culture in the world. Religion and deities depicted on coins are construed by some pious people as effacing the value of their gods. Coins are a part of everyday life for everybody, and religious coins can also be a reminder to the presence god in daily life. In a puritan’s sense the use of religious coins in monetary transactions could mean that god looks over honesty and integrity when his image is used. 

Kanishka-G66-CNGThe Hindu religious coins have been issued since at least 2000 years ago, first by the Kushan kings of India in Greco-Roman style. Often made of SHIVA & PARVATIgold, they are an expression of the power and pomp of the kings when it comes to religion. The high value of these coins is one of the reasons for then being preserved in such pristine condition, but
unfortunately they are far and  few and rare.

INDIA COINS 3The Shiva and Nandi coin of the Kushan kings of Indo-Greek Empire, originating in Bactria (the present Afghanistan, Peshawar and Pakistan) is not only an example of exquisite expression in Hindu Art, but also the earliest known depiction of Shiva and his sacred vehicle.  It is notable that the first ever mortal figure of Buddha (Boddo) too was on a coin by Kanishka I (the Great) who was the emperor of the Indo-Greek Kushan Kingdom in 127–151 AD.

jain coinIn India Temple Tokens were produced since 19th century but more recent productions to generate funds for temples are common. Most of these coins carried the effigies of Rama, Sita, Lakshamanan and Hanuman. The Jain tokens were relativly rare. It would be difficult to precisely date them but the wear and tear and pattern would be of guidance in valuing them. However almost all the  gold tokens usually genuine. It is an experience and pleasure to hold these old
Hindu coins in our hands.    


Hinduism on Coins, Gods in your hands