RBI’s monetary museum in Fort area in Mumbai is a one of its kind museum in the country. It takes you through the history of coins, notes and other currency forms through the history of India starting with various historical dynasties, princely states, and foreign empires till Independent India. It also introduces you to RBI, its purpose and objectives, its history and its functions.
Museum introduces its visitors to the evolution of the concept of money and its initial avatars like barter system and cowries system. You can see a gold bar that is used as financial instrument. It tells you about coins through the ages and the technology used to make them, the metals used, the punch marks and minting. Basically, whatever you can ask about coins is answered here. You can make out the affluence of a period by looking at the coins of its time. During the better economic times, the coins were of more precious metals and had good craftsmanship.
The section on paper currency or notes is equally interesting. Paper notes are fairly recent, dating back only to 18th century, compared to ages old coins. They gained prominence only in 19th century. You get to know about the initial banks that offered the paper money. The initial notes were one sided and it seems the bankers used to sign each note individually, a tradition that continues till date in a different form. You would smile when you see the simple old style huge notes.
Another section introduces you to the nuances of the currency like how to identify which coin has been minted where, how to figure out if the note is real or fake. There is a small quizes that you can play on the touch screen kiosks there and test your knowledge. Section on RBI is an eye opener and tells you things that you probably never knew. The portraits of all the RBI governors show you faces behind the familiar signatures on currency notes.
Like everything else in Mumbai, the museum is housed in a compact space, but the displays are neatly arranged with arrows on the floor guiding you on how to move around to cover everything. The lighting is appropriate which is not a norm and at few places there is sensor lighting i.e. the place lights up only when you are close to the display. You are not allowed to carry anything with you inside the museum that means you cannot take any photographs. You can get a sample of Rs 5000/- and Rs 10,000/- notes along with brochures on how to identify the real and fake notes. There are small booklets that you can buy from the front desk and they tell you about various sections of the museum. I wish they would make available the out of circulation coins and commemorative coins as well for the numismatics enthusiasts. I also wish there are more visitors to the museum, not many people seem to know about this informative place.
There website is equally informative, explore it till you actually visit the museum.