By Aparajita Gupta
Its value has eroded over its lifetime of a century. Today, a rupee can buy very little, may be a toffee. Yet, this sturdy currency has survived two world wars, regularly shedding value till it has practically gone out of use.
The British government introduced the one rupee note on November 30, 1917.
Currency notes were introduced in India in 1861. Silver coins, including one rupee ones, were in existence for very long, some being traced to Sher Shah Suri's reign in 1540. The one rupee paper currency, issued as a promissory note, was printed in England and depicted a silver coin image of King George V on the left corner. The words 'I promise to pay the bearer the sum of One Rupee on demand at any office of issue' was printed on it. Later, the promise was removed for this denomination.
"As people were increasingly melting silver one rupee coins during World War I, the number of coins were reducing from the market. At that time the British government planned to introduce this note," Sushil Kumar Agrawal, CEO of mintageworld.com, an online museum of coins, stamps and currency notes, told IANS.
In its 100-year journey, design of One Rupee note was changed 44 times. The one Rupee note is the only currency printed by the Government of India and not by the Reserve Bank, and is signed by the Finance Secretary.
Though printing of One Rupee note was discontinued in 1994, it was re-introduced during 2015-16 financial year after a gap of 21 years. The re-introduction was more on nostalgic value than actual usage.
Asked about the reason, Agrawal said perhaps collectors' demand for One Rupee note was the reason behind the re-printing.
"It does not as such have any value and the printing cost is certainly much higher than the value of the note" he said.
Talking about One Rupee note's 100-year journey, founding Partner of Numismatic Auction House and founder of Oswal Antiques, Girish Jagshi Veera told IANS that the government might have reintroduced the currency because it is the basic currency of the country.
But we do not get to see the note too often. It is learnt that a bundle of 100 one rupee notes is sold for Rs 600 in grey markets of Zaveri Bazaar in Mumbai and Chandni Chowk in Delhi. Collectors do not mind shelling out premium for the notes.
In fact, different years of printing can fetch vastly different prices. A one rupee note of 1985 signed by Finance Secretary S. Venkitaramanan was sold for Rs 2,75,000 at Classical Numismatics Gallery on January 21, 2017. Another one, of 1944, issued by British India, signed C.E. Jones, was sold for Rs 130,000 for a pack of 100 at Todywalla Auctions in October 2009.
The note, for all practical purposes, has become a collector's item.
(Aparajita Gupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)