This paper is a case study of the role of coin collecting in the Sikh diaspora in the United States, wit
comparative references to broader sources on Sikh and non-Sikh coin and medal (i.e., numismatic)
collecting beyond this one collector and collection. Here we briefly survey the collection of Sikh coins
assembled (within a much larger collection of Sikh and Punjabi art and heritage) by Dr. Parvinder S.
Khanuja, examining the collector’s criteria used to select coins as a preferred or important collectible,
and also the criteria used to ascribe value to particular coins based on their characteristics (original
mint or place of manufacture, age or date of manufacture, materials of manufacture, and physical
condition), as well as their prior line of ownership (i.e. their “biographies” as objects). We also survey
current literature on Sikh coin collecting in comparison with the broader collecting and study of
numismatics, looking for generalizations about Sikh vs. non-Sikh coin collecting and how value is
ascribed to coins. We find that the importance of coin collecting for Dr. Khanuja, and in the literature
on Sikh numismatics, is closely tied to the concept of former Sikh sovereignty or political control that
(in the past) made an autonomous coinage possible. This paper illustrates some exemplary coins that
Dr. Khanuja and his family highly prize, documenting the importance ascribed to sovereignty,
identity, and devotion. The significance ascribed to coinage as a symbol of sovereignty, the relevance
of his collecting to the collector’s strong Sikh identity, and the fact that collecting may be an
expression of Sikh religious devotion, all seem to constitute motivations for the formation of this
collection. Based on references to such concepts in Sikh numismatic literature, these motivations seem
very likely to be characteristic of a broader Sikh collecting tradition rather than an idiosyncratic one
used only by this collector.
Keywords: Sikh art, Numismatics, Collecting, Sikh studies, Sovereignty, Art collectors
Numismatic Narratives: Sovereignty, Identity, and Devotion in the Parvinder S. Khanuja Collection of Sikh Coins – Paul Michael Taylor and Saeed Husain – Click the PDF icon to view, right-click to save as.
|By Paul Michael Taylor and Saeed Husain|