Before the 1700s, there were various kingdoms in the general area of what is now Nepal. The Licchavi Kingdom (ca. 400 — 750), for example, made its own coins, though these are not often seen for sale these days. Later, the Rajputs of India ruled parts of Nepal, and later, after a brief-lived Muslim invasion in the 1300s, the era of the Malla kings began.
The Mallas had Bhatgaon as the center of their kingdom, which had its origins in the 1100s but rose to prominence in the fifteenth century. When King Yaksha Malla died in 1482, his sons divided up the area into three separate kingdoms, each of which issued its own currency: the Bhatgaon, Patan, and Kathmandu Kingdoms. (A fourth, the Banepa Kingdom, was established but quickly was absorbed into the Bhatgaon Kingdom.) It is difficult to find many coins for sale from these Malla kingdoms but they do tell the story of the prototypical Nepalese state. Silver mohars were the main type of coin, though a few gold coins were also made.
In 1768, King Prithvi Narayan Shah finally united the disparate kingdoms into Nepal, and began the Shah Dynasty which survived until modern times. Though the coins of the Shah Dynasty were used throughout this period, the royal family actually lost power in the 1840s, when the Rana family came to power and made the kings figureheads with no real power.
The Rana era
While the Rana Prime Ministers led Nepal from the 1840s until 1951, the coins continued in the tradition of the Shah kings’ coinage. During the Rana period, in the 1930s, Nepal decimalized its coinage, dropping the mohar and decreeing that one rupee = 100 paise. The Rana era ended in 1951, when the Shah kings took over once again.
The end of the monarchy
In 1991, King Birendra (in power since 1972) was forced to declare that Nepal would now be a constitutional monarchy. In 2001, Birendra was murdered in a mysterious incident that is still controversial. Although a new king took power, Nepal banished the monarchy altogether in 2007, and became a modern republic. The full name of the country in English is now the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. New coins were issued under this new government.
Dates on Nepalese coins
Three different main dating systems have been used on the historical coins of Nepal. Conversion rules given below yield approximate dates (it’s actually more complicated than just adding or subtracting a number of years):
– Malla Era and from 2011: Nepal Samvat (NS) — Gregorian year – 880 years
– Shah Era: Saka Era (SE) — Gregorian year – 78 years [a.k.a. Shalivahana Era]
– After 1888: Vikrama Samvat Era (VS) — Gregorian year + 57 years
Collecting Nepalese coins appeals to anyone interested in the Hindu kingdoms and absorbing history of south Asia. Several gold and (especially) silver pieces are available at any time for eagle-eyed collectors. Browse our current selection of Nepal coins for sale and check back; new coins are added daily.
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