Enter S.R. Bhat’s home, with countries unheard of encased safely and a place that one would think belongs to a pious Ganesh follower. It would appear to be a museum of sorts. S R Bhat has secured a place in the Limca Book of Records in 2004 for his collection of rare coins, while his son Punit found a place in the Limca book the following year for his collection of miniature liquor bottles. Over the years, for Model Colony based Bhat, lapel pins and Ganapati idols have also caught his fancy adding to his unending collections.
“It all began when my mother gave me the first coin issued after Independence, that’s when the interest began. I would then ask my relatives to give me coins they didn’t need and after a while, I had 20-30 kg of coins,” says Bhat, a native of Karnataka. His coin collection comprises World Coin sets, ancient India, Mughal India, Maratha coins, Tipu Sultan coins, Republic India coins, princely state coins and of course coin sets issued by the RBI. But, the ones he takes the most pride in from his collection of over 5000 coins are wildlife coins – a collection of 1450 coins from 185 countries divided into categories of birds, animals and marine life. Some of these are crown-sized, multi-colour coins, prismatic colour coins using a prism technology that causes the design to change colour and sparkle as the coin is moved and there are some highlighting the skin of the animal as a background featuring that particular animal. “The United Nations had started a campaign where to preserve wildlife they would mint coins of endangered species, I have those as well,” boasts Bhat.
As he turns over a thick file showcasing rare bi-metal coins, world coins and U.S. State quarters all neatly laminated in cellophane sheets and each coin packed in an enclosure to protect it from the elements, the dedication is clear. A hobby turned into an obsession involved a lot of hard work, plus the help of, friends and family and coin dealers. “Collecting coins that need to be registered with the RBI makes it a tedious process. My son and I have to keep the needed receipts and follow up regularly in order to procure them,” explains Bhat.
The vigour and excitement contained within a retired industrialist while he points at his next collection of lapel pins is commendable. “In the year 1996, I attended the Olympics and wondered what lapel pins were until I found out. Now I have lapel pins of events before they even happen, which is a great feeling,” says Bhat. The father-son duo also has a collection of lapel pins of all the Olympic Games held from 1896 to the 2016 Rio Olympics.Their football related collection comprises the official FIFA lapel pin, official replica of the medal presented to the participating teams of the World Cup in Korea/Japan which bears in miniature the flags of all the participating countries, the lapel pin of the Jules Rimet Cup which is presented to the winners and lapel pins of all five Football World Cups including 32 countries which participated in the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2006 and 2014. Their collection also has lapel pins of all participating clubs of the English Premier League (EPL) and European Premier League (UEFA).
Besides football, the collection of over 1200 lapel pins comprises those from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, Twenty20 World Cup 2015, all four Tennis Grand Slams, the Rugby World Cup, Commonwealth Games, places visited around the world, airlines, and a set of 220 Flag pins of the world.
S R Bhat’s fascination with Ganesh idols was initiated by his mother, who gave him his first brass idol after reprimanding him for getting one home which was made out of clay and could break making it inauspicious. Bhat reminisces, “It started in 1978, as a child I would use my allowance to buy Ganesh idols, with time work would allow me to travel and that’s how I built my collection of 212 idols. Sometimes even friends get back some.” Each idol has a unique story behind its shape and size, some even have Ganesh carved out of semi-precious stones and corals and some with the lord depicted on a currency note.
Both father and son are spreading knowledge through their hobby in various schools to keep the students busy during their vacation and enlightening them on how to collect any item, preserving and presenting them to attract public interest. ‘The dream is to help each school have its own museum which has been created by their students,” smiles Bhat. S.R. Bhat has passed down his passion for capturing history in the form of coins or lapel pins to his son Punit, who has his own collection of 525 sealed miniature liquor bottles. “Now even Punit’s son takes keen interest in the collections and I hope this continues,” Bhat signs off.
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