The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) completed 60 years on October 10, 2009 and to mark the event and its liberating the country from the grip of terrorism, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka issued two commemorative thousand rupee coins on October 12.
One in sterling silver is 11.9 grams and 2.25 mm thick and has a mintage of 10,000 coins. The other, a cupro-nickel commemorative coin which is 8.25 grams and 1.8 mm thick has a mintage of 200,000 coins. Both are issued in brilliant uncirculated condition. Other than the weight which requires a good scale, the edge of the coin is the simplest way to identify the coin variety. By comparison you can see the silver is much thicker, but on its own the silver has a bright silver shine, and the cupro-nickel is a dull gray.
The coin designed by Central Bank artist Kelum Gunasekera has on the obverse a soldier holding the national flag in one hand and his weapon in the other, with the map of Sri Lanka in the background.
The words ‘Victory through sacrifice’ appear in Sinhala on top, and Tamil and English to the left and right around the map. The words Sri Lanka Yudha Hamudava appears in Sinhala at the bottom, all within a ring with a decorative motif along the periphery.
The reverse has the logo of the Sri Lanka Army above with the years 1949 and 2009 to the left and right. The face value of the coin 1000 in large numerals below with the currency rupees in Sinhala, Tamil and English is on the right.
The year of issue 2009 is given below. The words Diamond Jubilee and Sri Lanka in English, Sinhala, and Tamil appear on the top and bottom along the periphery within plain circles separated by an eight pointed star on either side.
The silver coin is sold to the public at the issue price of Rs. 2200 and the cupro-nickel coin at Rs.1000. This is the first time since 1990 that the Central Bank has issued a Non Circulating Legal Tender (NCLT) coin at face value.
Of the 200,000 coins minted, 195,000 were to have been issued to all soldiers in the Army. It would have been proper and within financial regulations to issue the coin with October pay, since it is legal tender and issued at face value. However the payroll deduction in September 2009 became controversial headline news.
How the coin will be accepted in circulation has still to be tested. This Rs. 1000 coin has been minted to the existing standard diameter of the two-rupee coin in circulation and in cupro-nickel used for that denomination from 1984 to 2004. Shops will probably be worried to give change for Rupees 1,000 for a coin which looks like a Rs two.
(The writer maintains an educational website on over two thousand years of Lankan coins at http://coins.lakdiva.org and is a life member of the Sri Lanka Numismatic Society).